The St. Bartholomew Day Massacre




A. Insouciant Regime (1515-33)








King Francis I (1515-47) , more than any other Catholic monarch, has the responsibility for Protestant success. A typical man of the Renaissance, he was a dilettante in art, government, and war, though master only in unscrupulous diplomacy. At first he was under the influence of his mother, Louise of Savoy, a worldly, meddling, compromising Catholic; then came the reign of his elder sister Margaret, sentimental, immoral, frivolous and free-thinking, if not an outright Lutheran. Two acknowledged mistresses, the countess of Chateaubriant and the duchesse d’Étampes, did little to foster noble ideals. The latter secured the appointment of four relatives to sees and abbeys. Francis’s foreign policy [p. 177] was dictated by an obsession of Habsburg encirclement of France. This he vainly attacked during five wars. Despite treasonable alliance with the Sultan, the Barbary pirates, the German Lutherans, and schismatic Henry VIII of England, Francis failed in everything except the preservation of Protestantism. But he deceived no one; Sailer, Lutheran deputy at Augsburg, remarked: “We here know the French king well. He cares little for religion or even for morality. Playing the hypocrite with the pope he gives the Germans the smooth side of his tongue, thinking of nothing but how to cheat them of the hopes he gives them. His only aim is to crush the emperor.” As statesman and individual, Francis I had no other objective than self-interest, but of this he was a remarkably poor judge.


The Concordat of Bologna was the most important event in French canonical history between 1516 and 1789. It provided a major explanation why the French monarchy, which had already displayed schismatic tendencies in issuing the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), did not, like the English, go over to the Protestant religion entirely. After King Francis’s recapture of Milan in 1515, he prevailed upon Pope Leo X to make concessions that Capetian monarchs had been demanding for a century. In return for a formal and definitive repudiation of the Pragmatic Sanction, Francis received the privilege of nomination to all the French prelacies: ten archbishoprics, eighty-three bishoprics, and 527 abbeys. The payment of the annates to the Roman curia was reduced to an insignificant sum, and expectancies and papal reservation of benefices almost abolished. The number of cases admitting of appeal to Rome were restricted to a minimum, thus assuring that the bulk of this lucrative legal business would remain in France. Hence the French king had little temptation to personal revolt, for he had received already all that Henry VIII of England and other princes hoped to gain by it. Since the French prelates lacked civil jurisdiction, they were made quite dependent upon the monarchy. Henceforth it was to the royal interest to keep the French hierarchy subject at once to the Holy See and to the crown. Within a century many French prelates had developed a blind chauvinism known as Gallicanism.


Jacques Lefèvre (1455-1537) , known as Favre d’Étaples, was the leading French Humanist, rivaling Erasmus in reputation. In 1507 he was offered abode at the Abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés near Paris, by its Abbot, Guillaume Briconnet (1472-1534), a legitimate son of Cardinal [p. 178] Briconnet (1450-1514), primate, pluralist, royal director of finances, and patron of the Renaissance. Like the Cardinal, Abbot Briconnet fostered the new learnng and under his patronage Lefèvre devoted himself to scriptural studies, editing a version of the Psalter and commentaries in which, despite absence of specific errors, a subjectivist spirit is manifest. About him gathered a humanist circle: François Vatable, Hebraist; Guillaume Budé, Hellenist; Josse Clichtove, theologian; Guillaume Farel, Calvin’s future collaborator at Geneva; and others.

The Cenacle of Meaux was formed in 1516 when Abbot Briconnet on becoming bishop of Meaux, nominated Lefèvre his vicar-general, and gathered his humanist protégés about him. Princess Margaret also extended her patronage to this group, which now professed to labor for ecclesiastical reform in all its phases. In 1517 Lefèvre advanced the theory that the “Three Maries” of the New Testament were not identical; which debatable, but certainly not vital point was denounced as heretical by the dean of the Sorbonne, Noel Bedier. This was the least of Lefèvre’s missteps, for he was beginning to show an affinity for Luther’s scriptural theories and methods in his translations and commentaries. The Sorbonne condemned these as well in 1523, but the princess shielded the Cenacle of Meaux from prosecution.

Disruption of the Cenacle. The situation changed early in 1525 when the king was defeated and captured by the emperor at Pavia. For a year he was absent in a Spanish prison, while his mother assumed the regency and took action against heretics in her blunt way. At her request, Pope Clement VII authorized members of the clergy and the parlements to conduct an investigation into heretical symptoms in France. Before the regent acted against the Cenacle, Farel fled to Switzerland and Clichtove retracted some temerarious views. This left the rest of the Cenacle in an ambiguous position, and violent acts by some of its partisans brought it into suspicion. Jean Le Clerc, a resident of Meaux, tore up a papal document. Disciplined, he fled to Metz where the imperial authorities executed him for smashing a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Pavannes, another associate of the Cenacle, was burned for heresy in 1526, the first known execution for Lutheranism in France. Bishop Briconnet excommunicated the perpetrators of insults to papal and parliamentary mandates, established his own innocence at an inquest, and ceased to countenance the innovators. Most of the Cenacle followed his example. Lefèvre, without committing himself to either side, retired to Strasburg and later to Margaret’s court at Navarre. By the time the king returned to France the Cenacle had been disrupted. Francis halted the persecution and resumed his careless attitude, and protests from University and parlement were ignored by the king until the revelation of incipient Calvinism in 1533 at the University of Paris itself. [p. 179]

B. Vacillating Regime (1533-47)

(1) ROYAL VARIATIONS (1533-38)

Repression. In October, 1533, the king had an interview at Marseilles with Pope Clement VII to conclude a marriage alliance between Prince Henry and the pope’s niece, Catherine de’ Medici. At this time the pope exacted of Francis a pledge to take more vigorous measures against heresy. On his return, the king learned that the Sorbonne had condemned his sister’s book, Miroir de l’Aine Pecheresse, which advocated religious toleration, and that the students had parodied Margaret on the stage. Francis deposed and exiled the heresy-hunting dean, Bedier, and pressed forward negotiations with the Schmalkaldic League which had been pending since 1531. It is not improbable that these circumstances induced Cop and Calvin to send up their trial balloon in November, 1533. But they pushed the king farther than he desired, and a roundup and prosecution of suspects followed, climaxed with La Forge’s execution in 1535. Popular indignation seconded the royal action by burning a cleric, Le Court, at Rouen for derogatory remarks about the veneration of relics. The royal ire was waning when Calvin’s manifesto and heretical placards against the Mass elicited an edict for the suppression of religious novelties in 1535.

Relaxation, however, followed soon when the king concluded his alliance with Schmalkald and prepared to attack the emperor anew. In July, 1535, he granted a general amnesty and put a stop to prosecution. Further concessions were made in 1536, and during the imperial war (1536-38) no measures were taken against French heretics lest the German Lutherans be offended. During the same years Calvin was planning the conquest of France for his theology.


François de Tournon (1489-1562), archbishop of Lyons, had become virtually prime minister in 1537. At the conclusion of the Peace of Aigues-Mortes (1538) his advice pledged France to join a “holy league” against heretics. New repressive measures were now taken, culminating in the Edict of Fountainbleau, June 1, 1540, which set up a general code of prosecution. Tournon and the grand inquisitor, Friar Ory, were authorized to pursue the heretics.

Vaudois massacre. During his last war with the emperor (1542-44), the king’s ardor for prosecution changed once more and he resisted all of Tournon’s urgings against the Vaudois, a group of Waldenses who had accepted some Zwinglian tenets. Cardinal Sadoleto, bishop of Avignon, near their residence, was a sincere advocate of tolerance, but during his absence and after the disastrous end of the imperial contest, the now [p. 180] ailing king was induced to proceed against the Vaudois. During two months in 1545 royal troops and hired thugs killed three thousand men, women, and children in cold blood, besides deporting and enslaving others. This incident, which Francis regretted ever after, only infuriated the French Protestants and embittered the subsequent Huguenot Wars. The reign ended as it began, with the spotlight on Meaux, where Etienne Dolet, convicted of printing subversive books, was burned at the stake along with thirteen others, April and October, 1546.

C. Repressive Regime (1547-59)


King Henry II (1547-59), Francis’s sole surviving son, succeeded him in March, 1547. Henry was less witty and scintillating than his father, but otherwise resembled him. He posed as a patron of the arts and neglected his wife, Catherine de’ Medici, in favor of a mistress, Diana of Poitiers. But this did not make him more tolerant, for whereas Henry’s wife had a compromising religious policy, the mistress was a bigot. Hence, the king took for his motto the boast: “If Henry II had not reigned, the Church would have perished.” But since his foreign policy was to continue the alliance with the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League, it might have been more true to say: “If Henry had not reigned, Lutheranism would have perished.”

La Chambre Ardente.” One of the king’s first decrees was to set up a special court to judge cases of heresy. During its three years of existence it won the name of “burning chamber” by passing sixty-six death sentences. Tournon, still influential, imposed a rigid consorship on books. But the “Chambre Ardente” eventually proved insufficient for the king’s desires. The parlement, which had consistently opposed royal wishes so long as these—under Francis I—had favored leniency, now in sheer perversity veered toward conciliation. Its lawyers objected alike to royal Absolutism and supposed deference to the papal court.

