This year we are building and, Corona Virus notwithstanding, hoping to display a huge model to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflwower. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of blogs about the events that paved the way for her voyage and the reasons for those on board, who have been called the Pilgrim Fathers, for making the risky voyage across the Atlantic and establishing an English colony at Plymouth (or Plimoth) Colony, Massachusetts, America. In this blog we look back to the dissolution of the monastries.
Following the Acts of Supremacy in 1534 and the break with Rome, power to administer the English Church, to tax it, appoint its officials, and control its laws passed into Henry VIII hands. It also gave him control over the church's doctrine and ritual. While his religious views remained conservative he embraced a programme of reform to further promote the Royal Supremacy. To do this, he relied on men with Protestant sympathies, such as Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer.
For Cromwell and Cranmer, a major step on the Protestant agenda was attacking monasticism, which was associated with the doctrine of purgatory. Henry was not actually opposed to religious houses on theological grounds, there was concern over the loyalty of the monastic orders, which were international in character and resistant to the Royal Supremacy.
The Crown was also experiencing financial difficulties, and the wealth of the church, in contrast to its political weakness, made confiscation of church property both tempting and feasible. The church owned between one-fifth and one-third of the land in all England and Cromwell realised that he could bind the gentry and nobility to Royal Supremacy by selling to them the huge amount of church lands, and that any reversion to pre-Royal Supremacy would entail upsetting many of the powerful people in the realm.
In 1534, Cromwell initiated a visitation of the monasteries ostensibly to examine their character, but in fact, to value their assets with a view to expropriation. The visiting commissioners claimed to have uncovered sexual immorality and financial impropriety amongst the monks and nuns, which became the ostensible justification for their suppression. There were also reports of the possession and display of false relics.The Compendium Competorum compiled by the visitors documented ten pieces of the True Cross, seven portions of the Virgin Mary's milk and numerous saints' girdles.
Leading reformers, led by Anne Boleyn, wanted to convert monasteries into "places of study and good letters, and to the continual relief of the poor", but this was not done. In 1536, the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries Act closed smaller houses valued at less than £200 a year. Henry used the revenue to help build coastal defences against expected invasion, and all the land was given to the Crown or sold to the aristocracy. Thirty-four houses were saved by paying for exemptions. Monks and nuns affected by closures were transferred to larger houses, and monks had the option of becoming secular clergy.
The Royal Supremacy and the abolition of papal authority had not caused widespread unrest, but the attacks on monasteries and the abolition of saints' days and pilgrimages provoked violence. Mobs attacked those sent to break up monastic buildings. Suppression commissioners were attacked by local people in several places. In Northern England, there were a series of uprisings against the dissolutions in late 1536 and early 1537, including The Pilgrimage of Grace, which saw around 50,000 rebels restore 16 of the 26 northern monasteries that had been dissolved. The revolt was violently put down.
The failure of the Pilgrimage of Grace only sped up the process of dissolution and may have convinced Henry VIII that all religious houses needed to be closed. In 1540, the last monasteries were dissolved, wiping out an important element of traditional religion. Former monks were given modest pensions from the Court of Augmentations, and those that could sought work as parish priests. Former nuns received smaller pensions and, as they were still bound by vows of chastity, forbidden to marry. Henry personally devised a plan to form at least thirteen new dioceses so that most counties had one based on a former monastery (or more than one), though this scheme was only partly carried out. New dioceses were established at Bristol, Gloucester, Oxford, Peterborough, Westminster and Chester, but not, for instance, at Shrewsbury, Leicester or Waltham.
Following the dissolution of the monasteries, official religious policy began to drift in a conservative direction. This was due in part to the eagerness of establishment Protestants to disassociate themselves from religious radicals. It was becoming clear that the King's views on religion differed from those of Cromwell and Cranmer. In 1539 Parliament passed the Six Articles reaffirming Roman Catholic beliefs and practices such as transubstantiation, clerical celibacy, confession to a priest, votive masses, and withholding communion wine from the laity.
On June 28th 1540 Cromwell, was executed. Different reasons were advanced, including that he would not enforce the Act of Six Articles; that he had supported heretics; and that he was responsible for Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves, his fourth wife. Traditionalists now seemed to have the upper hand. By the spring of 1543, Protestant innovations had been reversed, and only the break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries remained unchanged.
However they overplayed their hand when the attempted to persecute Henry's last wife, Katherine Parr, of heresy. Leading traditionalist politicians, who would have formed a regency council on the event of Henry’s death, were disgraced or arrested, enabling the Protestant Edward Seymour, brother of Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife (and therefore uncle to the future Edward VI), to gain control over the Privy Council.
