Having married Prince Phillip of Spain in July 1554, Mary I’s priorities turned to the task of producing an heir, thus preventing the ascension of her half-sister Elizabeth to the English throne and the return of England to a Protestant state. This was going to be no easy task, especially in the 16th century when the death of mother and / or child was a fairly common results of childbirth.
Anyway, three months into the marriage positive signs of a pregnancy began, at least positive enough for her doctors and most of the court to believe she was with child. These signs included gaining weight and a swelling stomach, which were usually considered to be pretty good indicators of a pregnancy. Recognising the risk to Mary’s life, Parliament passed an act that would make Phillip regent in the event of her death.
In late April 1555, Mary said that she felt the child move in her womb and so the Court set about in preparation for the coming child. Elizabeth was released from house arrest and called to court as a witness to the birth, while thanksgiving services were held in the diocese of London were held after false rumours that Mary had given birth to a son spread across Europe.
However, rumours were all they were and Mary did not give birth. Mary expected to give birth in May and so preparations continued with the hiring of care workers, the preparation of a birth chamber and nursery and the creation of an intricately carved cradle. Letters announcing the birth were written, with the date and name of the child to be filled in once he or she had been delivered. The expectant couple made final preparations and moved to Hampton Court where they wanted the child to be born.
By June, with still no sign of a baby, doubts about the pregnancy began to spread. In July her abdomen receded and Spanish ambassador Giovanni Michieli joked that the pregnancy as more likely to "end in wind rather than anything else". Michieli's bad jokes aside, unfortunately for Mary the pregnancy turned out to be false. The Queen took the news badly and considered it to be to be "God's punishment" for her having "tolerated heretics" in her realm. Soon after Phillip left England to command his armies against France in Flanders and Mary was left apparently heartbroken and depressed. Michieli, demonstrating that he could do more than tell poorly timed jokes, was apparently touched by the queen's grief and wrote that she was "extraordinarily in love" with her husband, and was disconsolate at his departure.
Elizabeth remained at court until October, apparently restored to favour. In the absence of any children, Philip was concerned that one of the next claimants to the English throne after his sister-in-law was the Queen of Scots, who was betrothed to the Dauphin of France. Philip persuaded his wife that Elizabeth should marry his cousin Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, to secure the Catholic succession and preserve the Habsburg interest in England, but Elizabeth refused to comply and parliamentary consent was unlikely.
On this day in 1540 Thomas Cromwell, who had for served as chief minister to King Henry VIII, was executed at Tower Hill in London. For nearly ten years Cromwell was one of the strongest and most powerful proponents of the English Reformation, coming to the fore through his engineering of the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533. During his years in power, he skillfully managed Crown finances and extended royal authority. In 1536, he established the Court of Augmentations to handle the massive windfall to the royal coffers from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He strengthened royal authority in the north of England through reform of the Council of the North, extended royal power and introduced Protestantism in Ireland, and was the architect of the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542, which promoted stability and gained acceptance for the royal supremacy in Wales.
During this period Cromwell made many enemies and there were no shortage of those who would try and to oust him from his position of power. In 1540 he arranged for Henry to marry the German Princess Anne of Cleves, who Cromwell hoped would help breath fresh life into the Reformation in England and help protect England against the possibility of a French / Imperial alliance. This appears to have been a costly mistake, as the king was reportedly shocked by her plain appearance and Cromwell was accused of exaggerating her beauty. The wedding ceremony took place on January 6th at Greenwich, but the marriage was not consummated. For Cromwell’s conservative opponents, most notably the Duke of Norfolk, the King's anger at being forced to marry Anne was the opportunity to topple him they had been waiting for.
Cromwell was arrested at a Council meeting on June 10th and accused of various charges. His initial reaction was defiance: "This then is my reward for faithful service!" he cried out, and angrily defied his fellow Councillors to call him a traitor. A Bill of Attainder containing a long list of indictments, including supporting Anabaptists, corrupt practices, leniency in matters of justice, acting for personal gain, protecting Protestants accused of heresy and thus failing to enforce the Act of Six Articles, and plotting to marry Lady Mary Tudor, was introduced into the House of Lords a week later and passed on June 29th.
All Cromwell's honours were forfeited and it was publicly proclaimed that he could be called only "Thomas Cromwell, cloth carder". The King deferred the execution until his marriage to Anne of Cleves could be annulled: Anne, with remarkable common sense, happily agreed to an amicable annulment and was treated with great generosity by Henry as a result. Hoping for clemency, Cromwell wrote in support of the annulment, in his last personal address to the King. He ended the letter: "Most gracious Prince, I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy."
