Life in a Medieval College: The Story of the Vicars-Choral of York Minster

By Frederick Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE REIGN OF EDWARD VI

The changes in ecclesiastical polity between the year 1529, when the Reformation Parliament began its sessions, and the year 1559, when Elizabeth came to the throne, must have perplexed those who lived through them. In our own day, within thirty years much has happened. It may be that the historian of the future, as he contemplates the records of the years from 1919 to 1950, will find them as full of ecxitement and adventure as the student of the years from 1529 to 1559 finds this period in our history. First, came the act of supremacy of the year 1535, when the jurisdiction of the pope in this country was abolished, and Henry VIII became the titular head of the church in England. Whatever view may be held of the break with Rome, once it had taken place only a strong king such as Henry VIII could have rallied the nation and given to them the strength to face so fundamental a crisis. It was not, however, until fourteen years after, and until Henry VIII had been dead for two years, that, in the year 1549, the first Book of Common Prayer in English was issued. Meantime, the ancient forms of service were used, with the name of the pope scratched out of the service-books, as many surviving books show. The Litany in English, the work largely of Cranmer, was printed in the year 1545 -- the first portion of the services to be issued. When the new Prayer Book was issued, few of the clergy refused to use it.

On September 23rd, 1547, Edward VI inspected a document of his own court of augmentations relating to the vicars. Written in English, this document is summarised as follows:

When the dean and chapter of York exhibited their petition as well for themselves as for and on behalf of the sub-chanter and the vicars, they alleged that of long time there had been certain ministers called vicars-choral attached to the Minster who have served daily in the choir at the times and hours re-

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