Do you think that Mary Tudor deserved her title “Bloody Mary”?
History has not been kind to Mary Tudor. Compared to what followed, her reign seems like a brief but misguided attempt to hold back England’s inevitable transformation to Protestantism. Compared to what came before, her regime looks like the regressive episode of a hysterical woman. Considered on its own terms, however, the regime appears much more complex, leading contributors to this volume of essays to reach far different conclusions about her reign: reestablishing traditional religion in England was an enormous undertaking that required rebuilding the Marian Church from the bottom up.
Moreover, given more time it might have succeeded. Finally, as these essays continually remind us, concepts differentiating Catholicism from Protestantism — ideas taken for granted today — were still being sorted out during this period. David Loades’s introduction begins the volume by surveying the disturbance in religion during Mary’s lifetime.
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He links the spread of humanism and classical scholarship to a substantial portion of this disturbance because it created an educated populace capable of raising questions about religious practices for which the traditional Church had no answers.
Mary herself received a first-rate humanistic education and contemporaries even considered her well-educated. Loades suggests that, instead of unquestioningly embracing the tenants of the traditional Catholic faith, Mary was a “conservative humanist with an extremely insular point of view” (18). Nevertheless, her humanistic training did not extend to her devotion to the sacrament of the altar and her uncritical acceptance of the doctrine of transubstantiation. Ultimately, her uncompromising position on the latter would cause the downfall of many.
After this introduction, the first section of the volume, entitled “The Process,” explores obstacles confronting the restoration of Catholicism in England, beginning with David Loades’s examination of the degraded state of the episcopacy upon Mary’s accession, and her administration’s attempts to restore it. Next, Claire Cross discusses Marian efforts to enact Catholic reforms in those strongholds of Protestant dissent, the English universities. The queen’s decision to restore a community of monks at Westminster is the subject of a study by C.S. Knighton, who includes a detailed appendix identifying members of this community.
In the section’s last essay, Ralph Houlbrooke argues that swift acquiescence by one of Norwich’s leading evangelical ministers, and the diligence of clergy and Church courts in upholding the Marian restoration, helped Norwich avoid large-scale persecution. Essays in the volume’s second section, “Cardinal Pole,” focus on his role in reestablishing the legitimacy of the restored Church. Thomas F.
Mayer begins with an analysis of various court documents, and concludes that even though Paul IV had apparently revoked Pole’s legatine office, the matter remained unsettled, and Pole probably continued to function in that capacity until the end of Mary’s reign. In the following chapter, Pole’s 1557 St. Andrew’s Day sermon provides evidence for Eamon Duffy’s defense of the cardinal’s record — not only as an outspoken advocate for the importance of preaching, but also as a hard-nosed realist confronting an entire population of apostatized Londoners.
In the final essay of this section, John Edwards reveals that, unlike English documents, records from the Spanish and Roman Inquisitions indicate greater Spanish involvement in the restoration of English Catholicism than has been previously recognized. The subject of the final section of this book, “The Culture,” undertakes issues regarding the Marian Church and its people. Lucy Wooding’s essay considers how the multiple layers of symbolism found in the Mass provided a wide focal point for popular piety in the restored Church.
In his essay on the theological works of Thomas Watson, William Wizeman, S. J. , discusses Marian efforts to reeducate worshipers who, after a generation of religious turmoil, were unfamiliar with even the basic tenets of Catholicism. In the following chapter, Gary G. Gibbs reconsiders the eyewitness evidence provided by one Henry Machyn, Merchant Taylor of London, concluding that the Marian regime had indeed connected with enough loyal subjects to provide the queen with an effective base of power