Oct 162018
 

Two of the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, were burnt at the stake in Oxford on this date in 1555. The third, Thomas Cranmer was burnt 5 months later on 21st March 1556. They have become celebrated in English church history because they were caught up in the politics of the day and executed for their faith. Latimer and Ridley are honored by the Anglican church on this date, because of their martyrdom. Cranmer has a separate feast day.

Being a cleric in Tudor England was a dangerous business. Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself head of the Church of England purely because he wanted a divorce. He had no interest in changing anything else in the church. There were reformers within the English church who wanted to see changes, but they held off until Henry died, because the upper clergy were split between traditionalists and reformers, and Henry sided with the traditionalists, refusing to allow any changes in doctrine or ceremony. When Henry’s son, Edward, was crowned king, the reformers saw their chance. Thomas Cranmer was archbishop of Canterbury early in Henry’s reign and facilitated the split with Rome to be able to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The annulment also put the legitimacy of Mary, Catherine’s only daughter, in jeopardy. Edward, Henry’s third child, took precedence over Mary for the throne because of Salic Law (male heirs take precedence over females, regardless of age) – and, interestingly, Salic Law has only recently been overturned in England.

Cranmer

Edward was 9 years old when he came to the throne in 1537. He had been raised Protestant, but he was king in name only. England was governed by a regency council, and the reform of the church was left in the hands of bishops, of whom Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley were key players.  Because Edward was in no position to oppose reform of doctrine and ceremony as Henry had done, the bishops had free hand, and the foundations of the current Church of England were laid at this time. Cranmer was the chief architect of reform. He was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. He published the first officially authorized vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany, under Henry, but his major reforms were under Edward. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. With the assistance of several Continental reformers to whom he gave refuge, he changed doctrine in areas such as the Eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer promulgated the new doctrines through the Prayer Book, the Homilies and other publications. As the chief reformer under Edward, his fate was sealed when Mary came to the throne. Latimer and Ridley were lesser players, but their fate was also sealed because of their closeness to Edward.

Ridley

When Edward died in 1553, the church and government were thrown into turmoil. The royal council knew that if Mary ascended the throne, England would be forced back to Catholicism, and there was considerable opposition to this possibility. In consequence, Edward’s council convinced him to name his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as his successor, and to declare both of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth as illegitimate, when it became clear he was dying. On 17th June 1553 the king made his will noting Jane would succeed him, contravening the Third Succession Act.

Ridley signed the letters patent giving the English throne to Lady Jane Grey. On 9th July 1553 he preached a sermon at St Paul’s cross in which he affirmed that the princesses Mary and Elizabeth were bastards. By mid-July, there were serious provincial revolts in Mary’s favor and support for Jane in the council fell. As Mary was proclaimed queen, Ridley, Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, and others were imprisoned. Ridley was sent to the Tower of London. Throughout February 1554 the political leaders who were supporters of Jane were executed, including Jane herself. After that, there was time to deal with the religious leaders of the English Reformation and so on 8th March 1554 the Privy Council ordered Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer to be transferred to Bocardo prison in Oxford to await trial for heresy.

Latimer

Latimer was a bit of an odd man out. Before the English Reformation he had been a staunch papist, even describing himself as “as obstinate a papist as any was in England”. But in the mid-1520s he was converted to Protestantism through the teaching of prominent scholars, and became as zealous against the Catholic church as he had once been for it. He even advocated a new translation of the Bible into English even though William Tyndale’s translation of the Greek Testament was still banned. In 1539 when Henry VIII was confronted with radical Lutheran teaching from the continent he produced the Six Articles, reaffirming the heart of Catholic doctrine:

Transubstantiation (real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the mass),

The reasonableness of withholding the cup from the laity during communion,

Clerical celibacy,

Observance of vows of chastity,

Permission for private masses,

Importance of auricular confession.

Latimer opposed the Six Articles and was promptly imprisoned in the Tower of London. When Edward came to the throne he was restored to favor, and became the royal preacher until 1550. He was chaplain to the duchess of Suffolk when Mary came to the throne, and so, unlike Cranmer and Ridley, was not in the direct line of fire. He could have fled England, as many other high churchmen did, but he chose to remain and was caught up in Mary’s net, which ensnared all prominent Protestant theologians who remained. At his heresy trial in Oxford Latimer is recorded as saying, “’I thank God most heartily that He hath prolonged my life to this end, that I may in this case glorify God by that kind of death.” The prosecutor replied, (and I paraphrase), “If this faith takes you to heaven, I won’t be joining you.”

