For our 2011 Reformation Day celebration, we focused on women of the Tudor court who influenced the Reformation. LMH wrote about Queen Anne Boleyn here. SJH wrote about Queen Catherine Parr here. KJH wrote a fictionalized account of the escape of the Duchess of Suffolk from Queen Mary's persecution here. I didn't think ASH would want to write about a girl, so he researched King Edward VI here. MLH (age four) contributed a coloring page here, and I shared my miscellaneous thoughts on Tudor England and the Reformation here.
We also enjoyed a day of games and a supper of Cornish pasties and apple pie.
Catherine Willoughby, the Duchess of
Suffolk, was a wealthy and prominent Protestant in Tudor England. She
was the patron of John Day, a Protestant publisher. She hired Hugh
Latimer, later a martyr, as her chaplain, and she helped to establish
“stranger churches” for Protestants who had fled persecution in
other countries. Willoughby and her second husband, Richard Bertie,
escaped Queen Mary's persecution in 1555. The story below is a fictionalized account of Catherine's escape.
January 1st, 1555
A strange, cold
wind rustled the treetops. Clouds dimmed the soft glow of the
moonlight. All was quiet, but all was not well. Inside a large stone
house, a woman quietly slipped down a long hallway. Her blue eyes
glanced from side to side, and the candle she held sent eerie shadows
across her face. She came upon my bedroom door, and tapped it ever so
quietly. I opened my eyes, and sat up. Who was at my door in the
middle of the night? I slipped out of the warm bed and over to the
door. I lifted the bar. The woman squeezed her way through the small
opening, and quickly shut it. She turned to me and in the dim of the
candlelight whispered, “Helen, we must leave. Gather your things,
for we are going very soon.”
I gasped. “Leave,
She placed her
finger on my lips. “No one must know,” she whispered, “except
the servants who are to go with us.” And with that, she left,
clicking the door shut behind her. My heart beat fast. Leaving the
country by night? Sneaking out without Queen Mary’s approval? What
if we were caught?
Queen Mary was a
devout Catholic. She had been persecuting and killing the
Protestants. Recently, Queen Mary had threatened the Duchess of
Suffolk. Richard Bertie, the Duchess's husband, left the country
immediately, and from what I was now finding out, had made plans for
his wife and precious daughter to escape in the middle of the night.
Another soft rap on the door
interrupted my thoughts. I hurried and opened it. Edith, the young,
quiet kitchen maid stood there, a bundle of clothes in her arms.
“Mistress Catherine says to hurry
and meet her by the back entrance,” she whispered, hurrying away. I
quickly got dressed in my long brown dress, typical attire of a
lady-in-waiting. I pulled my long, light brown hair into a bun and
grabbed my clothes. I stuffed them into a valise and headed out the
door. The house was very quiet. I hastened down a long corridor and
down some steps. I turned the corner and almost ran into Agnes, the
laundress. She scrambled with the load of clothes she carried. Her
dark brown hair fell in her face.
“We must hurry!” she cried. We ran
down a hallway, lined with columns. Giant portraits of people hung on
the dark walls. Their eyes stared blankly ahead, sending terrifying
chills down my spine. Why did houses have to be so creepy at night?
We reached a small
foyer with a door, where Mistress Catherine waited. She held little
Susan, who was fast asleep.
“Hugh and Samuel are waiting by the
stables,” she whispered, referring to the joiner and stable keeper.
Edith stood by Catherine, holding a bottle of milk for little Susan.
Catherine slowly opened the door. The cold night air filled my lungs.
She looked both ways and then motioned us to follow her. We tiptoed
across the lawn and then dashed behind a little shed. Heavy footsteps
echoed through the night - the night guards! They paced outside the
tall, black, iron fence, watching and waiting. We crouched down low.
Agnes knelt beside me, and I could feel her hands trembling. I eyed
Catherine. She looked this way and that, seeing if the path was
clear. She waved her hand, telling us to stay behind the shed. She
raced across the yard, and behind a huge tree. Waiting until the
guard had gone the other way, she dashed to the side gate and
unlatched it. It creaked open, breaking the silenced night. I
nervously watched the guards. They had heard the noise and were
looking frantically around.
“What was that?” one guard asked.
“I’m sure it was nothing,” a
bigger guard replied. I looked across the pitch-black yard. I could
see Catherine’s faint outline as she entered the stable. I turned
to the other girls.