La Grande Chambre.” After parliamentary judges had attempted to mitigate the royal measures, the king issued his Edict of Compiègne (1557) which made a death sentence for heretics mandatory. A new “Grand Chambre” was inaugurated and made itself odious by arbitrary and heartless methods so that condemned heretics reviled the king who came to witness their execution. Pope Paul IV even requested introduction of the Roman Inquisition to ensure fairer procedure, but parlement indignantly rejected this type of leniency because it came from without the country. Meanwhile repression, far from discouraging the religious dissenters, made them bolder. In 1559 they dared to hold a representative assembly of fifty French Calvinist communities and to draw up a “Confession of Faith of French Churches.” They likewise enjoyed the [p. 181] support of members of the royal family, Antoine de Bourbon, king-consort of Navarre, and his brother, Louis of Conde. The failure of the royal policy of repression became evident on June 15, 1559. King Henry attempted to overawe the opposition of parlement by personally entering the chamber—somewhat after the manner that Charles I of England did in 1642. Several members were emboldened to defy him to his face, and Du Bourg protested in favor of toleration. The irate monarch had his opponents arrested, but he had suffered a moral defeat. Less than a month later, July 10, he was killed in a tournament accident by Captain Montgomery, a Scotsman who “played for keeps,” it would seem.


Anti-Habsburg War. King Henry’s foreign policy was a direct successor to that of his father: to attack the Habsburgs by every means at his disposal. It has already been noted that he allied himself with the German traitor, Maurice of Saxony, in order to overthrow an imperial settlement favorable to the Austrians and Catholics. Although the ensuing war was in the beginning quite successful for the French, it terminated disastrously. The emperor and his son, Philip II of Spain, defeated the French decisively at St. Quentin (1557) and Gravelines (1558), and at last ended the series of Habsburg-Valois conflicts in favor of the former.

Habsburg Hoch! Though the emperor died in September, 1558, King Philip garnered the fruits of the victorious Peace of Cateau-Cambrénsis, April 3, 1559. According to its provisions, the French monarch was obliged to yield all territories in dispute between the Habsburg and the Valois, and to follow Habsburg wishes in regard to the repression of heresy in Europe. This latter provision accorded well with Henry’s domestic policy. Though Henry II can scarcely be regarded as an able monarch, his sudden death in the prime of life deprived France of experienced administration at a critical hour. His widow, the compromising Catherine de’ Medici, secured the regency for a series of youthful and weak heirs. There followed a series of nine Huguenot wars, during which both Catholics and Protestants appealed to foreign powers for assistance. Divided at home, for half a century France was forced to take second place to Spain, to whom the European primacy fell for nearly a century.





 Cardinal Wolsey and St. Thomas More




A. The Defender of the Faith (1509-25)








Lollardism, the only English heresy during the Middle Ages, was described by Erasmus in 1523 as “conquered but not extinguished.” Just as Hussitism furnished a springboard for Luther, Lollardism in England [p. 182] seems to have preserved a tenuous continuity for heterodoxy between Wycliffe and the first Lutheran infiltration.

The Oxford group. English renaissance studies were given a reformist and antischolastic trend by John Colet (1467-1519), an Oxford scholar who in 1504 became dean of St. Paul’s and a popular preacher. While not convicted of heresy, Colet castigated the abuses of the clergy in tones reminiscent of Savonarola, whom he had admired on an Italian tour. For Colet, it was sufficient to “abide by the Bible and the apostles, and let the theologians dispute among themselves.” Colet did not celebrate Mass on weekdays, and directed his pupils to spend the time of the daily conventual Mass studying in their rooms, merely pausing at the consecration bell. Desiderius Erasmus (1465-1536), a frequent visitor to Oxford, voiced many of his strictures on the clergy, the monks and the Scholastics in England. Bold in speech and timid in action, he was forging weapons for the Protestants by cynical, exaggerated, and rash criticism of a regime that he personally did nothing to reform. Associated with these critics in the early days was the lay jurist, St. Thomas More (1477-1535) . He, too, made sly sallies against clerical as well as lay abuses in his Utopia (1516) . But his criticisms were leavened with a sense of humor and an earnest personal effort in the cause of reform. His keen intellect never confused reform with revolt at a time when venal and political motives, muddled thinking and unsound training were about to produce disaster. He would yet indicate the right direction in his own blood, but for the moment he was so intimate with Erasmus and Colet that they were described as the “Cenacle of Oxford.” The University had as chancellor from 1506 to 1532 the cautious William Warham (14501532), the archbishop of Canterbury.

The Cambridge circle was less famous during the early years, but ultimately more productive of heresy. Here also renaissance studies flourished under the prudent chancellorship of St. John Fisher (14591535), bishop of Rochester, who would prove to be a notable exception to hierarchical servility. There also Erasmus was a welcome visitor, especially to Hugh Latimer (1485-1555) who went beyond Erasmus to adopt Lutheranism. From 1521 a band of crypto-heretics, including William Tyndale (1490-1536) and possibly Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) , were meeting at White Horse Inn near Cambridge. Tyndale would edit the Lutheran version of the English Bible, but Cambridge as well as Oxford would find that Protestantism in the long run proved a serious setback for scholarship. As for the clergy, St. Thomas More would eventually acknowledge to Tyndale, “I wot well there be therein many lewd and naught ... but now if the bishops would once take unto priesthood better laymen and fewer, all the matter were more than half [p. 183] amended.” As for the better educated, St. Thomas More deemed them “a weak clergy lacking grace constantly to stand to their learning.”





Henry Tudor (1491-1547) began his momentous reign in April, 1509, when he became absolute monarch of all Englishmen save himself. God had given him a strong constitution, a handsome appearance, a bluff good nature, and a keen intelligence. But the king never learned to use his talents rightly; his was the strong but unstable will of a man emotionally immature. He strove to reconcile a piety expressed in hearing several Masses daily with indulgence in his passions by frequent dalliance with a series of mistresses. Dissipation eventually reduced him to a gross hulk, the dupe of designing women and courtiers. Though by no means a figurehead, Henry was more interested in the trappings of royalty than in personally directing a consistent policy to success. He needed deputies, but was a poor judge of them: Cromwell and Cranmer betrayed him; and Wolsey, though devoted, was too high a price to pay for the good of England.

Diplomatic currents. When Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon in May, 1509, she had been for two years her father Ferdinand’s ambassador. Until 1525 her political influence, still considerable, was always exerted in favor of Spain. From 1511 to 1514 Henry participated in the “Holy League” of Julius II, Emperor Maximilian, and Ferdinand of Aragon against Venice and France, and invaded the latter country in 1513. During his absence Catherine and Norfolk repelled a Scottish invasion. After Flodden (1513) the Scots were no longer formidable in a military way, but their young King James V (1513-42) or his heirs would succeed to the English throne should Henry VIII fail to leave children —and he had only one sickly daughter, Mary. Under Wolsey’s influence (1515-29), the king of England essayed something of a balance of power between Spain and France, adhering uncertainly to this policy until the end of his reign.

Ecclesiastical policy. From the time of the Holy League, Henry posed as a special champion of the Holy See, joining in papal political pacts. In 1521 he received from Leo X the title, “Defensor Fidei,” for his Defense of the Seven Sacraments against Luther. Henry backed Wolsey’s papal candidacy in 1521 and 1523, but was easily satisfied with the choice of Giulio de’ Medici as Clement VII. For Medici as absentee bishop of Worcester had been Henry’s Roman agent; surely he could continue complacent to the royal wishes. Clement, indeed, renewed Wolsey’s extensive legatine powers and gave him leave to suppress several monasteries on the alleged purpose of devoting their revenues to the [p. 184] endowment of Oxford. Against popular opposition, Wolsey’s deputies, Allen and Cromwell, exceeded his delegation or interpreted it broadly to his own advantage. It is not unlikely that the king, now becoming financially pressed, here received the first hint for his future course of confiscation. Within the realm all ecclesiastical jurisdiction and preferment passed through Wolsey’s hands. While enriching himself and violating clerical discipline personally, Wolsey did little to uphold it. But this negligence did not extend to heresy. Archbishop Warham’s vigilance in his earlier years also led to numerous arrests. It is estimated that from 1504 to 1517 there were 365 prosecutions for heresy in England, and 27 executions. During 1521 some 342 arrests were made, though there is no record of execution. Yet the “fires of Smithfield” failed to halt Lutheran infiltration, for between 1527 and 1533 there were eleven further executions for heresy. In this sense, at least, Henry VIII was defending the Faith.




B. The Scrupulous Divorcee (1525-34)








Motives. By 1525, infidelity, despair of having a son by Catherine, and reaction against her Spanish politics had estranged Henry from his wife. Should Princess Mary die, the Scottish Stuarts would rule England—a nightmare for sixteenth-century Englishmen. In 1525 the king created his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy (1519-36) duke of Richmond, an affront which increased the estrangement from Catherine. Unconfirmed rumors indicate that the king was meditating an annulment without having reached a decision. What made him decide was Anne Boleyn (1507-36) , a relatively homely but vivacious girl whom rumor linked with the king’s affections from 1526. But Anne would not be Henry’s mistress—her elder sister Mary was already Henry’s castoff—and insisted on being queen. Wolsey, Belloc opines, never realized this, and fell in with annulment proceedings on the assumption that the ultimate objective was a French matrimonial alliance. But Anne kept control of the situation and drew Henry on until his vanity would not permit him to draw back from the affair.

