Voices of the English Reformation: A Sourcebook

By John N. King | Go to book overview

7.5. John Foxe, from The Book of Martyrs

A. Dedication to Queen Elizabeth (1563)

In dedicating the Book of Martyrs to Elizabeth I, Foxe praises her for halting the persecution of Protestants. He compares her accession to the designation of Christianity as an official religion of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine I (see Figure 17). Foxe aligns the popes as usurpers of political authority with tyrannical emperors such as Nero and Diocletian, who burned Christians or threw them to the lions until Constantine halted persecution. Foxe ironically attacks the Donation of Constantine as a fraudulent conferral of temporal authority on the papacy. By likening the queen to Constantine and himself to Eusebius, whose martyrological chronicle in the Ecclesiastical History provides one of his major sources, Foxe optimistically claims that the present moment restores the degree of collaboration between church and state that existed under Constantine. He also appeals for patronage on the model of Constantine’s support of Eusebius’s historical research. Foxe’s praise of the queen for restoring “godly” government constitutes a delicate appeal for her to return to religious policies in place under Edward VI. The compiler’s assertion that he collects the “acts and monuments” of martyrs emphasizes the importance of not only their deeds, but also the written documents that monumentalize them in place of the veneration of relics in Catholic devotion. If one reads this dedication in conjunction with the story about Elizabeth’s suffering before she became queen (see 7.5.B), they constitute “bookends” for the entire collection in asserting that providential deliverance enabled her to restore “true” religion and government.

SOURCE: STC 11222, B1r–B2v.

REFERENCES: King 1989; Yates.

To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, by the grace of God Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Governor of the said realm of England and Ireland, next under the Lord, as well in causes ecclesiastical, as also to the temporal state appertaining, her humble subject, John Foxe, heartily wisheth and desireth with increase of God’s holy spirit and grace, long to flourish and reign in perfect health, and much honor, through the mercy and favor of Christ Jesus, our Lord and eternal Savior, to the comfort of his church, and the glory of His holy name.

Constantine, the great and mighty emperor, the son of Helena, an English woman of this your realm and country (most Christian and renowned princess, Queen Elizabeth) after he had pacified and established the church of Christ, being long before under persecution, from the time of our savior Christ almost 400 years: and coming in his progress at length to a city called Caesaria, (where Eusebius writer of the Ecclesiastical story was then placed

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