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Fires of Faith

Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor

Eamon Duffy
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Fires of Faith
    Book Description:

    The reign of Mary Tudor has been remembered as an era of sterile repression, when a reactionary monarch launched a doomed attempt to reimpose Catholicism on an unwilling nation. Above all, the burning alive of more than 280 men and women for their religious beliefs seared the rule of "Bloody Mary" into the protestant imagination as an alien aberration in the onward and upward march of the English-speaking peoples.

    In this controversial reassessment, the renowned reformation historian Eamon Duffy argues that Mary's regime was neither inept nor backward looking. Led by the queen's cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary's church dramatically reversed the religious revolution imposed under the child king Edward VI. Inspired by the values of the European Counter-Reformation, the cardinal and the queen reinstated the papacy and launched an effective propaganda campaign through pulpit and press.

    Even the most notorious aspect of the regime, the burnings, proved devastatingly effective. Only the death of the childless queen and her cardinal on the same day in November 1558 brought the protestant Elizabeth to the throne, thereby changing the course of English history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16045-1
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xi)

    This book has been long in the making. In 1992, I published a short account of the restoration of catholicism in the reign of Mary Tudor as chapter 16 ofThe Stripping of the Altars. In it, I offered a much more positive assessment of the religious achievements of Mary’s regime than was at that time commonly accepted. I was aware of the need for a fuller treatment, however, especially one that paid proper attention to the most controversial aspect of the reign: the campaign of burnings, during which, in the space of just under four years, 284 protestant men...

  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Rolling Back the Revolution
    (pp. 1-28)

    The reign of Mary Tudor has had few friends among historians, and the regime’s religious dimension has provided most of the copy for the bad press. Until relatively recently, almost everyone agreed that Mary’s church was backward-looking, unimaginative, reactionary, sharing both the Queen’s bitter preoccupation with the past and her tragic sterility. Marian catholicism, it was agreed, was strong on repression, weak on persuasion. Its atrocious campaign of burnings was not merely an outrage against human decency but a devastating political blunder, which alienated moderate opinion and helped to inoculate the English nation forever against roman catholicism. Its apologists and...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Cardinal Pole
    (pp. 29-56)

    Reginald Pole is the invisible man of the Marian restoration. First as legate,a latererepresenting three successive popes, and then as archbishop of Canterbury, when his legatine authority was withdrawn by his old enemy Giampietro Caraffa, Pope Paul IV, he presided for four years over the restoration of catholicism in England. Yet the nature and extent of his role in shaping the religious history of those four years is still elusive. The cardinal legate remains for most historians of the reign a shadowy and non-integrated figure, eclipsed in practical leadership by Gardiner, or Bonner or the Spaniards, even by...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Contesting the Reformation: Plain and Godly Treatises
    (pp. 57-78)

    Could Mary Tudor’s church persuade as well as punish? By and large historians have thought that the answer to that question was no, or, if yes, then yes only with heavy qualification.¹ A general consensus that the regime’s record in print was poor was challenged by Jennifer Loach nearly twenty years ago. She managed to dent but did not dislodge the older view, which is perhaps sufficiently summed up in the title of an article published in 1981 by Professor J.W.Martin:‘The Marian Regime’s Failure to Understand the Importance of Printing’.²

    This consensus is all the more puzzling because, whatever else...

  9. CHAPTER 4 From Persuasion to Force
    (pp. 79-101)

    Nothing has done more to colour attitudes to the religious history of Mary Tudor’s England than the four-year campaign for the forcible suppression of heresy, in the course of which 284 protestants, 56 of them women, were burned alive for their beliefs, and approximately 30 more died in prison.¹ The smoke from the fires of Smithfield is in all our eyes, not least because it is impossible to read through our principal source for the history of the persecution, John Foxe’s great martyrological polemic,Actes and Monuments, without a mounting sense of pity for the victims, and of revulsion at...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Theatre of Justice
    (pp. 102-127)

    The examination of suspected heretics culminated in a judicial process, designed to establish the guilt or innocence of the accused, and to excommunicate the incorrigible before handing them over to the secular arm for execution. But for both the catholic authorities and the protestants in the dock, it was also very much more. For the bishops, it was an opportunity to recall straying sheep to the unity of the church, to correct their errors and to set out authentic catholic teaching. And, since much of the examination, and invariably its final stage, was carried out before spectators in open court,...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Hunters and the Hunted
    (pp. 128-154)

    The geographical spread of the burnings was very uneven: 113 in the diocese of London, 65 of them in or near the city itself, most of the others in Essex; 52 in Canterbury, where almost all the victims came from the towns and villages of the Weald. There were nine more in the other Kent diocese of Rochester; twenty-seven in the diocese of Chichester, all of them men and women from the archdeaconry of Lewes; seven in Lichfield and Coventry; seven in Bristol; four in Ely; three in Oxford; three in the whole of Wales; and the rest of the...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Battle for Hearts and Minds
    (pp. 155-170)

    John Foxe’s partisan artistry and the paucity of other sources has made it hard for the historian to assess the actual impact of the burnings on those who witnessed them. The most famous of the executions, that of Bishops Ridley and Latimer in the town ditch of Oxford on 16 October 1555, is a case in point. The culmination of a series of disputations involving theologians and canon lawyers from both universities, and of a show trial attended by a large lay audience, the execution itself was a carefully staged event, designed in part to silence the most influential of...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Defence of the Burnings and the Problem of Martyrdom
    (pp. 171-187)

    The Marian regime has often been criticised for its failure to provide an effective justification of its anti-heretical policies. Catholic polemicists were, according to A.G. Dickens, ‘at best a group of devoted mediocrities’, and their apologetic efforts, according to David Loades, were ‘tedious’ and lacked ‘the cutting wit and humour which their opponents sometimes displayed’.¹ In particular, it has been suggested that the regime failed woefully to seize the opportunity for effective propaganda offered by the burnings and the trials that preceded them, and that it did not even notice, much less exploit publicly, the doctrinal differences between the warring...

  14. CHAPTER 9 The Legacy: Inventing the Counter-Reformation
    (pp. 188-208)

    Between six and seven o’clock on the morning of 17 November 1558, soon after the elevation of the Host at a Mass celebrated in her sickroom, Queen Mary died. When the news was broken to Pole, himself lying mortally ill at Lambeth, he wept, and told the friends round his bed how closely his and the Queen’s lives had been bound together in God’s providence. Both had suffered many years for their fidelity to the faith, both had been made instruments to restore catholicism to England, and in that collaboration the bond of their shared Plantagenet blood had been intensified...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 209-230)
  16. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 231-238)
  17. Index
    (pp. 239-250)