Means. Papal difficulties after the Sack of Rome, May, 1527, seem to have emboldened Henry to manifest his scruples that he had contracted an invalid marriage with Catherine. Cherishing a reputation for piety, a little sorry for Catherine, and very much afraid of her nephew, the emperor, Henry wanted a legal way out. Wolsey lent assistance on the understanding that he would be backed for the papacy or a papal vicariate during Pope Clement’s captivity. In May, 1527, Cardinal Wolsey, briefed by Henry, cited the king to appear before his legatine tribunal to answer charges of invalid cohabitation. At the ensuing private [p. 185] investigation, Henry alleged that the papal dispensation of Pope Julius II in 1503 had been insufficient to remove a biblical (Leviticus 20:21) impediment of affinity between himself and Catherine, as widow of his elder brother, Arthur, prince of Wales. The queen’s defenders retorted that this did not apply, since her first marriage with Arthur had never been consummated before the prince’s early death. Wolsey might have made quick work of this objection, but his cojudge, Archbishop Warham, interposed that the case was doubtful and ought to be submitted to Rome. The king then authorized Wolsey to obtain sanction from the Holy See, and three weeks after the investigation separated from Catherine.

The case depended on whether the impediment between a widow and her deceased husband’s brother was of natural or ecclesiastical law. As early as the Council of Constance, canonists had assured Pope Martin V that neither the natural nor divine positive law prevented papal dispensation. Yet the Holy See had been conservative in granting such concessions, and Pope Julius II’s dispensation in 1503 to the English royal family had been only the second or third on record. The pope, then, could validly and legitimately have dispensed Henry. Had he done so? Was the dispensation ample enough to meet the case, or had it been fraudulently secured? While Wolsey was in France, Henry bypassed him through his agent Knight with the clumsy demands: a papal dispensation for bigamy, or failing that, a dispensation from public honesty—for Mary Boleyn had been Henry’s mistress and this impediment then extended to the collateral line. The first demand flaunted all Christian tradition; the second questions Henry’s sincerity, for he was requesting dissolution of one marriage as contrary to a supposed natural law of affinity, only to contract a new union in violation of an analogous impediment. Before Knight’s negotiations had been completed, Wolsey learned that Anne Boleyn was the king’s desired, and himself took charge of the proceedings.






The decretal bull. Wolsey’s new agents, Gardiner and Fox, were instructed to obtain instead from Clement VII an extensive papal decree which would authorize a single papal commissioner, one Cardinal Wolsey, to pronounce definitive sentence of nullity on Henry’s union with Catherine provided the following conditions were verified:

1) Though the Julian dispensation stated that Henry VIII desired the match, actually Henry VII had sought it without his son’s knowledge.

2) The alleged reason, peace between England and Spain, was null since they had not been at war.

3) The same reason had been nullified by the death prior to the marriage of Henry and Catherine of Queen Isabella, [p. 186] one of those to be pacified.

4) Henry in 1503 had been only twelve years old and incapable of a marriage dispensation.

5) He had protested against the marriage before its consummation and had renounced the dispensation.

What Wolsey did not add was that once given irrevocable delegation by the pope to annul Henry’s marriage on certain conditions, Wolsey would see to it that the conditions were verified by hook or by crook. The pope was still in a delicate position: Francis of France sustained Henry’s request, and the emperor was urging that Catherine be tried away from England. After lengthy parrying, Clement VII in June, 1528, conceded a decretal bull for a commission consisting of Wolsey together with the curial cardinal, Campeggio. The latter, an experienced canonist, was instructed by the pope never to permit the papal document to leave his possession—later the most that Campeggio would ever do was to read passages in the presence of Henry and Wolsey. Neither is it certain whether the commission enjoyed a final delegation. Clement VII, who believed that time healed all things, urged Campeggio not to hurry. And he proved an expert in delay: leaving Rome in July, 1528, he did not open the formal hearings until June, 1529.

Imperial brief. Meanwhile, about November, 1528, a bombshell threatened Henry’s case: Catherine had received a copy of a papal brief which the emperor had discovered in the Spanish archives. This new document made clear that Pope Julius II had granted the dispensation now challenged in the event of consummation of the marriage with Arthur, and “on other definite grounds.” This amounted to a papal motu proprio, which would guarantee the validity of the dispensation even if some of the petitioners’ reasons had been insufficient. Henry, indeed, professed gratification: would Catherine write for the original? That guileless lady did so, but the worldly-wise emperor sent the document for safekeeping to Rome, where Clement VII refused to declare it a forgery, when importuned by Wolsey.

English trial. Before opening the hearings in England, Cardinal Campeggio tried to persuade Catherine to abandon the contest and retire to a convent, but she refused. At the formal inquest, June 18 to 21, 1529, she challenged the partiality of the legatine court. The hearing was something of a dress rehearsal for the coming schism. Archbishop Warham adduced signatures of all the English bishops in favor of the king’s plea. “That is not my hand and seal,” snapped St. John Fisher. Warham, as much as admitting a forgery, intimated that the signature which had been supplied was in accord with the mind of the bishop of Rochester. “There is nothing more untrue, my lord,” retorted St. John. Henry, while undoubtedly noting the dissenter for the future, passed over the incident by remarking that a single dissent did not disturb [p. 187] the majority opinion. Then Wolsey pressed for an immediate verdict, but Campeggio took care to adjourn the court until October. Meanwhile Catherine appealed to the Holy See, and Clement admitted her request, July, 1529, summoning the case to Rome. Kings, queens, emperors, cardinals, bishops, even the compromising Giulio de’ Medici faded into the background; there remained only a defenseless woman seeking justice from the Vicar of Christ.



 (3) PAPAL PROCESS (1530-34)



The Rota. During October, 1529, while Campeggio left England without ever having yielded the decretal, the king vented his wrath on Wolsey whom only death saved from imprisonment and possible execution. Henry in February, 1530, made a desperate appeal for outright annulment to the pope and emperor at Bologna. The pope only seized this opportunity to cite Henry’s envoy, an inappropriate person, Anne Boleyn’s father, as proxy to represent the king before the Roman Rota whither the case was remanded on March 7, 1530. But there the matter rested as Henry’s Roman agent, Carne, delayed the proceedings for over two years on one pretext or another.

Royal defiance. Meanwhile the king on the advice of the Boleyn chaplain, Cranmer, defied the Rota by seeking favorable decisions from European universities. Coercion won over Cambridge and Oxford; Francis I, then Henry’s ally, delivered the votes of Toulouse and Orléans, and bribery won those of Padua, Pavia, and Ferrara. At Salamanca, Vittoria bluntly rebutted the royal claim. The king presented the university opinions to the Rota in July, 1530, but the pope reminded Henry that Rome would try the case impartially. In August, 1531, Henry introduced Anne Boleyn into the royal apartments; papal threats of censure unless she were dismissed fell on deaf ears. Anne soon became pregnant and Henry had to act quickly to maintain his pose of injured innocence. Probably on January 25, 1533, he secretly went through a marriage rite with Anne, though he did not publicly acknowledge her as queen until April 12. Cranmer, named archbishop of Canterbury, on March 30, followed explicit royal instructions to pronounce Henry’s marriage with Catherine null on May 23. Then on May 28 he pronounced Henry’s union with Anne valid, and she was crowned queen of England on June 1.

Papal verdict. Clement had long intimated to Henry that the Rota’s decision would be adverse, and had hoped that the king would retire gracefully. Now he could delay no longer. On July 11, 1533, Rota and Consistory decided against the royal plea, pronounced Henry’s marriage with Catherine valid, declared his union with Anne therefore illicit, and any possible progeny illegitimate. Clement VII suspended the [p. 188] sentence of execution several times until March 23, 1534, when with the assent of twenty-two cardinals he ratified the Rota decision—obliging Henry to the costs! The king, already well advanced in his revolt against Rome, went into schism.

Marital postscript.

[1] Catherine of Aragon, shifted from one castle to another to avoid popular demonstrations in her favor, died on January 7, 1536.

[2] Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, on September 7, 1533, but soon fell out with the king. After Cranmer had pronounced her marriage invalid ab initio, she was executed for adultery on May 19, 1536.

[3] The next day Henry married Jane Seymour (1510-37) who died in giving birth to Prince Edward.

[4] Anne of Cleves (1515-51) was married in January, 1540, and divorced the following July, bringing death to her sponsor, Thomas Cromwell.

[5] Catherine Howard (1520-42) married Henry the month of the Cleves divorce and was executed on a charge of adultery two years later.

[6] In 1543 Henry married his sixth mate, Catherine Parr (1513-48), who managed him in his dotage and succeeded in surviving him. But such tragi-comedy had little direct influence upon the schism which Anne Boleyn had done much to occasion and precipitate.





 Henry VIII




A. Separation from Rome (1529-35)





  (1) SEPARATIST TREND (1529-32)



The “Reform Parliament” was in session from 1529 to 1536. Its membership, though not hand-picked by the king, was quite complacent toward the royal wishes. Indeed, Henry did not need to use much persuasion to induce parliament to embark upon some mild anticlerical legislation during its first session, for he confined his demands to genuine abuses reprobated by public opinion. In October, 1529, the king replaced Cardinal Wolsey in the chancellorship by St. Thomas More. The appointment of a layman to this office had usually presaged anticlerical measures, and this instance proved no exception. The Probate Act protested against delay and excessive fees for probating wills in the canonical courts; the Mortuaries Act criticized burial dues; finally, the Pluralities Act denounced plurality of benefices, nonresidence of beneficiaries, and clerical worldly pursuits. Though crying abuses were involved, reform came with ill grace from Henry who had himself condoned some of these failings by the benefices that he had lavished on his clerical ministers, especially Wolsey.

