Who’s Who in the English Reformation

After giving a lecture on Peter Martyr Vermigli for Trinity Reformed Church in preparation for Reformation Day, I used the next Sunday’s slot to give a crash course in the long English Reformation.  It occurred to me that this, which I used as a handout, might be of interest to others.

Henry VIII (1491-1547, r. 1509-1547): Tudor King of England who broke with Rome, initially in order to obtain a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Generally hostile to Protestant doctrine.

Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540): Lord Chamberlain to Henry VIII who masterminded the break with Rome; sympathetic to Lutheran reform. Fell out of favor with Henry and was executed, 1540.

Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556, bishop 1532-55): Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and Edward VI. A Lutheran sympathizer early on, he helped accomplish Henry’s break with Rome. Later, under Edward VI, adopted Reformed doctrine and established Reformed faith as the doctrine and practice of Church of England. Martyred 1556 by “Bloody” Mary.

Edward VI (1537–53, r. 1547–53): The Protestant boy-king, son of Henry and his third wife, Jane Seymour, hailed around Protestant Europe as a “new Josiah.” Guided by Protestant regents, he oversaw the very rapid transformation of the English church to Reformed doctrine before his untimely death.

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset (1500–1552): Lord Protector of England at the beginning of the reign Edward VI; chiefly responsible, together with Cranmer, for steering the country toward a strongly Protestant policy. Sacked in 1549 for attempting to woo Princess Elizabeth.

Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499–1562): Italian reformer, one of the most learned men of his age and among the most influential framers of Reformed theology. Invited to England in 1547 by Cranmer, he took up the post of Regius Professor of Divinity until the accession of “Bloody” Mary in 1553. Through his English disciples and his role in framing the official theology of the English Church, he was to leave an indelible stamp on the development of English Protestantism

John Hooper (1495–1555): An avid preacher and follower of the theology of the Zurich reformer, Heinrich Bullinger, Hooper spent several years in exile on the Continent under Henry VIII before returning under Edward. Offered the bishopric of Gloucester in 1550, he precipitated the First Vestiarian Controvery by his refusal to wear the proper vestments.

“Bloody” Mary (1516–58, r. 1553–58): daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, she had been raised Catholic and was determined to restore the Catholic faith upon her accession in 1553. Married Philip of Spain in 1554, and upon his accession to the throne in 1556 was also Empress of Spain. Had over 280 Protestants burned at the stake during her brief reign.

Elizabeth I (1533–1603, r. 1559–1603): daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. She was among the longest-reigning British monarchs, and known as the Virgin Queen for her refusal to marry. She used her unmarried status as a brilliant political strategy, and successfully navigated England through conflicts with Scotland, the Pope, and the much more powerful Spain during her reign, which was also known for the extraordinary flourishing of the arts it witnessed. In religious affairs, she re-established the broadly Reformed Protestantism of her brother Edward, although herself more of a Lutheran in disposition, and steered an idiosyncratic middle course that made no one particularly happy, but at least preserved civil peace.

John Jewel (1522–71, bishop 1560–71): Peter Martyr Vermigli’s most faithful and illustrious disciple, he was consecrated Bishop of Salisbury in 1560 and quickly became the leading theological apologist of Elizabeth’s church, particularly famous for his 1562 Apology of the Church of England. A zealous preacher and great scholar, he was esteemed in Elizabeth’s reign above all others.

Matthew Parker (1504–75, archbishop 1559–75): Elizabeth’s first archbishop of Canterbury, he had been a student of Martin Bucer while the latter was at Cambridge under Edward. A great scholar and a moderate churchman, he earned the unfair dislike of many Puritans for being the unwilling instrument of Elizabeth’s campaign to enforce uniformity.

Thomas Cartwright (1535–1603): the father of English Presbyterianism, Thomas Cartwright was a leading Puritan theologian during Elizabeth’s reign, who gained fame (and infamy) particularly by his “Admonition Controversy” that he carried on with John Whitgift. Although his rash and sharp polemic earned him exile in Holland for several years, he mellowed later in life after his return to England in 1585. His writings form the chief foil for Richard Hooker in the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.

John Whitgift (1530–1604, archbishop of Canterbury 1583–1604): Elizabeth’s third archbishop of Canterbury, he presided over a very successful crackdown on Puritanism and hence is chiefly remembered as a somewhat harsh and authoritarian leader. However, he was an eminent and robustly Reformed theologian, and presided over important organizational reforms.

Walter Travers (1548–1635): second only to Thomas Cartwright in his influence as a founder of English Presbyterianism. Like Cartwright, was known as a rash controversialist until middle-age, after which he became more moderate and was even appointed Provost of Trinity College, Dublin. Most famous for his controversy with Richard Hooker at the Temple Church.

Richard Hooker (1553–1600): The greatest theologian of the English church in the 16th century or probably any age, his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity remains one of the classics of the Reformation era. Although taught by moderate Puritan divines at Oxford, he came to be Puritanism’s most effective ideological opponent, deconstructing the movement’s excesses in his Laws. He is particularly remembered for his lack of ambition (he died a mere country parson), and his remarkably irenic demeanor in a highly polemical age. Although long read as the man responsible for “Anglicanism’s” turn away from Reformed theology, subsequent scholarship has largely refuted this misconception.

Richard Bancroft (1544–1610, archbishop of Canterbury 1604–10): although a fine theological mind, Bancroft is chiefly remembered (even more than Whitgift) for his zeal for uniformity and order, which led him to relentlessly prosecute Puritan nonconformity first under Whitgift and then as Archbishop of Canterbury.

James VI and I (1566–1625, r. 1603–25): King of Scotland from infancy; became the first Stuart King of England in 1603 upon the death of Elizabeth, thus uniting the two kingdoms. Renowned for his learning, piety, and theological acumen, he presided over something of a Golden Age of English Protestantism.

Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626, bishop 1605–26): a legendary scholar and prose stylist, Andrewes was a close friend of King James and one of the most influential churchmen of James’s reign. His taste for rich liturgy and his high sacramental theology exerted great influence on the later development of the English Church. Reputed to be fluent in twenty-one languages, he was one of the lead translators of the King James Bible.

John Davenant (1572–1641, bishop of Salisbury 1621–41): One of the leading theologians under King James, Davenant was famous especially for his leading role at the Synod of Dordt and his role in formalizing the doctrine of “hypothetical universalism” (four-point Calvinism). Known as a moderate and evangelical bishop who sought peace with Puritan dissenters.

Charles I (1600–49, r. 1625–49): the second son of James I, Charles presided ignominiously over the collapse of the English church and commonwealth. Embracing the anti-Calvinist churchmanship of William Laud shortly after his accession, and attempting to enforce strict liturgical conformity on Puritan dissenters, Charles succeeded in alienating much of the country, leading to the English Civil War in 1642 and his own execution in 1649.

William Laud (1573–1645, archbishop of Canterbury 1633–45): a close confidant of Charles I, Laud pursued anti-Calvinist and High Church policies which alienated many English Christians, particularly due to the zeal with which he attempted to enforce conformity. So hated was he that he turned much of the English Church against the idea of bishops altogether, and was executed in 1645. However, he was a very learned theologian and deeply pious in his own way.

One thought on “Who’s Who in the English Reformation

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