Cromwell was however condemned to death without trial, lost all his titles and property and was publicly beheaded on Tower Hill on July 28th 1540, on the same day as the King's marriage to Catherine Howard. The circumstances of his execution are a source of debate: whilst some accounts state that the executioner had great difficulty severing the head, others claim that this is apocryphal and that it took only one blow. Afterwards, his head was set on a spike on London Bridge.
The king later expressed regret at the loss of his chief minister and later accused his ministers of bringing about Cromwell's downfall by "pretexts" and "false accusations".
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the English Reformation; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Marriages have served many purposes throughout history, including political and religious ones. Such was the case of Mary Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary, who was a Catholic, had come to the throne of England somewhat unexpectedly and against her younger brother’s wishes. However, Edward VI died at the age of 15 on July 6th 1553 from a lung infection and Mary was the next in line. England had undergone a religious upheaval under Henry VIII, who had separated the Church of England from Papal authority. Edward had been committed to the ongoing religious reform and was concerned that his oldest sister would return England to the old faith.
Edward attempted by means of the Succession Act, which excluded Mary and Elizabeth form the line of succession, failed and Mary, after political rankling with Jane Dudley, her first cousin once removed, became Queen of England at the age of 37. Once monarch she turned her attention to marriage, at least partly motivated by her desire to ensure that England remained a Catholic nation. Once married she would be able to produce a heir, thereby preventing her protestant half-sister Elizabeth, becoming the next English monarch in line with their father’s will and the Succession Act of 1554.
Early suitors put forward included the Catholic nobles Edward Courtenay and Reginald Pole, however it was her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s suggestion of his son, Prince Philip of Spain that went ahead. Mary was excited to be marrying Phillip who she considered to be handsome having previously seen a portrait of him. With Philip a powerful Catholic ruler, the marriage was also seen as a significant step to returning England to Catholicism once again. For Phillip this would be his second marriage (his first wife having died a few years before) and while not thrilled with the idea, he could see its political advantages.
The marriage proposal was not well received by the English nation and Lord Chancellor Gardniner, along with the House of Commons, petitioned Mary to consider marrying an Englishman. Despite the protestations Mary insisted on the marriage. Insurrections broke out, including the ambitious Wyatt’s Rebellion, led by Thomas Wyatt.
Mary swept all opposition the wedding took place at Winchester Cathedral on July 25th 1554, two days after their first meeting; it was a grand affair with the walls of the cathedral draped in Flemish flags, carpets and standards. The wedding was taken by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.
With the marriage having taken place Phillip was created “King of England” and ruled alongside rather than being a step below Mary. Though King he had to run things past Mary, much to his dissatisfaction. Mary had a deep affection for Phillip but apparently Phillip did not have the same feelings towards Mary.
In addition to being monarchs of England, Charles V ceded to Philip the crown of Naples along with his claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, thereby making Mary Queen of Naples and titular Queen of Jerusalem.
The married couple's family life now looked to the next stage, producing an heir, the focus of our next blog on the couple.
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.
When Henry VIII died in 1547, his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, inherited the throne. Because Edward was given a Protestant humanist education, Protestants held high expectations that he would push forward further reforms. However, with Edward in his minority, he was of little political account initially. Real power was in the hands of the regency council, which elected Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, to be Lord Protector. Seymour and the council were themselves in a delicate position and therefore they were hesitant to pursue radical change at first.
Nevertheless, Seymour and Thomas Cranmer did plan to further the reformation of religion. In July 1547, a Book of Homilies was published, from which all clergy were to preach from on Sundays. The homilies were explicitly Protestant in their content, condemning relics, images, rosary beads, holy water, palms, and other "papistical superstitions". It also directly contradicted the King's Book by teaching "we be justified by faith only, freely, and without works". Despite objections from Gardiner, who questioned the legality of bypassing both Parliament and Convocation, justification by faith had been made a central teaching of the English Church.