In our next blog, we will look at the reign of the young Edward VI.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on the English Reformation; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
This year we are building and, Corona Virus notwithstanding, hoping to display a huge model to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflwower. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of blogs about the events that paved the way for her voyage and the reasons for those on board, who have been called the Pilgrim Fathers, for making the risky voyage across the Atlantic and establishing an English colony at Plymouth (or Plimoth) Colony, Massachusetts, America. In this blog we look back to reformations of Henry VIII.
In 1517 the German theologian, priest and monk, Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg marking what is often identified as the start of the Reformation. The new protestant branch of Christianity spread quickly throughout northern Europe, with England becoming one of the most powerful nations to adopt it as the state religion. It was not however initially welcomed and indeed there was a rocky road to the country reaching the point of no return. In this blog we explore how England came to break with Rome.
Henry VIII had come to the English throne in 1509 and was in a dynastic marriage with Catherine of Aragon when Luther published his theses. He was an observant Roman Catholic, hearing up to up to five masses a day. Indeed, in 1521, he wrote a book The Defence of the Seven Sacraments attacking Luther and for this was awarded the title "Defender of the Faith" by Pope Leo X.
Protestant ideas had however been permeating England and the English court, and among the courtiers with Lutheran sympathies was the attractive, charismatic Anne Boleyn who had arrived at court in 1522 as maid of honour to Queen Catherine.
By 1527, Henry wanted his marriage to Catherine annulled. She had not produced a male heir who survived longer than two months, and Henry wanted a son to secure the Tudor dynasty, eager to avoid the civil warfare that had placed his father on the throne. Catherine was now in her 40s and the prospect of another child seemed unlikely. Consequently, Henry decided to ask the Pope for an annulment arguing that it was that this lack of a male heir was because Henry’s marriage was “blighted in the eyes of God”. Catherine had been his late brother Arthur's wife, and it was therefore against biblical teachings for Henry to have married her. It was therefore argued the marriage was never valid because the biblical prohibition was part of unbreakable divine law, and even popes could not dispense with it. However Pope Clement VII refused to annul a marriage on the basis of a canonical impediment previously dispensed.
In 1529, the King summoned Parliament to deal with annulment, however on this matter no progress seemed possible. Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell, one of Henry’s chief advisors, wished simply to ignore the Pope, but in October 1530 a meeting of clergy and lawyers advised that Parliament could not empower the archbishop to act against the Pope's prohibition.
Henry thus turned on the priests, resolving to charge the whole English clergy with praemunire to secure their agreement to his annulment. While the Statute of Praemunire of 1392, which forbade obedience to the authority of the Pope or of any foreign rulers, had been used before using it against the whole clergy was a massive an unprecedented step. Henry claimed £100,000 from the Convocation of Canterbury (a representative body of English clergy) for their pardon, which was granted by the Convocation on January 24th 1531. Henry agreed to a five-year period of payment providing that:
In return, the King pardoned the clergy for violating the statute of praemunire.
From 1532 Henry and Cromwell bought numerous Acts before parliament breaking up the power of the clergy and their links with Rome. They banned from making cannon law without the King’s permission and prohibited from paying more than 5% of their first year's revenue (annates) to Rome. In 1533 the The Act in Restraint of Appeals, drafted by Cromwell, was passed. Apart from outlawing appeals to Rome on ecclesiastical matters, it declared that:
“This realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the Imperial Crown of the same, unto whom a body politic compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of Spirituality and Temporality, be bounden and owe to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience.”
This declared England an independent country in every respect and expounded a theory of national sovereignty.
Meanwhile, in August 1532 Archbishop of Canterbury William Warham, who had strongly opposed Henry’s annulment, died. He was replaced by Thomas Cranmer who was prepared to grant the annulment, going so far as to pronounce the judgment that Henry's marriage with Catherine was against the law of God. In January 1533 therefore, Henry was able to marry Anne Boleyn. Anne gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth, in September 1533. The Pope responded to the marriage by excommunicating both Henry and Cranmer from the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1534, the Acts of Supremacy made Henry "supreme head in earth of the Church of England" and disregarded any "usage, custom, foreign laws, foreign authority [or] prescription". In case any of this should be resisted, in the same year, Parliament passed the Treasons Act, which made it high treason punishable by death to deny Royal Supremacy. Finally, in 1536, Parliament passed the Act against the Pope's Authority, which removed the last part of papal authority still legal. This was Rome's power in England to decide disputes concerning Scripture.