Clerical coercion was the objective of the revival of the Statute of Praemunire forbidding the exercise of authority emanating from a foreign power without royal consent. Although the king had abetted Wolsey’s cumulation of powers through delegation of the Holy See, [p. 189] Henry now intimated to the English clergy that by recognizing Wolsey’s legatine prerogatives they had fallen foul of this long disused fourteenth-century enactment. The king, however, professed a willingness to overlook this, if he were given £100,000. The convocation of the clergy, February, 1531, hastily voted him a donative to that amount.

Next Henry VIII suggested that any future difficulties that might arise from the customary prelatial oaths of obedience to the Holy See might be obviated if they would go on record to this effect:

(1) “We recognize that His Majesty is the special protector, the sole and supreme lord, and the supreme head of the Church and clergy of England”; and

(2) “the care of souls will be entrusted to His Majesty.”

The Canterbury Convocation endorsed the royal proposals with the saving clause appended by St. John Fisher, “so far as the law of Christ allows.” But the York Convocation, once Bishop Tunstall of Durham had been reassured by Henry that he had no antipapal intent, seems to have made no explicit amendment.

Submission of the clergy. When parliament reconvened in January, 1532, the king engineered a “Supplication Against the Ordinaries” which complained of the ecclesiastical courts as derogatory to royal interest, and in March proposed a Mortmain Act that restricted clerical property rights and reduced papal annates. St. Thomas More resigned the same month, a safe barometer of the hostile intent of the new legislation. Archbishop Warham was roused to a last protest against the royal demands in February, but on May 15, 1532, nonetheless, led the clergy in unqualified acquiescence to royal proposals to subordinate the canonical courts to secular review. This “submission of the clergy” practically ended any independent jurisdiction of the clerical estate—the cause for which St. Thomas à Becket had been martyred. A new regime was coming in, for Archbishop Warham died in August, 1532, and was presently succeeded by Thomas Cranmer. Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More went into retirement and Thomas Cromwell was groomed to be the king’s new ecclesiastical vicar “in temporalibus.”






Archbishop Cranmer (1533-56) was only nominally a Catholic primate. Though his nomination was confirmed by Clement VII as a final concession to avert royal rebellion, Cranmer took the oath of obedience to the Holy See, March, 1533, only after he had privately asserted in writing that he deemed this oath a mere formality which could not bind him to oppose any changes intended by the king. What these were to be he well knew, for he began a visitation of his province to exact clerical signatures to the proposition: “According to Scripture, the pope has no more authority in England than any other bishop.” Yet many were willing [p. 190] to subscribe with the childish defense that England is not mentioned in the Bible. Propaganda simultaneously attacked the Holy See with impunity. When, however, Elizabeth Barton (1506-34), the “Holy Maid of Kent,” a reputed mystic, protested “in the name and by the authority of God” against the king’s divorce, Cranmer had her executed with five companions in April, 1534. Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More were circumspect in her regard and the Church has never pronounced on her reliability, but the only word about her alleged recantation comes from Cranmer and Cromwell—scarcely unexceptionable testimony.

Process of separation. In April, 1533, parliament had passed an act restraining appeals to Rome, which implicitly repudiated papal primacy: “This realm of England is an empire . . . governed by one supreme head and king . . . unto whom people divided in terms and by names of spirituality and temporality be bounden and ought to bear, next to God, a natural and humble obedience.” Parliament followed this in April, 1534, with an Act of Succession invalidating Henry’s marriage to Catherine and declaring Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn’s daughter, legitimate and heiress presumptive. Refusal to take an oath to this effect would be deemed high treason. Accordingly Sts. Fisher and More were imprisoned. St. Thomas, indeed, had granted parliament’s right to designate an heir to the throne, but refused to accept its authority in pronouncing on the validity of a marriage. This apt distinction, however, was not accepted by the royal prosecution. Finally in November, 1534, parliament sanctioned the Act of Supremacy: “Be it enacted by the authority of this present parliament that the king our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England, called Anglicana Ecclesia,” with corresponding authority to “visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain, and amend” whatever “by any manner of spiritual authority or jurisdiction ought to be reformed; . . . any usage, foreign law, foreign authority, to the contrary notwithstanding.” The accompanying oath of supremacy required subjects to “swear allegiance, fidelity, and obedience to His Majesty the King alone . . . and not to any foreign power.” The king formally assumed his new title in January, 1535, and during the following February the English hierarchy, after explicitly renouncing the divine institution of the papacy, were obliged to exchange the papal bulls of appointment for royal warrants. By this latter action, at the latest, the consummation of the English schism was reached.

Enforcement. Prominent clerics and laymen were now required to take the oath of supremacy under penalty of high treason. In May, 1535, three Carthusians, a monk, and a secular priest were executed for refusing to do so—Houghton, Webster, Lawrence, Reynolds, and Hale [p. 191] are their immortal names. St. John Fisher, put to death on June 22, was the only English bishop to resist, although Bishop Ateca of Llandaff, the Spanish confessor of Queen Catherine of Aragon, also remained true. St. Thomas More, the ex-chancellor, was executed on July 6, and several Franciscans were implicated with Elizabeth Barton. But for the most part, nobles and prelates, clerics and professors, resorted to mental reservations, argued that papal primacy was not formally defined, or found loopholes in the oath. Conciliarism had bred erroneous notions and Wolsey’s excessive and universal legatine powers had long eliminated the habit of recourse to Rome. Englishmen knew that the papacy and the monarchy had been at odds before, and later had been reconciled. Many felt that this dispute, too, would pass, and meanwhile why lose life or benefice for a “scruple”? The king was upholding all Catholic doctrines in regard to the sacraments. True, on April 30, 1535, Pope Paul III read in secret consistory a bull excommunicating and deposing Henry VIII should he not submit within ninety days, but for want of executors, he failed to promulgate it. Neither Emperor Charles V nor Francis I of France was ready for a crusade across the Channel.




B. The Schismatic Church (1535-47)







Previous condition. The monastic orders were particularly influential and wealthy in England which had received the Faith from Benedictine missionaries. Eight or nine sees, including Canterbury, were at the disposal of monastic chapters, and many secular clerics received their benefices from some monastic authority. Thirty-one mitred abbots sat in the House of Lords, where they outnumbered the bishops, and along with them they constituted fifty-two votes against a lay membership which varied between thirty-six and fifty-one. Since the regular clergy were directly subject to the Holy See, the king realized that they might not be pushed too far, while their legal majority in the upper house of parliament might prove embarrassing to steam-rolling tactics. There was another consideration also. Cardinal Gasquet has computed the total value of monastic value at more than $250,000,000 in pre-1914 values; this was perhaps one-third of the landed wealth of England. Although the English monastic and religious houses were not free from prevailing renaissance abuses, Gasquet seems to have established that in general the monks were lax rather than vicious, that religious duties were still being discharged regularly, and that social welfare was being provided with conscientious fidelity. The basic causes of monastic suppression remain: royal avarice sharpened by bankruptcy; outspoken opposition of some religious to Henry’s divorce; and the ambition of the nobility and burgesses to control parliament, Church, and crown. [p. 192]

Suppression. Cromwell, named vicar-general, received a commission in January, 1535, to undertake a general visitation. With his brutal deputies, Rice and Leigh, he hastened through it in a few months. He then presented parliament with what seems to have been a series of forged or exaggerated charges against the small monasteries with less than twelve members, though they acknowledged that in the larger houses “religion was right well kept.” Presumably zeal for the liturgy induced parliament in February, 1536, to suppress 375 of these lesser houses and put their resources at the disposal of the crown.

Protest. It is a strong argument in the monks’ favor that the people were at last goaded to take up arms in their behalf. Though social and political grievances played their part, the religious motive was paramount in October, 1536, when the yeomen of Lincolnshire rose, and Yorkshire inaugurated an armed “Pilgrimage of Grace” to induce the king to change his mind. Norfolk, the helpless royal general, disbanded the rebels by royal promises of redress. These were not kept, the trustful leaders of the uprising were executed, and during 1537 bloody vengeance was taken on the disbanded militia. But this disturbance gave the king an excuse to proceed to the suppression of the remaining monasteries. Charging that their abbots had sympathized with the movement, Henry VIII demanded their resignation under penalty of attainder. All but three of them were willing to exchange their temporalities for a pension. How the dissenters fared we may judge from Cromwell’s diary: “Item: the abbot of Glaston to be tried at Glaston, and also executed there”—remarkable foresight of the sentence. Thus between 1538 and 1540 the remaining abbeys and convents were taken care of, bringing the total number of houses suppressed to more than eight hundred.