“Come on,” I whispered. We hurried
across, through the gate, and safely into the stable.
Catherine was kneeling behind a hay
barrel with Hugh and Samuel.
“Samuel, carry my valise,” she
ordered. The small stable keeper took her bag and laid it beside him.
“Agnes, up in the loft I’ve hidden
an oil lamp. Would you hurry and get it?” Catherine asked. Agnes
nodded her head and climbed the ladder.
“Listen carefully,” she whispered,
looking at each of us. “I plan to-“ her quiet voice was
interrupted by a loud crash. Glass showered down on us. Edith’s
hand flew to her mouth to prevent a scream. Catherine looked up. Up
in the loft, Agnes gasped. She had dropped the oil lamp. She opened
her mouth to say something, when two voices rang out.
“Sounded like it came from the
stable,” a guard said. Catherine scrambled behind a large hay
barrel, rocking little Susan to keep her quiet. Edith and I bounded
up the ladder and into the loft with Agnes. I saw Hugh and Samuel get
into a horse stall just as the door burst open. Two guards entered.
The bigger one held a bright torch.
“I don’t think anybody’s in
here, Atkinson,” the smaller one complained. Atkinson squinted his
dark, hazel eyes.
“I heard a noise,” he grunted.
They looked around, tossing hay barrels out of their way. I hoped
they wouldn’t find Catherine.
“Come on, let’s get back to our
post,” the small one said. Atkinson finally agreed and they strode
out the door. None of us came out until we were sure they wouldn’t
come back. Edith, Agnes, and I came down the ladder and found
Catherine. Her face was ashen with fear. Her hands trembled. She
stood up and went over to the boys.
“Hugh, Samuel, go to Lyon Quay
immediately,” she whispered, referring to the harbor in London.
“You are to meet the boat there. Head to the Netherlands and meet
Richard. The girls and I will go a different direction.” Her voice
shook with fear. Hugh and Samuel raced out a back entrance and into
the blackness of the night.
“Come on,” she whispered. We
followed her out the door. She ran to the front of the house and onto
the street. We stopped and looked down below. Tears filled my eyes.
The dark figures of London reached out and touched the starlit sky.
Catherine gave a weary sigh. We all knew there was a difficult
journey ahead of us. But we also knew that God would take care of us.
Catherine took a deep breath and walked down the dusty road. We
followed, looking up into the beautiful night sky.
Dressed in merchant’s wife’s
clothing that Agnes had brought along, we made our way through the
streets of London. Rats scampered past us. It smelled awful.
Catherine had no idea where Lyon Quay was, so we wondered in circles.
The light of daybreak began to shine. We were tired, weary, and
hungry. Little Susan cried.
“Edith, do you have the bottle of
milk?” Catherine asked. Edith’s eyes grew big.
“No, maam. I think I left it in the
stable!” she cried.
“Oh, no! And I left the valise,
too!” Catherine exclaimed. She looked at Susan. Susan whined and
“We need to find something to eat,”
she said. “And now that we’ve left those things behind, they will
surely find out that we’ve escaped,” she said.
“Should we hurry and find Lyon Quay,
then?” Agnes asked.
“Yes, but let’s find some food
first,” she replied. My stomach growled at the mention of food. I
hoped we could find someone who would give us something. Catherine
was a wealthy person, but she was not able to take much money with
It was now full
morning, and the streets were crowded with people, young, and old. A
boy and his dog played with sticks, and peddler woman sold flowers.
Catherine pushed her way through. We came across a little bakery. The
smell of freshly baked bread filled the interior and spilled out the
front door. I so badly wanted some of it, but Catherine didn’t have
enough money. She was able to buy a bottle of milk for Susan,
however, from a lady in the street. We wandered on, not knowing
whether we were going in the right direction.
“Miss Catherine?” Agnes asked.
“May we take a rest?” Agnes
puffed. Her shoulders sagged from the bundles on her back. Catherine
“We can sit there,” she replied,
pointing to a small bench. Catherine sat down, and I sat at her feet.
It felt wonderful to sit after wandering all morning. We had been
walking all over London, and we still hadn’t found Lyon Quay.