Latimer and Ridley’s death sentence was carried out just north of Oxford city wall where Broad street is now while Cranmer was taken to a tower to watch. Ridley burned extremely slowly and suffered a great deal: his brother-in-law had put more tinder on the pyre, in order to speed his death, but they caused only his lower parts to burn. Latimer is supposed to have said to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” This was quoted in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

A small area cobbled with stones forming a cross in the center of the road outside the front of Balliol College marks the site of execution. The Victorian spire-like Martyrs’ Memorial, at the south end of St Giles’ nearby, commemorates the events. It is claimed that the scorch marks from the flames can still be seen on the doors of Balliol College (now rehung between the Front Quadrangle and Garden Quadrangle).

It is painfully easy, and all too common, to point to events like the execution of Latimer and Ridley, and say, “Look where religion leads.” It is a lot wiser to say, “Look what happens when religion and politics get entwined.” Mary did her best in her short reign to get rid of all people who had stood in her way, and because religious matters were deeply tied to her succession, religious leaders were swept up in her persecutions. I’ll admit that she had the deep convictions of her faith, but she was also a ruthless monarch, and the Catholic church by her day had become more a tool of state than an avenue to spiritual truth. People still use religious doctrine to buttress political beliefs, and this practice is as wrongheaded now as it was in Tudor times – and leads down the same paths.

I have given quite a few Oxford recipes in the past, so here’s video on Tudor cooking from the kitchen of Hampton Court, built by Henry VIII’s primate cardinal Wolsey.

Jan 282018
 

On this date in 1547 Henry VIII died and his only son became Edward VI of England and Ireland until his death six years later. He was nine years old when he was crowned on 20th February. Edward was England’s first monarch to be raised as a Protestant, and, even though his reign was brief, it was a momentous time for the church and the monarchy. During his reign, the realm was governed by a Regency Council because he never reached his majority. The Council was first led by his mother’s brother, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (1547–1549), and then by John Dudley, 1st Earl of Warwick (later, Duke of Northumberland).

Edward’s reign was marked by economic problems and social unrest that in 1549 erupted into riot and rebellion. An expensive war with Scotland, at first successful, ended with military withdrawal from Scotland and Boulogne-sur-Mer in exchange for peace. The transformation of the Church of England into a recognizably Protestant body also occurred under Edward, who took great interest in religious matters. Although his father, Henry VIII, had severed the link between the Church and Rome, he had never permitted the renunciation of Catholic doctrine or ceremony. The Protestant Reformation in Europe is often couched in religious terms, but it was as much a political reality as a theological one. Heads of state across the continent chafed at the fact that the pope was quite legally capable of meddling in affairs of state. Most of the time their conflicts could be staved off with bribes: but not always. Sometimes it came to war. In Henry’s case, the matter was very simple. He wanted a divorce and the pope would not grant it.

Somerset

There is no question that Henry was a devout Catholic, and he even couched his request in Biblical terms. Leviticus forbids a man from marrying his dead brother’s wife (levirate marriage), but that is exactly what Henry’s father, Henry VII, had forced him to do. Henry’s father wanted an alliance with Aragon and so had married his eldest son and heir, Arthur, to Catherine of Aragon. When Arthur died, Henry VII wanted to salvage the alliance, so he married his second son, Henry, off to Catherine. She produced only a daughter, and no live sons, so Henry argued that this was God’s curse on the marriage for breaking Biblical law. The pope, for various reasons, was not persuaded, so Henry, following the lead of the German states, broke from Rome, declared himself head of the Church of England, and granted himself a divorce: done and dusted. He was not remotely interested in changing the doctrines and rituals of the church. He remained until the day he died, in all but name, a staunch Catholic.

Northumberland

It was during Edward’s reign that Protestantism was properly established in England with reforms that included the abolition of clerical celibacy, and the Mass, and the replacement of services in Latin with compulsory services in English. Both Somerset and Northumberland followed an increasingly vigorous program of church reform. Although Edward VI’s practical influence on government was limited, his intense Protestantism made a reforming administration obligatory. His succession was managed by the reforming faction, who continued in power throughout his reign. The man Edward trusted most, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, introduced a series of religious reforms that revolutionized the English church from one that—while rejecting papal supremacy—remained essentially Catholic, to one that was institutionally Protestant. The confiscation of church property that had begun under Henry VIII resumed under Edward—notably with the dissolution of the chantries—to the great monetary advantage of the crown and the new owners of the seized property. Church reform was therefore as much a political as a religious policy under Edward VI. By the end of his reign, the church had been financially ruined, with much of the property of the bishops transferred into lay hands. This seizure of property meant effectively that when Edward died and his half-sister Mary came to throne, wishing to turn England back to a Catholic country, she was blocked at every turn because the church was bankrupt, and its backbone, the monasteries, chantries, and church lands, could not be restored.