Results. Though a few favorites received pensions, the vast majority of the 6,500 monks and friars and fifteen hundred nuns were thrown upon their own resources. This total of eight thousand religious displaced persons is augmented to nearly one hundred thousand when account is taken of the monastery dependents: aged, orphans, sick, etc., who were now thrown upon society. In succeeding reigns the problem of social welfare became acute. And these monks and nuns, though thrown back on the world, were forbidden by the canon-civil law of Henry’s Church to contract marriage. To the credit of the nuns, about whom most information is available, they were generally faithful to their obligations. Yet little of this monastic loot became permanent royal property. Henry was swindled out of immense sums by his agents, or anticipated by neighbors. What he did receive he squandered on luxuries, favorites, foreign wars; to secure the support of the lay lords for his religious program he may have given away or sold at cut-rate prices two-thirds of his share. By Mary Tudor’s time (1553-58) this [p. 193] wealth had largely passed to a new plutocracy, a vested interest pledged to maintain the religious change, and possessing enhanced economic power which would enable them first to control parliament, and then to restrict royal prerogatives: by the close of Elizabeth Tudor’s reign (1558-1603) the new oligarchy was beginning to apply the pressure against a hitherto practically absolute monarchy.





Lutheran infiltration. Doctrinal ferment was also in process. While secret Protestants, Cranmer and Latimer, condoned heresy as much as they dared, Catholics were beginning to protest. Cardinal Reginald Pole (1500-58) in 1536 published his De Unitate Ecclesiae which flatly contradicted the Henrician position, and found alarming favor with the “pilgrims of grace” of that year. Henry VIII struck back by executing the cardinal’s mother, Countess Margaret of Salisbury, a niece of Edward IV, though the cardinal was beyond his reach. Threat of a pro-papal rising or invasion seems to have driven Henry momentarily into the hands of the Lutherans. While meditating an alliance with the Schmalkaldic League, he imposed on the clerical convocation of June, 1536, a creed of Ten Articles. Though orthodox as far as they went, these propositions implied Lutheranism by omission or innuendo; thus, only baptism, penance, and the “Lord’s Supper” were enumerated as the ordinary means of justification. Bishop Tunstall of Durham led the conservatives among the Henrician hierarchy in a revision which supplied the missing sacraments and added the Ten Commandments and a Catholic exposition of justification. Henry merely tolerated use of this revision, which was accordingly dubbed the Bishops’ Book (1537) .

Scriptural aberrations. Yet Henry, and Cranmer at his bidding, continued to execute radical Protestants, and he rejected the Protestant translations of the Bible by Tyndale and Coverdale. In 1538, however, the king was hoodwinked by Cranmer and Cromwell into sanctioning the “Great Bible.” Under the fictitious name of Thomas Matthew this preserved ninety per cent of Tyndale’s original version.


 (3) ORTHODOX REACTION (1540-47)



The Six Articles. About 1539, however, Henry VIII veered again toward an imperial alliance, and in April of that year took a more definitely orthodox stand in his Six Articles. These

(1) upheld the Real Presence and Transubstantiation;

(2) declared lay communion under one species sufficient;

(3) enforced clerical celibacy;

(4) upheld the vow of chastity as an impediment to matrimony;

(5) deemed private Masses “meet and necessary,” and

(6) auricular confession “expedient and necessary.”

Protestants might grumble against this “whip of six [p. 194] strings,” but for the rest of the reign the Six Articles were enforced under pain of death.

Royal persecution was thenceforth directed against

[1] Protestants refusing to subscribe to the Six Articles, and

[2] Catholics who failed to take the Oath of Supremacy. Executions on charges of “treason” became commonplace; it is estimated that on one charge or another Henry put to death some seventy thousand persons during his reign. The proportion of true martyrs defies exact computation, but surely there were more than the six hundred beatified victims of English persecution between 1535 and 1681. Yet compromisers remained in the majority: Gardiner, Bonner, and Tunstall accepted the Six Articles while rejecting papal supremacy, Cranmer outwardly acquiescing in an orthodoxy which he did not really hold. Surrounded by sycophants and timeservers, Henry clung to his halfway stand, resisting alike papal invitations and heretical blandishments, growing daily more suspicious and cruel.

End of the reign. By the time that Henry had reached the fifty-sixth year of his age and the thirty-eighth of his reign he had gained the fear and contempt of all in England and abroad. His sixth mate was a secret Protestant. In December, 1546, he still feared plots against the throne and arrested the Howards. But before sentence could be carried out against the duke of Norfolk, the king died on January 22, 1547, assisted by Cranmer in his last moments. No certain “last words” are available; only the Invisible Head of the Church knows what became of the “Supreme Head in earth of the Church of England.”




C. Irish Schism (1509-47)




Imported secularism. The Henrician policy in regard to the see of Dublin was a faithful image of the English religious trend. In 1529 Wolsey’s protégé John Allen was named archbishop and given vicelegatine jurisdiction, though the latter was correctly repudiated by the Irish on the ground that Wolsey’s legation extended to England alone. Wolsey’s fall made the question academic, and Allen escaped implication in his ruin only by paying a fine for alleged violation of Praemunire. Allen promoted the royal political policy by siding with the Butlers against the Geraldines—until the latter had him murdered in 1534.

Borrowed schism. George Browne, as archbishop of Dublin (153653), became the instrument of Henry’s new religious policy. He had preached in favor of Henry’s divorce, and was named to Dublin by royal fiat and consecrated by Cranmer. Before Browne’s arrival in Dublin, the king coerced the Irish parliament into voting—not without dissenting voices—the Act of Supremacy and abolition of papal annates and appeals. Browne encountered much opposition in trying to enforce [p. 195] the Henrician program, but in 1537 secured an act from the Irish parliament repudiating papal jurisdiction and authorizing monastic suppression. This was carried out, but the loot proved vastly inferior to that taken in England.


Episcopal subservience. In 1509 there were four archbishoprics and twenty-eight suffragan sees in Ireland. Of bishops named through the king before and after the schism, twenty-two of thirty admitted the royal supremacy, only one certainly refused, and the attitude of the others is unknown or ambiguous. Even when the Holy See began to make direct episcopal appointments to Irish sees after the inception of the schism, some of the papal nominees submitted to the crown in order to secure possession of the temporalities. In the primatial see of Armagh, George Cromer, a pliant royal appointee, was denounced to Rome for heresy. Robert Wauchope was named by the Holy See to succeed Cromer. In 1543 Henry named George Dowdall to Armagh; later he revolted against Edwardian heresy and fled to Rome. Wauchope after one perilous and fruitless trip to Ireland as papal legate died in 1551 without obtaining possession of his see. Irish prelates, then, were but slightly less submissive to the Henrician schism than the English; only the Edwardian heresy prompted a general return to papal allegiance.

Political repercussions. Since Henry’s schism had destroyed the basis for English lordship of Ireland under papal suzerainty, Henry in 1540 assumed the new title of “King of Ireland.” During 1541 the Irish parliament in the Pale was coerced into ratifying his new style, and the king was fairly successful in persuading Irish chiefs beyond the Pale to exchange clan interests for an English title of nobility. This involved recognition of the royal ecclesiastical supremacy. Scions of these conformist families, moreover, were educated in England to be indoctrinated with Henry’s policies in regard to religion and politics.





 Edward VI

Elizabeth I




A. Edwardian Protestantism (1547-53)









Edward VI (1547-53), son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, succeeded to the English throne in accordance with the royal will ratified by parliament. Edward was but ten years old, and though precocious, remained a puppet of various advisors throughout his reign. At the outset, England was under the rule of his maternal uncle, Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset. He was a liberal idealist who strove to be moderate in government, and seems to have had some honest intentions of social welfare. [p. 196]

Lutheran innovations. Both the Lord Protector and Archbishop Cranmer had been secret Lutherans, and for them the only religious question was the choice of apt means of introducing their views. No executions for religion took place under Seymour’s administration, and his first parliament, meeting in November, 1547, repealed the Six Articles. An immediate consequence of this mild policy was the invasion of England by heretics from the Continent who were given leave to attack the existing religious establishment in speech, though premature vandalism was repressed. Indeed, from July, 1547, the Injunctions of Edward VI had despatched royal visitors to

[1] simplify the liturgy,

[2] discourage shrines and pilgrimages, and

[3]shorten the office.

Gardiner and Bonner resisted; the former was imprisoned and the latter yielded under pressure. Not until December, 1547, did Seymour present parliament with his program for doctrinal change, though his Chantries Act prepared for the destruction of landed endowment of schools and Cranmer’s Book of Homilies presented Lutheran views on justification. In December, 1547, parliament was induced to pass the “Act of the Holy Sacrament,” enjoining lay communion under both species, though without any Hussite implications. By March, 1548, Cranmer had a Communion Book ready to implement the new decree. Based on the work of the Lutheranizing Hermann von Wied, it had heretical implications in regard to confession and Communion: the “Confiteor” in the Mass would suffice for reception of the Lord’s Supper. In the fall of 1548, Cranmer presented to parliament his (first) Book of Common Prayer, a literary but not a theological masterpiece. Eight of the Henrician bishops and three lay lords voted to reject it, but on January 21, 1549, the majority of both houses of parliament imposed the new ritual for the following June. This Book proposed to regulate the “Lord’s Supper, commonly called the Mass.” This title indicates its content: it presented a vernacular simulacrum of the Sarum Rite of the Mass in the hope of deceiving conservatives into believing that the ancient sacrifice had been substantially retained.

But while the Mass of the Catechumens was but slightly altered,

the offertory and canon omitted references to sacrifice.

Though mention was made of the Lutheran “real corporeal presence,” nothing allowed one to suppose any true sacrificial transubstantiation.