Thus England’s break with Rome happened almost accidentally, and certainly grudgingly. Yet by the end of the century England and indeed Scotland were regarded as the cornerstones of Protestant Europe. In our next blog on the English Reformation, we will look at the reforms that occurred during the remainder of Henry VIII's reign as well as those advanced during the short reign of Edward VI. This period ends in 1553 and the ascension of the Catholic Queen Mary I to the throne - the subject of another blog later this summer.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
This year we are building and, Corona Virus notwithstanding, hoping to display a huge model to commemorating the 400th anniversary of the voyage of the Mayflwower. Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of blogs about the events that paved the way for her voyage and the reasons for those on board, who have been called the Pilgrim Fathers, for making the risky voyage across the Atlantic and establishing an English colony at Plymouth (or Plimoth) Colony, Massachusetts, America. In this blog we look back to 1611 and the publication of the King James Bible and how this fits in with the story of the Mayflower.
On this day in in 1611 the King James Bible was published for the first time in London by printer Robert Barker. To quote In our Time presenter Melvyn Bragg, it “…wasn’t the first of the several bibles translated into English but it was and remains far and away the most influential”. In this blog we explore the path to the King James Bible and how it became widely available to those in England and indeed further afield. We will also look at how this translation failed to satisfy the demands of the Puritans and how this would eventually lead to around 40 of them to board the Mayflower and sail to America to practice their beliefs.
For much of its history, the Bible in England was not available in any language other than Latin and in the 14th century this began to be seen as a real problem as ordinary people couldn’t understand it and had to rely on a priest to read and explain God’s Word. In the 1370s the English philosopher, theologian and priest John Wycliffe (c 1330–1384) began to officially criticize the Roman Church. One of his chief complaints was that that everybody should have direct access God’s word and therefore the Bible should be translated into English.
Wycliffe’s followers were known as Lollards and by 1384 Wycliffe and his Lollard colleagues had translated the entire Bible into the vernacular Middle English. Wycliffe's Bible pre-dated the printing press but was circulated very widely in manuscript form.
By now Wycliffe's teachings had been rejected by the church, but he had not been charged for fear of a popular uprising. The translation of the Bible caused great unrest among the clergy and so several defensive provincial synods were convened, such as the 3rd Council of Oxford. Under the chairmanship of Archbishop Thomas Arundel, official positions against Wycliffe were written in the Oxford and Arundel Constitutions and so from 1408 it became illegal and indeed heretical to translate scripture into English.
Wycliffe died later in 1384 and by the mid-1400s, the word Lollard had essentially become synonymous with 'heretic.' However, his bible was secretly preserved and read by followers. Wycliffe's Bible was not printed until 1731, when he was historically conceived as the forefather of the English Reformation.
The next English Bible translation was that of William Tyndale, whose Tyndale Bible had to be printed from 1525 outside England in areas of Germany sympathetic to Protestantism. However, it carries the distinction of being the first printed Bible in English. Tyndale himself was sentenced to death at the stake because of his translation work. He was strangled in 1536 near Brussels and then burned. Nevertheless, the merits of Tyndale's work and prose style made his translation the ultimate basis for all subsequent renditions into Early Modern English.
With Tyndale’s translations lightly edited and adapted by Myles Coverdale, in 1539, Tyndale's New Testament and his incomplete work on the Old Testament became the basis for the Great Bible, which was the first "authorised version" issued by the Church of England during the reign of King Henry VIII. Coverdale worked under commission of Thomas, Lord Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII and Vicar General. In 1538, Cromwell directed the clergy to provide "...one book of the Bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it."
When Mary I succeeded to the throne in 1553, she returned the Church of England to the communion of the Roman Catholic faith and many English religious reformers fled the country, some establishing an English-speaking colony at Geneva. Under the leadership of John Calvin, Geneva became the chief international centre of Reformed Protestantism and Latin biblical scholarship.
These English expatriates undertook a translation that became known as the Geneva Bible. This translation, dated to 1560, was a revision of Tyndale's Bible and the Great Bible on the basis of the original languages. However, soon after Elizabeth I took the throne in 1558, the flaws of both the Great Bible and the Geneva Bible (namely, that the Geneva Bible did not "conform to the ecclesiology and reflect the episcopal structure of the Church of England and its beliefs about an ordained clergy") became painfully apparent.
