Popular Politics and the English Reformation

By Ethan H. Shagan | Go to book overview

Conclusion

In the reign of Mary Tudor, with Roman Catholicism restored and heretics fleeing for their lives, Catholic writers penned a series of what they assumed were post-mortems on England's brief Protestant experiment. Yet, despite the mercy that God had shown by providing a Catholic queen, the tone of these retrospective accounts was not self-congratulatory but rather betrayed a sense of deep frustration that so many English subjects, especially among the common people, had wandered off the True Path. John Bullingham, for instance, wrote that 'thousands of men (alas for pity) having their hearts clean void of charity, being corrupt in conscience, and flattering themselves with their counterfeit faith, have not only been turned into jangling and babbling, but at the last have fallen into great and horrible blasphemies'. As a result, he wrote: 'There is a plague and pestilence throughout England [and] the air is infected. Where corrupt hearts and minds are, there cannot be pure and lively faith. And where pure faith is not found, there is a commodious place for errors and heresies to dwell in.'1 John Standish agreed that 'manifold, damnable heresies have caused most miserable schism among the rude people, being hauled from the truth and tossed from post to pillar on every side, even like as it was in the Arians' time, when the heretics used most commonly both to say and do many things well to obtain thereby credit among the simple and the weak, that so much more freely they might sow their heresies and pluck down the churches'.2 The author of A Plaine and Godlye Treatise Concernynge the Masse likewise wrote: 'In my judgment, neither the malicious device of the devil, [nor] the cursed and pestilent malice of the heretics, seemed not much readier in their devilish drifts and pestilent persuasions, than did the frail folly and fond madness of such beetle-blind people that so readily and so fondly would

____________________
1
Bullingham made these statements in the preface to John Venaeus, A Notable Oration, Made by John Venaeus, a Parisien, in the Defence of the Sacrament of the Aultare (London, 1554), sigs. A3r and A5r.
2
John Standish, The Triall of the Supremacy (London, 1556), sigs. A3v–A4r.

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