Vestments, however, were retained in an effort to stress externally continuity with the ancient Mass.

Popular revolt. Bonner evaded the new prescriptions and encouraged clerical defiance in London. More serious was a rising in Cornwall the day after the new liturgy went into effect, for this spread to the Western counties. These rebels protested: “We will not receive the new service, because it is like a Christmas game, but will have our old service of Matins, Evensong, and Procession in Latin, as of yore. And so we [p. 197] Cornish men, whereof some understand no English, utterly refuse this new English.” The rising in Cornwall was complicated by a social revolt in the Northeast. Though Seymour sympathized with the commoners, he was forced by his council to name Warwick defense minister. The latter suppressed the revolts with German and Italian mercenaries, and then backed by the nobility, deposed Seymour in October, 1549. Spared for the moment, the latter was executed in 1552.



  (2) RADICAL CALVINISM (1549-53)


John Dudley, earl of Warwick, now became duke of Northumberland and regent in all but the title. He was an unscrupulous politician willing to sacrifice Church and state to selfish ambition. He had hitherto been regarded as a religious conservative—he was to die a Catholic—and was content to be taken for such until he secured power. Then, however, he was easily convinced that his economic interests, based on monastic confiscations, demanded espousal of Protestantism. Cranmer had by now advanced to more radical Calvinist doctrines and together they inaugurated a puritanical dictatorship, though Dudley and his lay adherents were chiefly interested in plunder. A new wave of vandalism and iconoclasm “picked the bones” of the already plundered English Church until even Cranmer protested, though in vain. The chantries suffered in particular and education and religious worship were beset by poverty for many years to come.

Doctrinal changes. On January 31, 1550, parliament obligingly voted a “new form of making and consecrating archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons.” This Edwardian Ordinal, as revised in 1552 and readopted by Elizabeth I in 1559, invalidated subsequent Anglican orders.

It was deliberately designed to destroy any idea of a sacrificial priesthood.

In intention, and until the seventeenth century in form also, it was defective and incapable of perpetuating the apostolic succession of episcopacy and of holy orders.

Significantly in April, 1550, Ridley, who had been substituted for the conservative Bonner in London, extinguished the sanctuary lamp. Next Cranmer offered his (second) Book of Common Prayer, revised according to views of Bucer who steered between Lutheranism and Zwinglianism:

the Eucharist is bread to the senses, but Christ’s body to the mind.

This new liturgy revolutionized the former deceitful compromise to an extent that it could no longer be mistaken for the Mass, nor was any attempt made to call it such.

Now the Canon practically disappeared along with all rites reminiscent of sacrifice.

Reference to “real corporeal presence” even in the Lutheran sense was omitted.

A table replaced the altar, and

all vestments other than a surplice were banned.

For long a certain “Black Rubric” on kneeling for communion caused confusion:

the conservatives knelt;

radicals sat down [p. 198] defiantly;

middle-of-the-roaders felt that the decent thing to do was to stand.

The Book also reduced the “true sacraments” to baptism and the “Supper,”

and outlawed sacramentals.

This rite was imposed by a second Act of Uniformity, April 14, 1552, and made obligatory from November 1. Most of the Henrician bishops were arrested for opposing this and other innovations. Finally in June, 1553, appeared the Forty-Two Articles, an official hodgepodge of Edwardian dogma. About half of the articles retained Catholic teachings regarding the Trinity, the Incarnation, etc. For the rest, Cranmer followed Lutheran and Calvinist models while steering clear of Anabaptist extremism. Neither Lutheran denial of freedom nor Calvinist predestinarianism were unequivocally adopted. With some modifications, these became the basis for the Elizabethan Thirty-Nine Articles.

Insurrection was brewing even before the king’s illness rendered Dudley’s position precarious. To prevent the succession of the Catholic Mary Tudor, Dudley induced the dying king to change his father’s will by designating as his heir Lady Jane Grey, a granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister. Lady Jane, hastily wed to his own son Guilford Dudley, was proclaimed queen by Dudley when the king died on July 6, 1553. Dudley prepared to rule in the name of the youthful pair, but Mary Tudor, supported by the majority of Englishmen and enjoying the encouragement of Emperor Charles V, set up her standard. Lady Jane reigned but nine days, for Dudley’s following melted away and Mary entered London as unchallenged queen on August 3, 1553.



B. Catholic Reaction (1553-58)





  (1) RELIGIOUS REVERSAL (1553-55)


Queen MARY I

Steven Gardiner
Archb. of Winchester

Thomas Cranmer
Archb. of Canterb.

Reginald Pole

Mary Tudor, a staunch Catholic, thus mounted her father’s throne at the age of thirty-seven. Neglected for many years, she had become a lonely, misunderstood woman, greatly in need of advice. For this she turned to her grandfather’s policy of the Spanish alliance. The emperor responded with alacrity. Though declining to marry her himself, he suggested a match with his son Philip. Philip and Mary contracted a political marriage dutifully enough, but on his side there was little affection for this woman eleven years his senior. Negotiations were delayed by English fear of Spanish influence, but finally it was agreed that though Philip might enjoy the royal title, Mary would conduct the government. The marriage was celebrated on July 25, 1554, and England was temporarily brought into the Habsburg imperial orbit.

Amnesty. “Be a good Englishwoman,” the emperor had advised, and Mary at first followed his counsel. Lady Jane was spared, Cranmer merely dismissed with a pension, and most of the conspirators, save Dudley, pardoned. Every effort was made to conciliate the public by a [p. 199] patriotic and moderate policy conducted by the liberated Bishop Gardiner as chancellor (1553-55) .

Edwardian repeal. Since at least nine-tenths of Englishmen were still devoted to the Mass, the undoing of the religious changes under Edward VI encountered no great opposition. Although in August, 1553, the queen directed that existing arrangements remain until the convocation of a new parliament, the celebration of Mass had been spontaneously resumed, and only in London was there any Protestant recrimination. The parliament that met in October, 1553, was as Catholic as it could be without the pope. Mary’s “Omnibus Bill” proposing repeal of all changes during the two preceding reigns encountered opposition, until the queen substituted two new bills which, ignoring alike papal and royal supremacy, merely repealed Edwardian legislation on religion and confirmed Mary’s legitimacy. These measures were readily accepted, the Mass officially replaced the Book of Common Prayer in December, 1553, and England retrogressed from heresy to schism.

Henrician repeal. The major hurdle remained the reversal of Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy. Not only was there no great enthusiasm for Rome, but possessors of monastic goods feared that any reunion might involve loss of their new property. The emperor urged the pope to condone the seizure and held up the papal legate, Cardinal Pole, in the Netherlands until Mary’s marriage had been settled and Julius III had given the desired commutation for the confiscated ecclesiastical goods. This done, the cardinal proceeded on to London, where on November 30, 1554, he solemnly absolved the king, queen, and both houses of parliament from all censures and restored England to Catholic communion. Once he had announced the papal concession, the arrangement was ratified with only two dissenting votes in parliament. Cardinal Pole remained as papal legate to preside over the ecclesiastical restoration of the country.









Persecution. Disaffected elements remained, for Protestants continued to offer public insults to religion and to plot against the queen. Though the emperor preferred prosecution of malcontents on a charge of treason, the forthright Mary Tudor was wholly medieval in outlook. In January, 1555, she revived the statute De Haeretico Comburendo, and presently commenced the executions which continued throughout her reign. Gardiner, who was averse to this program, died in 1555, and Cardinal Pole, long absent from England, was blind to some of the perils that beset this course in the forum of public opinion. Queen Mary proceeded unhindered in her honest but inexpedient course that sent Cranmer and some two hundred others to the stake. By modern standards of tolerance [p. 200], she earned her nickname of “Bloody Mary.” But it is inconsistent to give her a monopoly of the term, while denying it to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. They persecuted from political motives; Mary followed her conscience.

Divided counsels. Cardinal Pole, who succeeded Cranmer to become the last Catholic archbishop of Canterbury (1555-58), worked diligently to repair the damage of twenty years.

Synodal decrees ordered residence for all bishops and pastors;

care in examining candidates for orders and benefices;

conscientious visitation to maintain clerical discipline;

the supervision of university teaching and

the founding of a seminary.

Care was to be taken to preach and catechize.

The following is from Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England By W. Schenk (1950)

“Whereas every year,” he began, “by the custom of the laws of the Church the archdeacon is wont to visit or to send for the priests under his charge, this I thought best to be done in my presence that have the cure over all, which am come to know and see the cheer of my flock.” Then he went on to stress the terrible responsibility that fell on priests: to answer for their own souls as well as for the souls of their flock--a charge “which no man that can tell what he does, would ever take except for obedience to the highest pastor of all.” And thenfollowed a strong indictment: the pastors had failed in their duties and had caused the religious upheavals of the last decades. They had failed chiefly in two ways: by ignorance and by covetousness. Pole knew enough about the widespread ignorance of priests to make this statement, though he may not have known that of about 300 priests examined a few years earlier in the Diocese of Gloucester, 170 were unable to repeat the Decalogue and 27 could not even say who wrote the Lord’s Prayer. Such ignorance, Pole maintained, was the natural breeding-ground of heresy. Similarly, the heretics could “win the feeble sort . . . [by] putting before their eyes the abuses, and specially covetousness, of the priests.” This covetousness, a heritage of man’s depraved nature, had to be held in check by salutary laws, and to draw up such laws was the aim of the synod. Pole concluded his short and powerful address in a characteristic manner by reminding his listeners of Judgment Day—“that terrible day when everyone shall appear before [the judge] to render count both of word and deed, and according to that to receive his meed. Who is it that does not tremble when he hears of that day? What saint is in this world that does not fear that day when he looks on himself?”