In August, thirty commissioners - nearly all Protestants - were appointed to carry out a royal visitation of England's churches. The Royal Injunctions of 1547 issued to guide the commissioners were borrowed from Thomas Cromwell's 1538 injunctions but revised to be more radical. Church processions - one of the most dramatic and public aspects of the traditional liturgy - were banned. The injunctions also attacked the use of sacramentals, such as holy water, while Reciting the rosary was also condemned. The injunctions set off a wave of iconoclasm with stained glass, shrines, statues, and roods defaced or destroyed. Church walls were whitewashed and covered with biblical texts condemning idolatry.
When a new Parliament met in November 1547, it began to dismantle the laws passed during Henry VIII's reign to protect traditional religion:
Perhaps more significantly, a new prayer Book of Common Prayer was authorised by the Act of Uniformity 1549, replacing several regional Latin rites then in use with English-language liturgy. However it offered a compromise to conservatives, providing Protestants with a service free from what they considered superstition, while maintaining the traditional structure of the mass.
Nevertheless, the first Book of Common Prayer was a "radical" departure from traditional worship and it’s enforcement did not take place without a struggle. In the West Country, the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer was the catalyst for a series of uprisings through the summer of 1549. There were smaller upheavals elsewhere from the West Midlands to Yorkshire. The Prayer Book Rebellion was not only in reaction to the prayer book; the rebels demanded a full restoration of pre-Reformation Catholicism. They were also motivated by economic concerns, such as enclosure. In East Anglia, however, the rebellions lacked a Roman Catholic character. Kett's Rebellion in Norwich blended Protestant piety with demands for economic reforms and social justice.
The insurrections were put down only after considerable loss of life. Somerset was blamed and was removed from power in October. It was wrongly believed by both conservatives and reformers that the Reformation would be overturned. Succeeding Somerset as de facto regent was John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick, newly appointed Lord President of the Privy Council. Warwick saw further implementation of the reforming policy as a means of gaining Protestant support and defeating his conservative rivals.
From that point on, the Reformation proceeded apace. Between 1550 and 1551 the episcopate was purged of conservative bishops who were replaced by Protestants. The enlarged and emboldend Protestant episcopate were then able to push forward further actions to stamp out conservative practices, including wiping out compromises that had been written into the Book of Common Prayer. In April 1552, a new Act of Uniformity authorised a revised Book of Common Prayer to be used in worship by November 1st. Changes were made to the communion service and many traditional sacramentals and observances were removed.
Throughout Edward's reign, inventories of parish valuables, ostensibly for preventing embezzlement, convinced many the government planned to seize parish property, just as was done to the chantries. These fears were confirmed in March 1551 when the Privy Council ordered the confiscation of church plate and vestments. No action was taken until 1552–1553 when commissioners were appointed. They were instructed to leave only the "bare essentials" required by the 1552 Book of Common Prayer - a surplice, tablecloths, communion cup and a bell. Items to be seized included copes, chalices, chrismatories, patens, monstrances and candlesticks. Many parishes sold their valuables rather than have them confiscated at a later date and the money was used to fundparish projects that could not be challenged by the crown. The money funded parish projects that could not be challenged by royal authorities.
The confiscations caused tensions between Protestant church leaders and Warwick, now Duke of Northumberland. Cranmer, Ridley and other Protestant leaders did not fully trust Northumberland. Northumberland in turn sought to undermine these bishops by promoting their critics, such as Jan Laski and John Knox. Cranmer's plan for a revision of English canon law, the Reformatio legum ecclesiasticarum, failed in Parliament due to Northumberland's opposition. Despite such tensions, a new doctrinal statement to replace the King's Book was issued on royal authority in May 1553. The Forty-two Articles reflected the Reformed theology and practice taking shape during Edward's reign, which historian Christopher Haigh describes as a "restrained Calvinism". It affirmed predestination and that the King of England was Supreme Head of the Church of England under Christ.
King Edward became seriously ill in February and died in July 1553. Before his death, Edward was concerned that Mary, his devoutly Catholic sister, would overturn his religious reforms. A new plan of succession was created in which both of Edward's sisters Mary and Elizabeth were bypassed on account of illegitimacy in favour of the Protestant Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Edward's aunt Mary Tudor and daughter in law of the Duke of Northumberland. This new succession violated the "Third" Succession Act of 1544 and was widely seen as an attempt by Northumberland to stay in power. Northumberland was unpopular due to the church confiscations, and support for Jane collapsed. So on July 19th, the Privy Council proclaimed Mary queen to the acclamation of the crowds in London and a new chapter in England’s relationship with the church began.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum and Dan Harris as part of a series of models on 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 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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