“We'd better get going.” Catherine
stood up. I sighed. Already? Catherine always wanted to be on the
move. I didn’t blame her though. I would, too, if I were being
closely behind her as she made her way through the crowd of people.
We had almost reached the end of the street when Catherine bumped a
lady carrying a sack of bread.
“Oh! I’m so sorry,” Catherine
apologized. The woman said nothing but stared at Catherine’s old
and worn clothing. Her soft, blue eyes looked compassionately at
“That’s all right,” she said.
She reached into her bag and pulled out two loaves of bread.
“Please take this. You need it more
than I do,” she whispered, placing the bread in Catherine’s
“Oh, no. We could never take it,”
she said, trying to give it back.
“Nonsense. I have plenty of food at
home. Take it, please,” she said. Catherine’s eyes filled with
“Oh, bless you Madame! Bless you!”
“You are very welcome.” The woman
placed her hands on Catherine’s shoulder.
“Do you have a place to stay?” she
“I’m on my way to Lyon Quay, but
I’m not exactly sure where it is,” Catherine sighed.
“It’s that way. Head straight, and
you’ll eventually meet up with it,” she replied.
“Thank you so much,” Catherine
said, squeezing the woman’s hand. We rushed away, heading toward
“You found these
“In the stable,” Atkinson replied
to the head of the Privy Council. “This bottle of milk and this
valise are sheer evidence that Duchess Catherine has escaped,” he
“Issue a warrant for Catherine’s
arrest, and tell everyone to be on the lookout for her,” a man
be too hard to find. She has a baby and five servants with her,”
another said. The leader rubbed his chin. He looked around.
“All right,” he
said, nodding his head. “Issue a warrant immediately. I want her
found and delivered to her Majesty at once!”
shrieked. The waves crashed against the dock. The bells tolled. A
cold wind whipped my hair. I rocked little Susan, as she laughed
playfully at the birds flying overhead. We had finally reached Lyon
Quay. I looked over where Catherine was talking to the owner of a
barge, trying to get him to take us to Leigh, a small town at the
mouth of the Thames River.
“It’s not that far,” I could
hear her say.
“But it’s so foggy,” the man
said. “And that’s not enough money.”
“Will you take this instead of more
money?” Catherine reached and unclasped a gold chain that hung
around her neck.
“Oh no, not your necklace!” I
rushed over to her.
“Helen, I must,” she said,
dropping it in the man’s rough hands.
“But it was your mother’s,” I
“I know. But we must get to Leigh,”
she said, taking Susan from my arms.
cautiously aboard the barge. There were boxes, and bags, and crates.
Large pieces of furniture sat tied to the floor of the flat boat. We
zigzagged around the huge load cargo and into the tiny cabin. Agnes
plopped down on the floor, exhausted. Edith took Susan, while
Catherine rested on the cot. The boat started to move, and I laid
down on a soft blanket on the floor. I took my bag, and out of it, I
pulled my diary. It was small and red. Inside the booklet, the pages
were crinkled and torn. I didn’t mind. I took a small ink pen from
the desk in the room and began to write.
am writing here on a barge. You might be wondering what I am doing on
such a boat. Catherine is escaping from England, and I am going with
her. It’s been a frightening experience so far. We barely made it
out of her house without the guards spotting us. Then, we wandered
around London for a whole day, without any food. A kind lady gave us
some bread, however, and I’m quite full. Right now, we are on the
Thames River, heading towards Leigh. I’m very tired, so I guess I
should stop writing. Hopefully I can get in some sleep before we
reach the small town.
I put the pen down
and closed my diary. I looked around. Catherine slept, and Edith
gently sang to Susan. Agnes was at Edith’s feet, slowly drifting
off as she sang the lullaby. I laid down on my blanket. I listened as
Edith’s sweet voice carried throughout the room. My eyelids grew
heavy, and soon, I was fast asleep.
“Helen, wake up!
Helen!” I opened my eyes. Edith was in my face.
We’re at Leigh!” she exclaimed. I sat up. Catherine was gathering
her blankets, and Agnes held Susan.
“Oh!” I stood
up. We followed Catherine out the cabin door and across the long,
flat boat. She thanked the man who owned the barge, and we
disembarked. We walked down the dock and onto the street. When we
reached the center of town, we realized how much smaller Leigh was
than London. A few people strolled down the cobblestone street,
unlike the large crowds in London. Catherine spotted a sign that
walked in and an older gentleman greeted us.
