Mary Tudor’s counter reformation

Francesca Longdon

The first part of Mary’s religious policy

Mary Tudor, first regnant Queen of England, is infamous for her burning of Protestant heretics and for loss of Calais. The accession of Elizabeth I after her death led to decades of ant-Catholic sentiment, which made it seem like her goal for a counter-reformation was unsuccessful. However, re-examination of her rule points more to a short-term success but a long-term failure. The first part of Mary’s religious policy, and the most important, was the return to Catholicism as the official state religion. Bills passed in 1553 suggest that the country was ready to convert back to Catholicism. The ‘divers acts touching divine service and the marriage of priests’ was a very significant bill as it brought back the sacraments, imagery, and holy days repealing the acts of Edward VI. This act passed with little opposition with only eighty out 350 opposing, suggesting that it was widely supported and therefore a successful start to her policy. The initial bills that were not enforced or earned opposition looked like opposition to religious policy, but it was a secular reason for opposition as it meant giving back lands given during the dissolution of monasteries, two of the opposers; Clement Throckmorton and Thomas Holcroft, both received lands during the dissolution of church land during Henry VIII’s reign, highlighting their reasons for opposition. The parliament of 1554 advanced the restoration of Catholicism with the formal renunciation of the title Supreme Head of the Church of England, which put England under the control of the pope again. Renard wrote that both the French and other heretics were disappointed that there was no violent dissent, suggesting that the people were happy to resort back to pre-reformation Catholic England. The initial stages of Mary’s counter-reformation were a success .
<strong>Mary Tudor’s counter reformation</strong>
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The second part of Mary’s religious policy

The second part of Mary’s policy was reunification with the pope, this is also generally considered successful. In December 1554 the ‘great bill to reunite England with Rome’ formalised the re-unification with Rome. In November the lords passed a bill which successfully brought back Catholic representatives and communication from Rome. When looking at this parliament it looks like Mary’s policy was unsuccessful as there were lots of opposition to restoration of lands, two bills were passed that seemed to be against reconciliation with the Pope. The first of which was passed in 1554 prevented the Bishop of Rome from recovering abbey lands; this was passed to protect positions of the lords that gained titles and lands from the dissolution, rather than outward opposition to Mary’s policy. Despite the few challenging bills and delays, Mary still managed to put England back under Rome’s jurisdiction. Historians agree that Mary’s policy of reunification was a success, Anna Whitelock clearly states that Mary ‘achieved her will to return to Rome’s’ jurisdiction’.
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The third part of Mary’s religious policy

The third part of Mary’s religious policy was the burnings passed by the ‘revive touching heresies and Lollardies’ bill April 1554. This was an unsuccessful policy stated by both Loads and Pettegree that burning dissidents didn’t work, not that they were unpopular and set to fail. The burnings could only happen with the support of lay magistrates and lay jurors, if they didn’t like the policy or support it, then the burnings wouldn’t have been used as frequently. It also doesn’t account for the fact that opposition was isolated, there was no major opposition to the policy. Canterbury, which faced the most burnings saw no sign of any popular unease or opposition, neither in Colchester where there was bitterness but no riots or serious disorder, suggesting that the policy wasn’t as hated as we are led to believe. Despite it being popular it was a major long-term failure as John Foxe ‘Acts and Monuments’ publicised the graphic details of the burnings to people who may not have experienced the burnings and created anti-Catholic bigotry throughout Europe and for years to come. As Mary was preceded by a Protestant queen, the policy was viewed as a failure and that’s what stuck. Overall, Mary’s religious policy was an overall success with some areas being more successful than others. Her policies had been underestimated by historians, but new thinking has changed the balance to believing her policies were successful. It is now a consensus that if she survived longer than Catholicism would have remained dominate as William Wizeman writes ‘had she lived longer than the catholic church would have maintained its majority status as most of the nation had conformed and embraced Catholicism, so much so it took Elizabeth decades to get rid of Catholicism’.
<strong>Mary Tudor’s counter reformation</strong>
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<strong>Mary Tudor’s counter reformation</strong>

Francesca Longdon

My name is Francesca Longdon and I’m 18 years old and studying Medieval and Early Modern history at the University of Chichester. My focus is on Medieval Monarchy and relations with Europe.
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