Updated Notes 2015 Early Reformation Notes
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Notes - Early Reformation Previous Questions: o
At what point did the Reformation in England become irreversible?
To what extent was the Henrician Reformation influenced by Lutheran ideas?
To what extent and with what results was England exposed to continental Protestantism between 1529 and 1553?
Is the 'Henrician Reformation' a misnomer?
Why was there so little opposition to the Henrician Reformation?
What was the relative contribution of native heresy, humanism and Protestantism to the Reformation up to 1553?
How well established was Protestantism by 1558?
General Considerations: What were the primary influences on the Reformation - was it continental in nature, or can we attribute its momentum to the domestic political interests of Henry? Were broader social, cultural and theological considerations taken into account, and was the relationship between the populace and the late-medieval Church close to collapse?
What did the Henrician Reformation mean? Henrician Reform =
Erasmian (Bernard and Wooding do) or something different?
Is the piecemeal nature of the reform part of the answer?
Was Henry's decision to destroy monastic culture in this country a tyrannical act of grand larceny or the pious destruction of a corrupt institution?
o When he was an old man, Michael Sherbrook remembered the momentous events of his youth: "All things of price were either spoiled, plucked away or defaced to the uttermost…it seemed that every person bent himself to filch and spoil what he could. Nothing was spared but the ox-houses and swincotes…" o He was talking about the destruction of Roche Abbey, but it could have been Lewes or Fountains, Glastonbury, Tintern or Walsingham, names that haunt the religious past as their ruins haunt the landscape. These were the monasteries, suddenly and for many shockingly, destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII. o The conflict was played out with a mix of violence, heroism, political manoeuvring and genuine theological disputation.
But what was lost in terms of architecture, painting, treasure and in the religious habits of the monasteries themselves and of the common people who lived with them?
To some, the Protestant Reformation was a flash of light restorative, reinvigorating, a rectification of the corruption of late medieval religion. o Other historians have displayed greater sympathy towards that which was destroyed - the empty niches at Ely Cathedral, or the faded wall paintings at Easby. A greater sense of what was lost, the destruction of a great deal of beauty. o The first approach tended to dominate historiography up until the 1980s. The Reformation became a critical part of the teleological English 'manifest destiny.' Christopher Marsh argued that it had both purpose and direction, even a certain inevitability. o New historiographical trends stress the consequences of the destruction of older religious tradition.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------Introductory thoughts - what shapes early Reformation?
1521 - 'What serpent so poisonous has ever come forth...What a wolf of hell is he, seeking to scatter Christ's flock! What a limb of Satan! How rotten is his mind! how execrable his purpose!
o Little over ten years later, the Defender of the Faith began a process that would overhaul centuries of religious loyalties to the very same person he had taken up the pen for - the pope. o The Lutheran influence in the development of the English vernacular Bible is often cited as evidence that there was indeed a notable continental tinge to the events of the 1530s and 40s.
But if we examine the title-page of the 'Great Bible' of 1539, we begin to gain an understanding of the real influences at work in the Henrician Reformation. o Henry depicted enthroned, handing out copies of the Bible to the clergy on one side, the laity on the other. o Further down the page, we see the Word of God being expounded from the pulpit on one side, and discussed by gentlemen on the other side. At the bottom, ordinary folk listen to the Bible being preached. Response: Vivat Rex!' and 'Long Live the King!' o For Henry, the authority of God and the authority of the King had all but merged: obedience to one required obedience to the other.
MacCulloch: though the English climate of opinion may have been receptive to continental Protestantism, it was nonetheless largely a product of Henry himself, taking on a deeper ideological anchorage as time progressed.
By establishing a more favourable climate of opinion for reform and introducing a vernacular Bible, Lutheranism - and to a lesser extent Lollardy - provided the foundations on which the advancement of a Protestant religiosity could be constructed. But such developments were ultimately embraced because they could be accommodated within a broader, and more definitively English framework, centred on the monarch's position as Supreme Head of the Church. Henry was keen to leave the possibility for further change (or lack of it) open, and as such a Via Media was very much the desired route of progress, ensuring that any Lutheran influences were necessarily constrained in their scope.
To some extent, this does change under Edward - embraces a more vigorous Protestantism. But still rooted in a definitively English religious framework - reduces the scope for continental influence. o An amalgam - but only took the aspects of continental thought that could be accommodated within an English religious paradigm. o Henrician Reformation, the clue is very much in the name - and the extent to which Lutheran ideas influenced the theological developments of the 1530s and 40s continued to depend on whether or not they were deemed useful.
And when did it become 'irreversible'?