“Welcome to Blackstone Inn,” he
smiled. Catherine handed him the last of our money.
“I’d like a room please,” she
said. The man led us up a stairwell and down a hallway. He stopped at
a door, and gave us the key.
“Here’s your room,” he said.
Agnes opened the door and we walked in. It was tiny, but cozy. There
was a large bed and a window that looked out into the street.
“Oh, how pretty!” Edith exclaimed.
“Yes,” Catherine agreed. She took
off her blue cloak and laid it on the bed.
“Helen, would you run downstairs and
ask the man if he has any milk for Susan?” Catherine asked. I
nodded my head and walked out the door. The stairs creaked loudly as
I walked down. When I reached the bottom, I stopped. The owner was
whispering to another man.
“Did you hear about the Duchess of
Suffolk? She and some of her servants escaped yesterday,” the
innkeeper said. The other man let out a low whistle.
“She could be anywhere,” he said.
My heart pounded in my chest. They had already heard about Catherine!
I turned and bounded up the steps. They creaked loudly.
“Who’s there?” the innkeeper
yelled. I kept on running. I raced down the hall and into our room.
“Helen! What’s the matter?”
“They know about the escape! News
has already traveled this far!” I cried. Catherine’s eyes grew
“We need to leave,” she exclaimed,
grabbing Susan. “And fast.” Edith slowly opened the door. I hoped
the innkeeper hadn’t followed me up here.
“I wonder if there are any other
exits,” Catherine whispered. We slowly made our way down the hall.
Downstairs, I could hear voices. We could never get out that way!
“Maybe there’s a back staircase,”
“Good idea,” Catherine said. We
went past our door and down to the end of the hallway. A small door
led down the kitchen staircase. We opened it and heard the busy cooks
talking and laughing.
“How will we get past them?” Agnes
asked. Catherine took a deep breath.
“One at a time,” she whispered.
So, one by one, we sneaked past the busy cooks and out the back door.
The fat innkeeper
raced up the stairs. He reached their door and banged upon it with
all his might. He twisted the knob, and the door flew open. They were
gone. He gasped.
“Mathias! Mathias!” he went
running down the stairs. The younger man rushed up to him.
“What is it?” he asked.
“It is her! She has escaped!”
the innkeeper cried. They ran out the front door. But Catherine and
her loyal servants were nowhere in sight.
“Maybe we can board this one,”
Catherine puffed, pointing to the large, wooden ship.
“How will we? You gave the innkeeper
the last of the money,” I said. Catherine sighed.
“I know, but maybe they will take
something else. We must try,” she said. Something else? Like what?
The only valuable possession Catherine had brought with her was her
necklace, and it was probably around the neck of the barge owner’s
wife by now.
Catherine walked up to the ship’s
captain. I watched her argue with him. He looked down at her
clothing. He nodded his head and strolled away. Catherine eagerly
“He says since I am a merchant’s
wife, he will take me,” she smiled. Her disguise was working!
We followed her up the plank and down
into the hold. It was very dark. It was cold. And it smelled awful.
The place was small, and I squeezed up against Edith. Cold air seeped
through the walls. The boat jerked, and we were on our way.
I barely heard the frightened cries of
little Susan. A strong, fierce wind pounded on the sides of the boat.
Rain came down in torrents, making water drip into the damp hold. I
could hear the cries and yells of the sailors overhead. My heart
pounded. What would happen to us? Would the boat sink? Would we
drown? I looked frantically at Catherine. She rocked Susan and
quietly sang a song. How could she be so calm? I sank back against
the wall. Catherine had faith; that’s why. She was trusting in God.
I took a deep breath.
Yea though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23: 4
A wave of assurance swept over me. God
is here, watching over us. I was able to lay down and close my weary
I woke up the next
morning and looked around. Catherine, Edith and Agnes were gone. I
walked sleepily out on the deck. I gasped. We weren’t in the
Netherlands at all! We were back on the tiny Leigh dock where we
started. Catherine was talking to the captain. I pulled Edith aside.
“What has happened?” I asked.
“The winds drove us back,” she
sighed. “We’re going to try and sail again this afternoon.
Catherine is not very happy.” I didn’t blame her. Someone could
spot us. Catherine finished talking to the captain and joined our
“Captain Miller says we will sail in
an hour. Helen, run to shore and get some provisions.”
