Religion and the English People, 1500-1640: New Voices, New Perspectives

By Eric Josef Carlson | Go to book overview

LOCAL RESPONSES to RELIGIOUS CHANGES EVIDENCE FROM GLOUCESTERSHIRE WILLS1

Caroline Litzenberger

IN HER WILL, written in February 1551, Elizabeth Lane, widow of Sandhurst, bequeathed her soul "to Almyghty God to our Lady and to all the hoole Company of Heaven." One of her witnesses was Robert Hogges, her vicar or ghostly father, and she included a bequest of four pence to the "Mother Church."2 Although bequests to the Mother Church (i.e., the cathedral) and references to "my ghostly father" continued through the remainder of Edward's reign, this may have been the last Edwardian will in Gloucestershire to include that most traditional of all soul bequests. Perhaps this was due to the energetic administration of the new bishop of Gloucester, the radical Protestant, John Hooper. Consecrated on 8 March 1551, Bishop Hooper immediately set about reforming the slack religious practices he found in his diocese.3 Chief among his actions was the promulgation of a set of visitation articles, injunctions, and interrogatories issued in the summer of 1551. Article forty-six of the interrogatories asked "whether any of [the clergy] make or write any mans testament with this stile, I commend my soule unto God, to our blessed Lady and the Saints of heaven, which is injurious to God, and perilous as well for the salvation of the dead, as dangerous unto the maker."4

____________________
1
Portions of this essay were published as "Local Responses to Changes in Religious Policy Based on Evidence from Gloucestershire Wills (1540-1580)," in Continuity and Change 8 ( 1993): 417-439. Copyright of that article is held jointly by the author and Cambridge University Press, and it is reprinted here with the permission of Cambridge University Press.
2
G[loucestershire] R[ecord] O[ffice], Gloucestershire Wills, 1551/16.
3
Lambeh Register, Cranmer, fols. 105, 332-333.
4
Bishop Hooper's Visitation Booke, Dr. Williams' Library, Morice MS 31.L, Item 3, 16. This was the last will in Edward's reign to contain the standard traditional preamble, based on a reading of over 3,000 Gloucestershire wills for the period from 1541 to 1580.

-245-

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