In 1568, the Church of England responded with the Bishops' Bible, a revision of the Great Bible in the light of the Geneva version. While officially approved, this new version failed to displace the Geneva translation as the most popular English Bible of the age—in part because the full Bible was only printed in lectern editions of prodigious size and at a cost of several pounds. Accordingly, ordinary people overwhelmingly read the Bible in the Geneva Version—small editions were available at a relatively low cost. At the same time, there was a substantial clandestine importation of the rival Douay–Rheims New Testament of 1582, undertaken by exiled Roman Catholics. This translation, though still derived from Tyndale, claimed to represent the text of the Latin Vulgate.
In May 1601, King James VI of Scotland attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at St Columba's Church in Burntisland, Fife, at which proposals were put forward for a new translation of the Bible into English. Two years later, he ascended to the throne of England as James I. The newly crowned King convened the Hampton Court Conference in 1604. That gathering proposed a new English version in response to the perceived problems of earlier translations as detected by the Puritan faction of the Church of England.
The Puritans were sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and needed to become more Protestant. In church polity, some advocated separation from all other established Christian denominations in favour of autonomous gathered churches. Politics and religion being deeply entwine during this period, this was seen as a challenge not only to the church but also to James royal authority.
In 1603 the Puritans had issued James with the Millenary Petition, a Puritan manifesto of 1603 for reform of the English church, but James wanted a religious settlement along different lines. So while Puritans were present at the Hampton Court Conference, and the teachings of four prominent Puritan leaders heard there, they were largely side-lined in favour of the High Church bishops.
When it came to the Bible, instructions were given to the translators that were intended to limit the Puritan influence on this new translation. Further instructions were given to not add marginal notes, as James had identified several in the Geneva Bible that were offensive to his principles of “divinely ordained royal supremacy” and to guarantee that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of the Church of England.
The new translation had to be familiar to its listeners and readers so the text of the Bishops' Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops' Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible.
James' instructions also included several requirements that kept the new translation familiar to its listeners and readers. The text of the Bishops' Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops' Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, Matthew's Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible.
The task of translation was undertaken by 47 scholars, although 54 were originally approved. All were members of the Church of England and all except Sir Henry Savile were clergy. The scholars worked in six committees, which included scholars with Puritan sympathies, as well as High Churchmen.
The committees started work towards the end of 1604 and all sections were complete by 1608. From January 1609, a General Committee of Review met to review the completed marked texts.
The original printing of the Authorized Version was published by Robert Barker, the King's Printer, in 1611 as a complete folio Bible. It was sold looseleaf for ten shillings, or bound for twelve. In contrast to the Geneva Bible and the Bishops' Bible, which had both been extensively illustrated, there were no illustrations at all in the 1611 edition of the Authorized Version, the main form of decoration being the historiated initial letters provided for books and chapters – together with the decorative title pages to the Bible itself, and to the New Testament.
The Authorized Version's acceptance by the general public was not immediate and the Geneva Bible continued to be popular with large numbers were imported from Amsterdam, where printing continued up to 1644 in editions carrying a false London imprint. However, few if any genuine Geneva editions appear to have been printed in London after 1616, and in 1637 Archbishop Laud prohibited their printing or importation. It would not be until the first half of the 18th century, that the Authorized Version became effectively unchallenged as the sole English translation in current use in Protestant churches. However, general standards of spelling, punctuation, typesetting, capitalization and grammar had changed radically in the 100 years since the first edition of the Authorized Version, and all printers in the market were introducing continual piecemeal changes to their Bible texts to bring them into line with current practice—and with public expectations of standardized spelling and grammatical construction. Therefore in 1760s the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge both sought to produce an updated standard leading to the 1769 version edited by Benjamin Blayney. This became the Oxford standard text, and is reproduced almost unchanged in most current printings.
However, to end this blog we return briefly to the early 17th century and the Puritans. The reforms of James I and his new bible were not enough to satisfy the most ardent of Puritans. Consequently many would seek other places to worship, first in the Netherlands and then, via England and the Mayflower, North America. We will explore these individuals, their motivations and ambitions, more closely in later blogs.
In our next blog in this series we will will however jump back in time a little and tell the story of the English Reformation of the 16th century. These scenes were built by James Pegrum; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1556, former Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer was burnt at the stake for heresy.
Cranmer had been a leading figure in the English Reformation and during his time as Archbishop, had been responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. Under Henry VIII's rule, Cranmer did not make many radical changes in the Church, due to power struggles between religious conservatives and reformers. However, when Edward VI came to the throne, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms.