    After this warning the synod set to work and produced its decrees with commendable speed. These decrees leave no possible doubt about the ills of the Church and the remedies to be applied.

[1] All pastors must reside among their flocks--or else how can they minister to their needs? They must be severely punished for absence, and

[2] pluralists must confine themselves to one benefice forthwith.

[3] Heretical books must not be printed, sold, or read.

[4] To counteract the spread of false doctrines all priests, including bishops, must fulfil their preaching duties and instruct their congregations in the principles of faith.

[5] But preaching is not enough: example is even more important.

[6] Priests, and bishops in particular, must avoid all outward pomp such as precious clothes or exquisite furniture; their fare must be frugal and sparing.

[7] They must use a large part of their revenues for charitable and educational purposes.

[8] They must, of course, remain unmarried and be above any suspicion of unchastity.

[9] Much more care must be used in the selection of candidates for the priesthood: colleges must be founded, fromwhich, as from a seed-bed (“seminarium”) future priests can be selected by the bishops.

[10] The “abominable crime of simony” demands the severest punishments: deprivation and excommunication.

[11] Finally, these decrees must be enforced by frequent and searching visitations


 The legatine decrees in the form in which Pole read them to the Synod on 10th February 1556 can be found in Wilkins, op. cit., vol. iv, pp. 121-6. Pole revised and amplified them, and sent the second version to Rome where it was published in 1562 under the title “Reformatio Angliae.”

But the cardinal had little time given him and that little was disturbed by the antipathies of Pope Paul IV for the Habsburgs. This pope pursued temporarily the inexplicable policy of supporting Catholic France in a war with Catholic Spain at a time when southern Germany and England has just been restored to the Catholic fold. Mary’s precarious regime was included in Paul IV’s enmity for the Habsburgs, while the pope also entertained unfounded suspicions regarding Cardinal Pole’s orthodoxy. The country was drawn into an unpopular war against France in which anti-Spanish prejudice led to a neglect of Philip’s warning of an impending French attack on Calais. Calais, England’s last foothold on the Continent, was consequently lost to the great discredit of Mary’s government, already unpopular because of its religious persecution and policy of economic retrenchment.

Sunset. The end of a generation was fast approaching. The emperor died in September, 1558, and Philip made a mistake destined to plague him for the rest of his life. When Mary’s health began to fail, he rather callously used his influence to promote Princess Elizabeth’s succession to the childless Queen. Elizabeth deceived Philip by her newly acquired Catholic habits, and held out hope that she might marry him. At any rate, Philip prevailed on the reluctant Queen Mary to accept at face value Elizabeth’s assurances that she would maintain the Catholic restoration. The queen and Cardinal Pole died on the same day, November 17, 1558. The new Queen Elizabeth dissembled her religious views until after her coronation at the beginning of the following year, but then her renewal of the Act of Supremacy, February 24, 1559, served notice that England would soon relapse into both schism and heresy.



C. Irish Contrasts (1547-58)







Conservative Protestantism. At Edward’s accession, Dowdall of Armagh, Browne of Dublin, and other timeservers in the Irish hierarchy were expected to do the protector’s bidding. Edward VI’s Injunctions [p. 201] were made obligatory in all districts subject to English rule, and pulpit campaigns against the Mass and Catholic practices inaugurated. Neither Dowdall nor Browne manifested much enthusiasm for the new movement, however, and the Lord Deputy St. Leger contented himself with publishing Edwardian decrees without attempting to enforce them. Meanwhile Robert Wauchope, de jure archbishop of Armagh, tried to secure French military assistance to rally the Irish Catholics.

Radical Protestantism. The extremists on gaining power in England recalled St. Leger and insisted on the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer. The Henrician Dowdall refused to accept this and fled the country. Irish ecclesiastical primacy was transferred by the crown to Dublin where Browne proved more compliant. Hugh Goodacre, consecrated according to the new Ordinal as the first Protestant prelate of Armagh, was prevented by the O’Neills from taking possession.





Religious policy. On Mary’s accession, therefore, Catholic restoration presented no difficulty in a land where the vast majority had opposed the Edwardian innovations. Dowdall was restored to Armagh, this time with papal approval. Browne and his cohorts were deposed. In 1557 under promises of immunity from penalties for confiscated church goods, the Irish parliament annulled all acts prejudicial to the papacy. The parliament also enacted statutes against heresy (1557), but the new Lord Deputy, the earl of Sussex 1556-66), proved averse to persecution, both under Mary and her successor Elizabeth. Practical toleration in Ireland, then, contrasted with persecution in England; in fact, some Englishmen fled to the Pale to escape the English heresy laws.

Political aims. Mary’s political program, however, did not differ from that of her Tudor predecessors. In 1555 she obtained from the pope confirmation of the title “King of Ireland” usurped by Henry VIII. A system of plantations designed to subjugate Ireland to English colonization was inaugurated, so that Archbishop Dowdall complained that Ireland was far from improved economically by Mary’s rule.





 John Knox




A. Presbyterian Origins (1513-60)





(1) STUART REGIME (1513-42)



King James V (1513-42) came to the throne on the morrow of the Scots’ defeat by the English at Flodden. Since James was but a year old, the regency was entrusted to a cousin, John Stuart, duke of Albany (1481-1536). The regent, though an honorable man and capable administrator, was an incompetent general. Absent on the Continent for long periods, he exerted his authority chiefly with French troops. His  [p. 202] task was complicated by the fact that the queen mother, a Tudor, had married Douglas, Earl of Angus, and protected the English interest. It was not until 1528 that the young king threw off the Angus tutelage and drove the Douglas clan from Scotland. James, portrayed by Scott in the Lady of the Lake, allied with the lower classes against the nobility. To protect Scotland against Henry VIII, he strengthened the traditional alliance with France by marrying first Princess Madeline, and second, Mary of Guise, who bore him his only surviving legitimate child, the famous Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (1542-87). James died shortly after her birth, heartbroken at a border reverse of the Scots at English hands at Solway Moss.

Heretical manifestations first appeared in 1525 when the Scottish parliament saw fit to prohibit the importation of Lutheran books. King James V resisted all invitations to participate in the English schism and instead severely repressed religious dissent at home. In 1528 Patrick Hamilton, abbot of Ferne, was put to death for heresy; in 1533 Henry Forest, a Benedictine, was likewise condemned, and others met the same fate or were exiled. Hence, John Knox (1505-72), future Presbyterian leader, did not declare himself so long as the king lived. Ordained to the priesthood in 1530, Knox had acquired heretical notions during frequent trips to England and Switzerland, but for a time he spread these secretly.


James Hamilton (1515-75), earl of Arran, as grandson of a sister of James III, was heir presumptive to the throne of the infant Mary, queen of Scots. While she was sent to France to be educated—she did not return until 1561—Hamilton conducted the government in Scotland. He was favorable to the English alliance which Henry VIII and his successors were making every effort to effect, and not averse to the newer religious views. Hence he was supported by the Douglas clan, returned from England, and other nobles. But the regent’s policy was opposed by the Scottish patriot, Cardinal David Beaton (1494-1546) , archbishop of St. Andrew’s since 1539, and the latter gained considerable support against the nobles’ alliance with the hereditary national foe.

Cardinal Beaton was an able but dubiously moral prelate, who rose to his duties to the Faith, but was immersed in politics. In 1543 the regent imprisoned the cardinal and licensed the reading of the English Bible. But when Hamilton tried to arrange a marriage alliance between Edward VI and Mary, clergy and people freed the cardinal and forced the regent to declare his allegiance to the Church. An English attack in 1544 further alienated the people from the Hamiltonian policy and put Beaton in the ascendancy. He used his power to suppress heresy [p. 203] rigorously. His execution of George Wishart (1505-45), Protestant preacher and English agent, provoked the Leslies to retaliate by murdering the cardinal on May 29, 1546—a “godly deed” in the view of John Knox, then resident in England.

Catholic reaction to the assassination forced the regent into the patriot camp. He named his illegitimate brother, John Hamilton (151171) , to succeed Beaton at St. Andrew’s and tried to effect a reformation in the Scottish Church. The archbishop was devoted to the Faith, but his moral character and unscrupulous politics made him an unhappy choice. In any event, his reform measures were now “too little and too late” while the fiery Knox tiraded against ecclesiastical abuses with the backing of many of the nobles. Another English invasion by Protector Somerset (1547) brought the queen dowager, Mary of Guise, to the fore. She procured troops from France to expel the English by 1550. With French assistance she was now dominant in Scotland, and Hamilton was persuaded to resign the regency in her favor in exchange for the rich duchy of Chatelherault in France. John Knox was put in the French galleys for two years.


The Catholic party of Mary of Guise, however, was no longer the patriotic side since it relied on French troops. Since Mary Tudor was by now reigning in England, Knox issued a polemic (1556) entitled, First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women. He endeavored therein to prove that “the rule of women is repugnant to nature, contrary to God’s ordinances, and subversive of good order, equity, and justice”—at least when the women were Catholics. But he did most of his “blasting” in absentia, for though invited to Scotland by some of the nobility, he soon left for Geneva to imbibe a thoroughgoing Calvinism which he would propagate at a more propitious time.

