Sunday, May 7, 2017

Supremacy Without Unity

From The Economist, a review of Heretics and Believers by Peter Marshall:

Mr Marshall provides convincing evidence that Catholicism survived well into Elizabeth’s reign. At least 800 clergymen were deprived or removed themselves for reasons of conscience, including as many as a quarter of the clergy in one diocese, Rochester, that is not far from Canterbury. Only 21 out of 90 senior clergy in northern England assented to the settlement, and 36 openly disagreed. Dissent among middle-ranking clergy was even higher. Of those not removed by the 1559 flu epidemic, fewer than half wished to continue.

A rebellion reckoned to be 7,000-strong in favour of the pope in 1569 was brutally suppressed. Many followers of the old religion simply conformed and dissembled. It is hard to understand how the people coped through these years. Tombs were vandalised; vicars protested at funerals. One village curate was known to shave his Protestant beard every time a change in religion was rumoured. However the English survived the Reformation, they did so as a nation divided.

Whig histories typically focus on the progress that the state and evangelicals made in forging a Church of England: a history of the winners. Mr Marshall’s contribution is a riveting account of the losers as well, the English zealots and cynics who wanted a better world or an unchanging one. The resulting story is of a Henrician supremacy that failed and an Elizabethan unity that never was.

Please read the rest there.

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