“With what?” I asked. Catherine
handed me some money.
“This is from the captain,” she
said. “Buy food for us, the captain, and the crew. Understood?” I
nodded my head and raced down the gangplank. I had barely made it off
the harbor when someone grabbed my shoulder. I screamed.
“Who’s on that boat?” a rough
voice asked. I turned. Two men stood in front of me.
“Why?” I asked. “What is it to
you?” My heart pounded.
“We’re looking for a woman named
Catherine Bertie. Know her?” the other asked.
“No. That lady is a merchant’s
wife,” I said.
“Oh, really. A merchant’s wife
with three servants?” I gulped.
“Well-I-she-“ I stuttered.
“Yes?” the rough one asked.
“We’re just traveling with her,”
I said. “Besides, do you think this ‘Catherine’ would travel in
broad daylight? Men, I think you’re wasting your time,” I said,
walking away. I could feel them staring me down as I walked on. I
rounded the corner and let out a sigh. That was too close for
Exactly an hour later, we sailed for
the Netherlands. It was a beautiful day for sailing. The wind blew my
hair. The sun shined down. We made good time and reached the
Netherlands before the sunset. We dressed in Dutch clothes, so as not
to be noticed. We got off the large ship and headed into town.
Richard was residing at a nearby inn. We went inside and found his
room. Catherine knocked quietly. The door opened an inch, then all
“Catherine!” Richard exclaimed,
pulling us inside. “You’re here!” They embraced, and Richard
took Susan from my hands. He kissed her soft cheek. Catherine filled
him in on everything that had happened - from the escape to the men
who questioned me at Leigh.
“Where to now?” Catherine asked
her husband. I could tell she was glad to have him in charge now.
“Santon,” he replied. “It’s in
the province of Cleveland. We’ll leave as soon as you’re up to
“Let’s leave soon,” she said. So
later that day, Catherine, Richard, the girls and I, and Hugh and
Samuel set out for Santon. It would take a long time to walk to
Santon. Richard had some money, so we bought provisions and started
the long journey.
By the time we had almost reached
Santon, it had been two, long weeks. The town was seen faintly below
from the road we were walking on. It was getting dark, so we set up
camp like we did every night. Richard built a fire, and we made
supper. It was dark now, and the only light we had was the glow of
the sparking fire.
“Helen? Would you please get some
water from the stream at the bottom of the hill?” Catherine asked.
I picked up the bucket and started down the pitch-black hill. I could
hear the rippling stream nearby. Suddenly, my foot caught on
something and I tumbled. Pain shot up my leg. I rolled down and down,
gaining speed every second. I screamed and landed with a flop at the
bottom of the hill. I lay there, stunned. Catherine and Richard came
“Oh, Helen, are you all right?”
Catherine panted, kneeling beside me. I could feel blood on my right
leg. It ached terribly.
“Let’s bring her up by the fire so
we can see,” Richard said, picking me up. They climbed the hill and
sat me down by the warm fire.
“That’s a nasty cut,” Richard
“What happened, Helen?” Catherine
“I think I tripped on some briars,”
I replied. Catherine carefully went to the stream and got some water
with the bucket I had dropped. Richard made a makeshift bandage out
of his handkerchief.
“There, that ought to hold,” he
said. It stung badly.
“She’s right,” Catherine said,
coming up the hill. “There are some clumps of thorns and briars
That night, I didn’t get much sleep.
It was very cold. My leg hurt, and I was very hungry.
We got up early the
next day and headed down the road to Santon. I hobbled along, half
leaning on Edith’s shoulder. We reached Santon shortly, and Richard
led us to an inn. With some of his money, he rented three small
rooms. We stayed in the city more than two weeks.
didn’t feel very comfortable in the town. One day, he said, “I’ve
learned about a free city nearby named Wesel. Some French-speaking
people have gathered there to escape religious persecution,” he
“Are you saying we should leave?”
“Yes. I have the feeling we are
being watched here in Santon,” he said.
“How will get there?” Catherine
“We’ll walk. But I think it would
be best if we take only two servants with us,” he said.
“You’re right. It would look
strange to see so many people leaving. We will take Helen and Edith,”
“All right. Hugh,
Samuel, and Agnes can stay here. We will sneak out,” he said.