The Lords of Congregation, a quasi-military league of Protestant nobles similar to that of Schmalkald, was formed in December, 1557, to promote the English type of Protestantism in territories subject to their influence. They were led by Archibald Campbell, earl of Argyle, James Douglas, earl of Morton, and James, earl of Moray or Murray, a natural son of James V. When these lords introduced the “pure evangelical doctrine” on their estates, the queen regent, at odds with Primate Hamilton, grew fearful and granted them privileges for private worship. In the same year (1558) Walter Milne, an ex-priest, was the last executed for heresy. The Protestants were emboldened by the regent’s concessions to denounce Catholic practices during a national assembly at Edinburgh, April, 1559. The regent resorted to repressive measures, but could not win a decisive victory over the lords, now supported by Queen Elizabeth [p. 204] of England. Armed truce prevailed in June, 1560, when Mary of Guise died.

B. Presbyterian Triumph (1560-67)


The Lords of Congregation seized on the queen’s death to effect their innovations. Until Mary Stuart, now of age, should arrive to assume personal government, it was decreed that a council headed by her half brother, the earl of Moray, should conduct the government. Parliament met in August, 1560, with the Lords of Congregation in control and John Knox as religious mentor. Knox proposed a “Confession of Faith” which substituted Calvinism for Catholic doctrine and discipline. The Catholic hierarchy protested that the parliament lacked royal approbation, and the Catholic lords absented themselves. These delaying tactics had no effect on the confident Protestant leaders who on August 24 enacted three decrees: 1) Papal and episcopal jurisdiction were repudiated. 2) All previous acts contrary to Calvinism were repealed. 3) Mass was declared illegal under penalty of confiscation and imprisonment, and if need be, of exile and death.

A Presbyterian assembly met in December, 1560, to legislate for the new establishment. Knox’s views were embodied in the Book of Discipline and Book of Common Order, later imposed by parliament. All sacraments save baptism and a Calvinist “Supper” were declared abolished. Episcopal jurisdiction was replaced by a consistory of presbyters, assisted by elders and deacons. Ecclesiastical property was declared confiscated, and iconoclastic scenes followed. Though Knox decreed that all the confiscated property should go to the new Presbyterian “Kirk,” many noblemen quietly enriched themselves. Catholics were able to maintain themselves on their own lands, but the prelates were generally cowed so that the new regime was established with but little violence.


Mary’s return. Mary Stuart had hoped to restore Catholicity with the aid of her husband, King Francis II of France. But his death in December, 1560, required her to make the attempt alone. She landed in Scotland in August, 1561, and gave her confidence to her half brother, a Machiavellian seeking his own interest and possibly the throne.

Religious compromise. The queen decided to accept the Presbyterian status quo until she could get her bearings, build up a personal following, and obtain foreign assistance. In exchange for noninterference with the Kirk, Mary was allowed her household Catholic worship, though only over Knox’s protests. Pope Pius IV became alarmed and sent the Jesuit Gouda in disguise to Scotland. The queen assured him of her unwavering [p. 205] fidelity, but pleaded her present difficulties. Indeed, the Catholic leaders were afraid to meet the papal envoy even in secret. The only public defenders of Catholicity were Quintin Kennedy (1520-64), abbot of Crossraguel, John Leslie (1527-96) , who debated with Knox in 1560, and Ninian Winzet, later abbot of Regensburg in exile. The queen showed scant favor to the Catholic lay leader, the earl of Huntly, who was provoked to revolt. But Huntly was slain and several nobles implicated in the rising executed (1562-63) . Archbishop Hamilton and fifty priests were arrested for celebrating Mass in violation of the law, which the queen insisted must be observed. Yet she assured the Council of Trent of her personal attachment to the Church.


Darnley marriage. Fearing to subject Scotland to a foreign power by marrying an alien prince, Mary suddenly decided in July, 1565, to marry her cousin, Henry Stuart, lord Darnley (1546-67) . King Henry, as he was now called, wished to act as regent rather than consort, but for this he lacked all qualifications besides the handsome presence that had captivated a woman four years his senior. It would seem that Elizabeth permitted Darnley, a Catholic of sorts, to go to Scotland to prevent a Habsburg alliance. Mary’s marriage provoked Moray and other Lords of the Congregation to revolt, but the queen mustered forces that drove them across the English border. For a time the Catholic cause seemed to prosper. Huntly’s heir was restored to his father’s lands, Leslie was named bishop of Ross and royal councilor, and Mass began to be said quite openly. This accord was disrupted by Darnley. The queen had become disillusioned about the unintelligent debauchee that she had married and excluded him from her counsels. Darnley, on the other hand, exaggerated the political importance of her secretary, David Rizzio, and went so far as to accuse him of immoral relations with the queen. With the connivance of various lords, Darnley had Rizzio murdered on March 9, 1566. Learning belatedly that he had been duped by Moray, Darnley revealed the extent of the plot to the queen. With the assistance of loyal noblemen, including James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell (1536-78), Mary foiled the conspirators. Though Mary gave birth to her son James on June 19, 1566, she and her husband were now utterly estranged. At midnight, February 9, 1567, Darnley was blown up by gunpowder while lying sick in a lonely house near Edinburgh. Darnley’s father accused Bothwell of murder, and though circumstantial evidence seemed to sustain the charge, Bothwell was acquitted after some suppression of evidence, in which the queen seems to have participated. She may also have been accessory in some degree to her husband’s murder, if we may believe the controversial “Casket Letters.” [p. 206]

Bothwell alliance. Five days after his acquittal, April, 1567, Bothwell, possibly with the queen’s connivance, carried her off to his castle at Dunbar. After he had forced a divorce from his wife, I-Iuntly’s sister, Bothwell had the apostate bishop of Orkney marry him to the queen with Protestant rites, May 15. This act gave scandal, real or pharisaic, to all parties in Scotland. The papal envoy judged that Mary was about to desert the Faith, and the Protestant lords rose to avenge King Henry. Their forces met those of the queen and Bothwell at Carbery Hill in June, 1567. Mary surrendered on condition that Bothwell be allowed to escape—he died in Danish exile a decade later. The captive queen was obliged to abdicate in favor of her infant son James on July 24, 1567, and was imprisoned at Loch Leven. She escaped in May, 1568, only to be defeated at Langside near Glasgow. She then fled across the English border there to begin a lifelong captivity at the hands of Queen Elizabeth. In prison she resolutely adhered to the Catholic faith and was the object of intrigues for the restoration of Catholicity in both Scotland and England. She was at length beheaded on February 8, 1587, her son, James VI, who aspired to succeed Elizabeth in England, scarcely raising a finger to save her.

(4) KING JAMES VI (1567-1625)

The regency (1567-78). James, earl of Moray, was regent from 1567 to 1570 for the infant king who had been crowned with Calvinist rites a few days after his mother’s abdication. Although baptized a Catholic, James was educated as Scotland’s first Protestant monarch. The queen’s chapel at Holyrood was destroyed and the Catholic clergy forced into exile or hiding, though the regent was sparing of the death penalty. But when he outlawed Archbishop Hamilton, one of the Hamilton clan shot him dead on January 23, 1570. English troops crushed an incipient revolt in Mary’s favor, and installed Darnley’s father as regent. He had conveniently apostatized and proved his devotion to the new religion by summarily hanging Archbishop Hamilton in his pontifical robes. In February, 1572 a new pro-English regent, James Douglas, earl of Morton, forced on the Kirk an episcopalian system similar to that imposed by Queen Elizabeth on England. This was enough to send John Knox to his grave in November, 1572, but his successor, Andrew Melville (1545-1622) and most Presbyterians continued to oppose this form of church government. Morton ruled with an iron hand until a coalition forced him to resign in March, 1578.

James VI, “wisest fool in Christendom,” was now declared of age, but for some time longer remained the prey of factions. During this period he passed through a dreary round of plots, captures, and escapes without committing himself irrevocably to any group. Episcopalianism was overthrown and restored. There were rumors of Catholic restoration, but the Catholic lords led by Huntly submitted to the Kirk in 1597 in order to regain their estates. The Faith continued to survive in outlying districts, kept alive by missionaries from the Scottish colleges at Tournai since 1578 and at Rome after 1600.

Under the advice of the “Scottish Cecil,” John Maitland, Baron Lethington (1545-95), the king steered a moderate course in his later years. Though persuaded to permit formal sanction of Presbyterianism, James remained convinced that “no bishop, no king; presbyter is just old priest writ large.” After he became king of England in 1603 he tried to introduce the entire Anglican system and to unite Scotland politically and ecclesiastically to England. Despite his sending of Melville to the Tower in 1607, he could not prevail. Although a form of episcopalianism remained in Scotland, all real authority was retained by the Presbyterian Synod. Another attempt by James’s son, Charles I, failed and provoked civil war. At the restoration (1660) , King Charles II nominally reestablished episcopalianism, but it went out for good in 1689 and the union of Scotland and England in 1707 was made on the condition that the Presbyterian Kirk be formally recognized as the established religion of Scotland.



27. French Huguenots 28. English Alienation 29. English Schism   ;  30. English Heresy 31. Scottish Presbyterianism


This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 2002....x....   “”.