The religious convictions of both Somerset and Northumberland have proved elusive for historians, who are divided on the sincerity of their Protestantism. There is less doubt, however, about the religious fervor Edward, who was said to have read twelve chapters of scripture daily and enjoyed sermons, and was commemorated by John Foxe as a “godly imp.” Edward was depicted during his life and afterwards as a new Josiah, the biblical king who destroyed the idols of Baal. He could be priggish in his anti-Catholicism and once asked Catherine Parr to persuade Lady Mary “to attend no longer to foreign dances and merriments which do not become a most Christian princess.” We should be a little cautious, however. In the early part of his life, Edward conformed to the prevailing Catholic practices of his father, including attendance at mass. But he became convinced, under the influence of Cranmer and the reformers among his tutors and courtiers, that “true” religion should be imposed in England.

The English Reformation advanced under pressure from two directions: from the traditionalists on the one hand and the zealots on the other, who led incidents of iconoclasm (image-smashing) and complained that reform did not go far enough. Reformed doctrines were made official, such as justification by faith alone and communion for laity as well as clergy in both kinds, of bread and wine. The Ordinal of 1550 replaced the divine ordination of priests with a government-run appointment system, authorizing ministers to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments rather than, as before, “to offer sacrifice and celebrate mass both for the living and the dead.” Cranmer set himself the task of writing a uniform liturgy in English, detailing all weekly and daily services and religious festivals, to be made compulsory in the first Act of Uniformity of 1549. The Book of Common Prayer of 1549, intended as a compromise, was attacked by traditionalists for dispensing with many cherished rituals of the liturgy, such as the elevation of the bread and wine, while some reformers complained about the retention of too many “popish” elements, including vestiges of sacrificial rites at communion. The prayer book was also opposed by many senior Catholic clerics, including Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, and Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, who were both imprisoned in the Tower and, along with others, deprived of their sees.

After 1551, the Reformation advanced further, with the approval and encouragement of Edward, who began to exert more personal influence in his role as Supreme Head of the church. The new changes were also a response to criticism from such reformers as John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, and John Knox, who was employed as a minister in Newcastle upon Tyne under the Duke of Northumberland and whose preaching at court prompted the king to oppose kneeling at communion. Cranmer was also influenced by the views of the continental reformer Martin Bucer, who died in England in 1551, by Peter Martyr, who was teaching at Oxford, and by other foreign theologians. The progress of the Reformation was further speeded by the consecration of more reformers as bishops. In the winter of 1551–52, Cranmer rewrote the Book of Common Prayer in less ambiguous reformist terms, revised canon law, and prepared a doctrinal statement, the Forty-Two Articles, to clarify the practice of the reformed religion, particularly in the divisive matter of the communion service. Cranmer’s formulation of the reformed religion, finally divesting the communion service of any notion of the real presence of God in the bread and the wine, effectively abolished the mass. The prayer book of 1552 remains the foundation of the Church of England’s services. However, Cranmer was unable to implement all these reforms once it became clear in spring 1553 that Edward, upon whom the whole Reformation in England depended, was dying.

Cranmer

In February 1553, at age 15, Edward fell ill. When his sickness was determined to be terminal, he and his Council drew up a “Devise for the Succession”, to prevent the country’s return to Catholicism. Edward named his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, as his heir, excluding his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, declaring them illegitimate. This decision was disputed following Edward’s death, and Jane was deposed by Mary nine days after becoming queen. During her reign, Mary reversed Edward’s Protestant reforms, which, nonetheless, became the basis of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement of 1559.

There are a number of Tudor recipes extant, and in searching my files I came across a couple with an unfortunate name: farts of Portingale. The second part is easy enough. The term “of Portingale” means “in the style of Portugal.” The terms “farts” is the tricky one. The etymology is obscure but is not the same as the word for breaking wind. It is variously spelled “fertes” or “fartes.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as, “A tiny spherical titbit. A Whet, or Subtelty.” Recipes of the time are either for spheres of light sweetened pastry, or of minced mutton and fruit. Here’s a recipe for each.

From: A book of cookrye. Very necessary for all such as delight therin by “AW” (1591)

To make Farts of Portingale.

Take a quart of life Hony, and set it upon the fire and when it seetheth scum it clean, and then put in a certaine of fine Biskets well serced, and some pouder of Cloves, some Ginger, and powder of sinamon, Annis seeds and some Sugar, and let all these be well stirred upon the fire, til it be as thicke as you thinke needfull, and for the paste for them take Flower as finelye dressed as may be, and a good peece of sweet Butter, and woorke all these same well togither, and not knead it.

From: The Good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin by Thomas Dawson (1594)

How to make Farts of Portingale.

TAKE a peece of a leg of Mutton, mince it smal and season it with cloues, mace pepper and salt, and dates minced with currans: then roll it into round rolles, and so into little balles, and so boyle them in a little beefe broth and so serue them foorth.