Candidates who took an analytical approach to the definition of 'irreversible' were better able to answer question 17 than those who simply presented an illustrated chronology of the Reformation. (At what point did the Reformation in England become irreversible?)
In 1538 a Sussex priest said of the English bible that, "lightly it came and lightly it will be gone again." o Proved spectacularly wrong. But the dismissively casual nature of the reflection is certainly a telling insight into contemporary understanding of what was actually happening. o Haigh - reformations, not Reformation. What do we mean by irreversible? Point is that it was incremental and subtle. Few contemporaries perceived the theological developments of the 1530s onwards as something that could not be overturned. Was this seen as a genuine overhaul of traditional religiosity, or merely a new wave of reforming sentiment that had characterised the history of the church time out of mind?
o Indeed, what do we mean by Reformation? Christopher Haigh
- possible to distinguish between a series of legislative reformations and the Protestant reformation, the latter being more gradual and diffuse, extending over generations. The two dimensions, the legislative and the religious, inevitably went together. But it was the latter that shaped worldviews and contemporary loyalties - and would entrench
Protestantism deep enough for it to become enmeshed in the social fabric. Popularity of Marian counter-Reformation. Eventually accepted more readily on the basis of orderly obedience to royal instruction rather than the success of Protestantism. o The Reformation in England was a series of contingent events, of piecemeal measures, which suited the immediate interests of rulers and politicians: It was a combination of smaller decisions, rather than one single reformation. The nation accepted the policies of monarchs precisely because an irreversible overhaul never seemed apparent - this was the 'political reformation.' But slowly, after decades of subtle change, the large bulk of contemporaries would align themselves, passively or actively, with the Protestant world view - enmeshed in the social fabric, Haigh's 'Protestant Reformation.' o Therefore - political and legal origins inevitably became tied up with deeper religious and ideological sentiment. Then, and only then, did the momentum of the Reformation become so powerful as to make a return to what came before ultimately impracticable.
- There is, some historians argue, a case to be made for continental understandings of Protestantism providing the platform on which the early Reformation put down roots. o
MacCulloch - continental ideas, and patterns of Lollardy were crucial in generating enthusiasm for new religious sentiment before the Reformation. Clustered around the coast and port areas of the country, i.e. those most likely to be in contact with ideas and religious thought generated on the continent. One clergyman of Bristol, Roger Edgeworth commented: 'where little concourse of strangers is, there is plain manner of living. But in port towns they be of another sort. The Germans and Saxons bring in their opinions, the Frenchmen their new fashions, other countries given to lechery run to the open bars...' The garrison town of Calais was manned largely by Welsh soldiers, who are exposed to the Protestantism of the continent and export these ideas back home.
Certainly, we should not consider divorcing continental influences from the early Reformation. Did not occur in a vacuum. A loose integration, propounded by influential figures and within influential institutions.
Gained ground before the Reformation. In 1519 the first of Luther's books were circulating among the educated and in the following year
had gained support among the intellectuals at Cambridge. (meet at White Horse Tavern - Cranmer a member) o From Cambridge these scholars spread the new thought elsewhere. The poorer classes, particularly in the old Lollard areas in south-west England, began to pay heed to the ideas spread by these intellectuals, and in London some of the merchants were also evangelized. Their wealth was useful in furthering the new ideas. o In 1528, Thomas More was commissioned to refute the works of the new heretical movement. Probably more helpful in spreading the new thought than in fighting it; when a prominent figure attempted to refute Luther, many people became curious to read the thoughts refuted. o Those who were exposed experienced a deep wave of Reformist sentiment, largely Lutheran in sympathy.
Similarly, Ten Articles (1536), though not stating Lutheran doctrine, nonetheless by their omissions and deliberate vagueness indicate a possibility of unity with Lutheranism. o In particular, the Articles omit four of the seven Catholic sacraments, acknowledge superstitious connexions with some older Catholic practices, do not define the doctrine of Purgatory, and leave the wording on the 'Real Presence' so vague as to allow it to be interpreted from either a Catholic or a Lutheran viewpoint. o At the same time that Henry VIII broke with Rome, three of the most influential people at his court were of Lutheran sympathies - notably Anne Boleyn. While the links between Luther and England are indirect, they do exist and the English Reformation, therefore cannot be cut off entirely from the continent. o The English Lutheran movement aided the Henrician reformation by providing two things: it established and encouraged a more general climate of opinion, favourable to reform; and it was the first source of vernacular Bibles in great numbers for the English. o This second influence provided a basis for further reform under Edward. But while Lutheranism was influential, it was but one wave in a succession of waves on the changing English theological shoreline.