After the accession of the Roman Catholic Mary I, Cranmer was put on trial for treason and heresy. He was imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from Church authorities, he made several recantations and apparently reconciled himself with the Roman Catholic Church. However, on the day of his execution, he withdrew his recantations, and instead spoke "...and as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine." Cranmer was pulled from the pulpit and taken straight to the place of burning in Oxford where he would die a heretic to Roman Catholics and a martyr for the principles of the English Reformation.
Cranmer's death was immortalised in Foxe's Book of Martyrs and his legacy lives on within the Church of England through the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1547 one of England's most intriguing monarchs, Henry VIII, died. At the time of Henry birth on June 28th 1491, he was second in line to the throne. This changed in 1502 with the death of his older brother, Arthur aged 15. Within seven years of his brother's death, his father Henry VII died and so the younger Henry became king, being crowned on 24th June 1509.
His reign has gone down in history for many reasons. One of the foremost was his six wives and the resulting split from the Roman Catholic church, which was a consequence of his divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The cause for so many wives was his drive to secure the Tudor line, which at this time required a son. His first two marriages did not provide him with a male heir. At the time of his death, he had three successors, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, all of who would successively take the throne. His successors were to have varying relationships with the Roman Catholic church, which was to have a significant consequence in national and international politics for years to come. During his reign, his split from Rome and lead nationally to the dissolution of the monasteries and played its part in his international wars.
As a King, he was known for military achievements (and causalities, such as the loss of the Mary Rose) and his athleticism. It was during one of his sporting activities that his physical decline began following an accident in a jousting tournament in 1536, where he reopened a wound in his leg.
It took some ten years for this wound to cause his health to deteriorate to the point where it was life threatening and in August 1546 his youthful vigour was noticeable deserting him. As his health became a concern, his stools and sputum were regularly examined. Furthermore, the doctors at that time believed that the letting of his blood, in accordance with the waxing and waning of the moon could save him. Between August and December, the privy chamber spent increased amounts on his medical treatment to no avail.
It was treason to predict the king’s death, though it was obviously imminent by January 1547, and so Henry’s doctors did not summon the courage to break the news to the King. This was not surprising as Henry had ordered numerous executions during his reign (some estimates give as a high an estimate as 72,000), including two of his wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. As the month wore on and his health declined, he took Holy Communion and gave his confessions on the 27th. It is also likely that during the evening of the same day he finalised his will, which was witnessed by eleven people (possibly including the ever-present lutenist, Patrec) and in doing so laid the way for Edward his son to become the next monarch, securing the future of the Church of England, for the time being at least.
In his room, Henry lay dying, the aroma of the air was heavy, oppressive, with grey amber and musk, smothering the stench of physical decay along with the shadowy gloom created by the window tapestries. With it being the depth of winter, they would have been drawn tightly, keeping the damp out. A great wood fire, continually fed, would have provided him with warmth whilst eliminating all ‘evil vapours’, whilst giving off a stifling fug. It is also possible that the king would have continued to have been attended with potions and plasters by his doctors, in vain, whilst they knew death was inevitable before the rising of another sun. Lying, dying he was not alone, as the death of a monarch during this period was a public affair.
In his last hours it was also crucial that Henry had time to prepare his soul and he we was aided by Sir Anthony Denny who warned his master that ‘in man’s judgement, he was not likely to live’ and that he should remember his sins, ‘as becometh every good Christian man to do’. In response, Henry said that he believed that Christ in all His mercy would ‘pardon me all my sins, yea, though they were greater than can be’. He later that evening of the 27th asked for Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, who rode at breakneck speed from Croydon, to be with the king. With Cranmer by his side, the archbishop begged the king to give a sign that he trusted Christ for salvation. In response, Cranmer felt the grip on his hand tighten slightly. And so at around 2 a.m., King Henry VIII left this world.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1536, King Henry VIII of England took part in a jousting tournament, It was to be his last.
Jousting was a dangerous activity and a risky one for a king, yet in spite of sustaining injuries in previous tournaments, it remained one Henry's favorite sports. However on this occasion he was unhorsed by his opponent, hitting the ground in his heavy armor. His horse then fell upon him and he remained unconscious for two hours. During this time the doctors feared he would not recover. The accident bought the risks Henry was taking to the fore and persuaded him to end his jousting career. It has been argued that the accident resulted in Henry suffering from worsening health problems over the course of his remaining life.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on world history. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see them first.
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