Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding.

I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop...
It was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.


Friday, 25 February 2011

Convocation, Catholicism and Anglicanism in 1559


Today is the anniversary of the meeting of the Convocation of Canterbury in 1559 and of the five articles they passed, very much against the trend of government policy at the time, as Fr Hunwicke wrote about it in this article a few weeks back.

I recently rediscovered Fr Philip Caraman's articles from 1974, as reprinted in The Angelus in 1982, entitled 'Elizabethan Catholics and the Mass'. The first of these 'The Gathering Storm' discusses the events around the Elizabethan legislation which established the 1559 Settlement. It can, I hope, be read here.

I have extracted from it two sections about the forceful remonstrances made by the Archbishop of York, Nicholas Heath, who had been Lord Chancellor under Queen Mary I, to the new Queen and in the debate in the House of Lords.



Archbishop Nicholas Heath in 1566

" Meanwhile, Nicholas Heath, the Archbishop of York (he had opposed the burning of heretics under Queen Mary and was considered the most prudent man in the kingdom), had an audience with the Queen. As soon as he was alone with her, he fell on his knees and invoked with tears the name of Jesus Christ. He begged Elizabeth, being a woman, to refrain from tampering with the sacred mysteries. He said that he had been through the English schools and universities and had attained the highest honours; he had been a bishop under her father Henry VIII, and her brother, Edward VI and Lord Chancellor under Mary, and that from his experience in the course of a long life, to say nothing of his own studies, he had learned that the State suffered great harm from frequent changes, even in the laws relating to the administration of justice. How much greater harm, he argued, would result from alterations in religion, where antiquity was held at such great account.

It was a wise and moderate speech. The Archbishop, recalling all that had recently happened, said that it was now proposed to make changes, not simply in ceremonies, but in the highest mysteries of the Faith, which (as the name implied) should be reverenced in silence rather than made the subject of popular debate. To call in question the sacraments of the Church, after such a length of time and in a kingdom which had only recently recovered from schism, would be disastrous in the extreme.

Finally, asking the Queen's pardon for his freedom of speech, the Archbishop concluded; "But if (which God avert) the Catholic religion should unhappily be overthrown in England, I warn, I proclaim and I declare beforehand that I will not recede a nail's breadth in the least thing from the decrees of theCatholic Church, and in that quarrel I will resist every suggestion from others, and even from your Majesty, by every means in my power, to the last moment of my life."

The Queen bade him rise, comforted him with many words and ended by promising the Archbishop that she would do nothing that was not approved by her Councillors and by the whole nation assembled in Parliament. She gave him to think that in some measure she still wished to profess the Catholic Faith."


At the Third Reading in the Lords of the Bill laying down a new service of common prayer to replace the Mass all the Bishops continued to dissent and they were supported by the Marquess of Winchester, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Viscount Montagu, and Barons Morley, Stafford, Dudley, Wharton, Rich and North:

" True to his undertaking, Archbishop Heath spoke out firmly: "The unity of the Church of Christ doth depend upon the unity of Peter's authority. Therefore, by our leaping out of Peter's ship, we must needs be overwhelmed with the waters of schism, sects and divisions which spring only from this, that men will not be obedient to the Head Bishop of God."

The Archbishop asked the Lords whether they thought the Church of Rome was not of God, but a malignant Church, and then went on: "If you answer yes, then it will follow that we, the inhabitants of this realm, have not as yet received any benefit from Christ, for we have received no other gospel, no other doctrine, no other Faith, no other sacraments than were sent us from the Church of Rome."


A lost portrait of a young Elizabeth I that was discovered in the attic of a country house has intrigued historians after X-rays revealed that it was painted over an earlier picture of the monarch.

Queen Elizabeth I is believed to have been around 26 when the portrait was painted, that is in 1559.
As David Starkey has pointed out the emphasis on austere black clothing and the Bible or prayer-book she is holding stresses her Protestant credentials.
There is more about this recently discovered painting
here.


Queen Elizabeth's own views are more clearly stated than was usual for her at this time in a reply she sent in December 1559 to five bishops who had protested at the changes she had introduced. It is an interesting early exposition of a claim to a distinctive Anglican (or British) Church History which is still voiced:

"Sirs,—As to your entreaty for us to listen to you, we have it yet, do return you this our answer. Our realm and subjects have been long wanderers, walking astray whilst they were under the tuition of Romish Pastors, who advised them to own a Wolf for their head (in lieu of a careful Shepherd) whose inventions, heresies, and schisms be so numerous, that the flock of Christ have fed on poisonous shrubs for want of wholesome pastures. And whereas, you list us and our subjects in the teeth, that the Romish Church first planted the Catholic faith within our realms, the records and chronicles of our realms testify to the contrary, and your own Romish idolatry maketh you liars; witness the ancient monument of Gildas, unto which both foreign and domestic have gone in pilgrimage, there to offer. This author testifieth Joseph of Arimathea to be the first preacher of the word of God within our realms. Long after that period when Au[gu]stin[e] came from Rome, this our realm had Bishops and Priests therein, as is well known to the wise and learned of our realm, by woeful experience, how your Church entered therein by blood, they being martyrs for Christ, and put to death because they denied Rome's usurped authority.
As for our Father being drawn away from the Supremacy of Rome by schismatical and heretical counsels and advisers, who, we pray advised him more or flattered him than you, good Mr. Father, when you were Bishop of Rochester? And then, you Mr Bonner, when you were Archdeacon? And you Mr. Turberville? Nay, further... who was more an adviser to our Father than your great Stephen Gardiner, when he lived?.... Was it not you and such like advisers that... stirred up our Sister against us and other of her subjects? Whereas you would frighten us by telling how Emperors... have owned the Bishop of Rome's authority. It was contrary in the beginning, for our Saviour Christ paid His
tribute unto Cæsar, as the chief superior; which shows your Romish supremacy is usurped.... We give you, therefore, warning, that for the future, we hear no more of this kind, lest you provoke us to execute those penalties enacted for the punishing of our resisters, which out of our clemency we have foreborne." —From Greenwich, Dec. 6, Anno Secundo Regni.


With acknowledgements to Lumiarium.com

Only one diocesan bishop, Anthony Kitchen of Llandaff, accepted the new settlement, and the others were deprived, and in several cases kept under house arrest until their deaths. Queen Elizabeth appears to have expected some at least to conform. As she pointed out in her answer reproduced above they had done in the past, but in that she was to be disappointed. Had there not been a number of vacancies - most notably Canterbury - the opposition of the hierarchy would have been stronger.

In the years that followed there remained asubstantial group of Church Papists - those who outwardly conformed to the new settlement but who sought to retain traditional forms or who inwardly believed the Catholic rather than the reformed faith. However, as both Convocation and Archbishop Heath on one side and Queen Elizabeth on the other had indicated there were clear alternatives, and ultimately the Church Papists would have to choose which one to align themselves with.

These matters are by no means the preserve of historians - they are part of the on-going debate about the nature of Anglicanism to which the plans for the Ordinariate are a significant contribution.




1 comment:

  1. And the Bishop of Llandaff was an elderly man at the time--I think this disappointment to Elizabeth is a great tribute to Cardinal Reginald Pole as Archbishop of Canterbury (as Eamon Duffy persuaded me!) Thanks for a fascinating post, which I will link on my blog.

    ReplyDelete