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.
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.
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.
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.