So that afternoon,
we took a pleasant walk outside of town. This was merely a ruse,
however. In reality, we were leaving Santon and heading towards
Wesel. A mile outside of Santon, a rain began to fall. It wasn’t an
ordinary rain, but a cold, freezing rain. It was now February, and
there was ice and snow on the ground. The rain started to thaw the
ice on the road, making it very difficult to travel. I remember
slipping many times, and getting back up, only to fall again. It was
hard to see ahead of us because the rain came down in sheets. Richard
walked in front, carrying Susan. Catherine walked beside him, wearing
his cloak and carrying his sword. We walked on and on, soaked to the
bones. The rain continued to fall. For four, tiring hours we walked,
stopping only a few times to rest. It was 6:00, when we finally
reached Wesel. I was so eager to finally be able to go inside a warm,
dry building. But, I would have to wait. No inn would accept us. We
knocked on dozens of doors, but since we were foreigners, no one
wanted us. In desperation, Richard found an enclosed porch on the
side of a church. He planned for us to spend the night there. Nearby,
a man ran down the darkened street, trying to reach shelter from the
rain. Richard stopped him.
“Sir, do you know
somewhere we could stay?” he asked. The man looked at him funny,
and said something in a foreign language. Then, he left.
“I wonder what he
said,” Richard sighed. “I think it was Dutch.”
Susan wailed with
cold and hunger. I tried to calm her. Catherine wept. Richard led us
to the porch and we spread some blankets around.
“I’ll see if I
can buy some coals for a fire and hay to make things a little more
comfortable,” he said. And he vanished into the cold, dark street.
I pulled a blanket around Susan and me. I tried to warm her little
frozen hands and feet. Her blue eyes looked pleadingly at me. I
kissed her cold cheek and rocked her. I tried to sing the lullaby she
loved so much. The music sent soft echoes into the stillness of the
Richard ran through
the streets trying to find a store that was open. It was dark, and he
saw no one. Suddenly, he saw two boys hurrying along. They chattered
to each other. His heart leaped. They were talking in Latin! He knew
Latin. Richard called out to them.
Hello there!” he cried. The boys turned to look at him.
“Are there any
French-speaking people around here?” Richard asked in Latin. One
boy answered back.
“Yes,” he said.
“Do you wish us to take you there?” he asked. Richard told them
yes, and that he would go get his wife. He ran back to the porch and
wonderful!” she exclaimed. We gathered our things, and followed
Richard to where the young boys waited. The boys led us through the
dark streets and to a quiet little neighborhood. There was a wide
street and houses with white fences lining it. They led us to a house
where a candle was lit in the window. The moonlight shined down as we
made our way to the door. The boys left, and Richard knocked. I
waited anxiously for someone to open the door. Suddenly, we heard
footsteps. The latch was unlocked, and the door opened. An older man
stood there. He gasped.
Bertie! Richard!” he cried. Tears spilled down his face as he saw
their pitiful condition.
Persusell! Oh, it’s so nice to see you!” Catherine exclaimed, as
he let them in. Francis was an English minister that Catherine and
Richard had known a long time ago.
Francis led them
into the living room. It was a cozy room, with a bright fire, and a
down,” he said. “I insist you stay the night here. Tomorrow, I
can arrange for a house for you to live in,” he said. Francis
brought in some warm food and milk.
“Thank you so
much, Francis,” Catherine said.
Later that night,
Catherine and Richard sat and talked to Francis and his wife, Ellen.
Edith and I sat by the crackling fire. It was so warm, and it was so
nice to be in a comfy home, instead of a cold porch. I pulled out my
little red diary and began to write.
in a house, dry and warm. My hunger has been satisfied. Francis
Persusell welcomed us into his house tonight. He is an old friend of
Catherine and Richard. God has been extremely gracious to us on our
journey. If we ever needed anything, He always supplied it. We’ve
been through much - a frightening escape, hunger, cold and storms.
But he cared for us through it all. I know not what lies ahead, but I
do know one thing. He willbe there, guiding
us every step of the way.
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water:
he turneth it whithersoever he will. Proverbs 21:1
For our Reformation Day 2011 lesson, I jotted down some miscellaneous thoughts on Tudor England and the Reformation.
God places men and women in positions as He wills.