Aspects were accommodated within the paradigm of the English revolution. But for most of the 1520s, radical religious ideas associated with Lutheranism remained confined to London and the universities, which suggests Lutheranism never had a wide following and was still perceived to be radical by mainstream standards. o Ryrie - 'No sooner did Lutheran ideas make landfall in England, Hall argued, than they were adulterated by a covenant theology which was "very tenacious in England" and indeed "native of the soil." o Importance of political figures in translating abstract religious and intellectual doctrines into concrete programmes remained crucial. Henry's suspicion of Lutheranism ensured its influence would remain marginal. As Richard Rex has argued, the Reformation in England was a personal affair, `its own thing, folly to Catholics and a stumbling-block to protestants' (67)
Moderate Lutherans in many cases detached themselves from continental Lutheranism, and were willing to accept the Henrician settlement. The English Lutheran movement aided the Henrician reformation by providing two things: it established and encouraged a more general climate of opinion, favourable to reform; and it was the first source of vernacular Bibles in great numbers for the English.
Limitations But Lutheranism mismatched key English themes throughout Reformation. (MacCulloch) Must remember that Lutheranism took great pains to define and delineate its theology. The English Protestant narrative, from the Reformation to the present day, had done the exact opposite - some would say for the better. Lutheranism could be influential, but inevitably its influence was always contained within pre-existing paradigms, and needed to accommodate itself for distinctively English needs and, more importantly, the needs of Henry.
What made victory possible was a contingent circumstance the kind which so often makes history takes turns which are otherwise utterly unpredictable. o In 1527, Henry VIII - previously an unwavering critic of Protestantism - required for his marriage to be dissolved. He had no male heir and risked the collapse of his dynasty. A break with Rome was necessary to legitimise his divorce and gain an heir, a break which required a new state religion to emerge.
Henrician Supremacy was the unforseen culmination of trends that went back to the start of the reign. o Adherence throughout his reign to the original implications of the kind of headship that he was politically obliged to erect. o 'The English Reformation began in June 1509'. (Suggested by Redworth) It is conceivable that at this date Henry rewrote the coronation oath and, from the moment of his accession. o Originally required the monarch to swear to uphold the ancient liberties of the Church, including its right to make laws binding on his subjects. o Henry altered it to read that a king need uphold the Church's rights only so far as his royal conscience would permit and, most important, so long as these privileges were 'lawful and not prejudicial to his Crown or Imperial Jurisdiction'.
To some, Henry's religion looks far more like an arbitrary selection of different elements that a doctrine with any clear Lutheran influence.
Institutes an English Bible, yet always defended the Latin Mass and its doctrine of the Real Presence. He rejected the papacy, yet he also rejected the central Lutheran doctrine (later upheld by Protestantism more generally) of 'justification by faith alone'. With a chilling kind of moderation, Henry VIII burned as heretics those who were too evangelical, and executed as traitors those loyal to the papacy.
But must remember that there were no concrete understandings of 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' at this time however. o Henry's policies were, one could argue, coherent, in so much as there was no need to assert them at this stage as definitively Lutheran, Catholic, Calvinist or otherwise. This was definitively a Henrician series of reforms - but it was also a moderate set. o Shift from the Ten Articles (1536) to the Six Articles (1539) reflected the difficulty of pursuing a middle-road, with both Lutheran and conservative advice being offered to the King.
The Ten Articles showed the influence of recent negotiations with the Lutherans, but this influence was far from decisive.
Meanwhile the Six Articles assert key aspects of Catholic belief and practice, such as clerical celibacy and the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
But not contradictory. Wooding - taken together, they express the two sides of Henrician reform: cautiously evangelical in tone, but on certain central matters of faith and salvation firmly traditional.
The Henrician Reformation was a manifestation of the "middle way" Henry sought, which put off opposition from both conservatives and evangelicals by leaving open the possibility of more discussions and change o Bernard - Henry sought a "middle way" in his religious reforms - contradictions within the same set of articles of religion served to keep alive the hopes of churchmen of different views whose support the king needed, and also offered the king the opportunity to call for further discussion. o The king's purpose remained "perfecte concorde and unity"; this Act was intended to curb what Henry saw as dangerous diversity, and giving the government increased powers to deal with those who disagreed.
Indeed, by this time, the idea of himself as a godly reformer, a king who answered directly to God, had become deeply embedded in Henry's own notions of kingship. o It had become a part of his identity, reinforced by the imagery surrounding him. In public, he portrayed himself as the man who had banished corruption from the Church and restored the truth of the Bible. o But in private too, as we can see from his book of psalms, he saw himself as King David, the Old Testament king who had slain the
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