Proverbs 8:15 teaches that by God “kings rule, and princes decree justice.” King Henry VIII (1491-1547) was an unlikely candidate to bring spiritual reformation to England. Besides being a hedonist and an adulterer, Henry VIII was a staunch defender of Catholic doctrine against the “new faith” of the Protestants. But when the Pope refused to annul Henry’s first marriage, Henry declared himself the head of the Church of England and effectively ended papal control of England. God used the selfish actions of a wicked king to open the door for religious freedom.
Henry VIII instituted reforms in the Church of England as long as they suited him politically, but at the same time, he persecuted reformers like William Tyndale, who was martyred in October of 1536. Ironically, God placed women in Henry’s household who supported the Reformation wholeheartedly and at their own peril. Three of Henry VIII’s six wives were Protestants: Anne Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Parr. Anne Boleyn supported William Tyndale, and Catherine Parr was the patron of Tyndale’s associate, Miles Coverdale. More importantly, Catherine Parr was responsible for the educations of Henry VIII’s two youngest children, Prince Edward and Lady Elizabeth, both of whom later became Protestant monarchs. Catherine Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk, was rumored to be a candidate for Henry’s seventh wife. Willoughby, too, was an influential Protestant whose chaplain was the reformer Hugh Latimer.
Sometimes God’s Hand is evident only from afar.
Contemporaries of Henry VIII must have often thought that evil ruled the day. King Henry divorced two of his wives and beheaded two other wives. He vigorously opposed the English Bible and doctrines of the reformation, and he put several reformers like Thomas Bilney, John Frith, William Tyndale to death.
But looking back five centuries, we can see God at work in Tudor England. Henry VIII’s messy personal life was the catalyst for England’s ecclesiastical separation from Rome. This was the first step towards religious liberty in England. Tyndale’s English New Testaments poured into England in spite of Henry’s opposition. Henry’s wife, Anne Boleyn, even had a copy in the palace. God answered William Tyndale’s dying prayer, and Henry VIII authorized the English-language “Great Bible” to be read throughout England. Henry instructed Archbishop Cramner to write prayers for the army in English. These instructions became the basis for the Book of Common Prayer. Henry abolished the monasteries, destroying another link with Rome. By the end of the brief reign of Henry’s son, the Church of England had an English Bible, prayer book, liturgy, and a draft of a Reformed doctrinal statement. Though much more reform was needed, and would come, a great deal was accomplished during Henry VIII’s reign.
We should be thankful for the English Reformation.
As we learned last year, the Reformation in England really began with Erasmus’ Latin/Greek translation of the New Testament. But prior to Anne Boleyn’s becoming queen, the Reformation had been largely confined to students at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Queens Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr helped to spread the Reformation at Court. Anne Boleyn’s support for an English Bible helped to bring Reformation to the common people. Edward VI encouraged the development of Reformed doctrine in the Church of England, and wealthy patrons like Catherine Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk, supported Protestant clergymen. In a short time period, great changes were made in England.
These changes came less than 100 years before Englishmen established the Jamestown and Plymouth colonies in North America. Because of the Reformation, the first English settlers in North America brought with them the Protestant faith. Because of the Reformation, the papacy never controlled North America, and religious freedom was established on these shores.
We should not prematurely judge what God is doing in our own lifetimes.
Just as contemporaries of Henry VIII could not see all that God was accomplishing through their wicked king, so we cannot always see what God is doing in our time. So we should be careful not to prematurely judge our era. We may see evil triumphing in our day, but our God is the same God who transformed Tudor England, and He continues to work “all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11).
Anne Boleyn was born to Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire and Earl of Ormond, and his wife Lady Elizabeth Howard in 1501. She grew up in England, and at about age 12 she began serving as lady-in-waiting to Mary Tudor, the sister of King Henry VIII, when Mary went to France to marry King Louis XII. Later in France, Anne became the lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude. Through her relationship with Queen Claude, Anne also became acquainted with the influential protestant Queen Marguerite of Navarre. It was during this time that Anne became a protestant. In 1521 she returned to England intending to marry her cousin, James Butler. However, the marriage fell through.
In 1522, Anne became the lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon, the wife of Henry VIII. Anne brought to England the polished manners of the French courts. But most importantly she brought back her new faith. While serving in Henry’s courts, Anne fell in love with Henry Percy, the son of the Earl of Northumberland. However, they never married because Cardinal Thomas Wolsey disliked the proposed union, and he sent Percy away. Shortly there after, Henry VIII noticed Anne and wanted to marry her. However, he needed a divorce from Catherine first, and the Pope declined Henry’s divorce request. So Henry had the marriage annulled. When Henry went against the Pope’s wishes, Henry separated from the Pope and formed the Church of England. Henry and Anne were married in 1533, and soon after Anne gave birth to their little girl, Elizabeth.
Anne was very sympathetic to the Reformation. She was, however, in a tricky position being married to King Henry. She tried her best to surround herself with godly people. She was particular about who was the court’s chaplain. She was very generous to the poor and needy. She prayed for Cramner, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to come to the assistance of the persecuted. She also was strongly in favor of distributing the English Bible. In fact, William Tyndale even sent her a specially bound copy of the Bible to approve. Tyndale had a great respect and love for Queen Anne, and he spoke highly of her often.
After Henry decided that Anne could not give him a male heir to the throne, he began looking for a new wife. His eye soon fell upon Jane Seymour. Considering his last divorce took six years to complete, Henry decided that a divorce wasn’t the best way to get rid of Anne. So he began false rumors about her. The lies were believed, and Anne was charged with adultery and treason. Locked up in the Tower of London, she only had to wait a few months before she was beheaded.
Anne Boleyn lived a difficult life, but in spite of her stormy marriage and wrongful death, she did all she could to help further the Gospel. Even though her life was short, she is still remembered today for her contribution to the Reformation.
Catherine Parr was born to Sir Thomas Parr and Maud Green in 1512 in London. Her father was a close friend of King Henry VIII, and her mother was a good friend of the queen, Catherine of Aragon. Catherine Parr was very well educated for the day. She was fluent in Latin, French, and Italian. After the death of her first husband, Catherine married John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer, who had two children.
In 1536, she and her step-children were captured by rebels and held hostage in Snape Castle because of the uprising against the king caused by his break up with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic rebels were caught and executed. This event solidified Catherine's support for the Reformed Church.
Four months after Lord Latimer's death, Catherine married Henry VIII, having regretfully rejected Sir Thomas Seymour's proposal. At this time Henry VIII weighed about 300 pounds and had a putrid-smelling sore on his thigh which continually became infected.
Catherine's duties as queen included supervising the education of the king's children, Elizabeth and Edward. She taught them in letters, music, religion, needlepoint for Elizabeth, and swordsmanship for Edward. Catherine also continued her own studies, and she wrote Prayers and Meditations, which was applauded by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
In the year of 1545, Henry VIII was ailing. His sore on his leg had never healed and still caused him much pain. In an attempt to take his mind off the pain, Catherine debated theology with him. She was adopting some Protestant views while he could not stand them. Two of the king's spiritual advisors seized this opportunity to accuse Catherine of heresy and convince the king to authorize her arrest. The night before her arrest, Henry VIII tried to draw her into another discussion, but having been informed by a servant, Catherine pleaded that she was only trying to take his mind off his pain and would always be in submission to him. Henry VIII spared Catherine's life and punished his advisors.
Not long after, Henry VIII died, and his nine-year-old son, Edward, became king.
Catherine secretly married Sir Thomas Seymour six months later, and in 1548, she gave birth to her only child, Mary Seymour. Catherine died in August of 1548, just six days after Mary's birth.
Catherine's greatest contribution to the Reformation was her help in the education of Lady Elizabeth, Henry's daughter. Elizabeth became queen in 1558, and her reign was very peaceful because of her tolerance for both Protestants and Catholics.
I am writing about King Edward VI. He was a king at the age of nine. He was also a Protestant.
Edward was born on October 12, 1537, at Hampton Court Palace. All of England celebrated Edward's birth. Edward's parents were King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. Jane was Henry's third wife. Edward was taught by private tutors beginning at the age of six. Edward learned French, Spanish, and Italian. He also learned to play musical instruments.
Edward's father died when he was only nine. Because Edward was only a child, powerful dukes ruled in his name. During Edward's reign, Archbishop Thomas Cramner wrote the Forty-two Articles, a statement of faith for the Church of England, and the Book of Common Prayer.
Edward died in 1553 at the age of fifteen. Edward died from sickness.