Book Reviews

Diarmaid MacCulloch The Boy King Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation First published by Palgrave Macmillan December 2001 (ISBN 0-312-23830-4): paperback University of California Press March 2002 (ISBN 0520234022)

Glance at your bookshelves. How many volumes can you find on Henry VIII? Elizabeth or Bloody Mary? Then ask yourself what you have on the short but influential reign of Henry’s son, Edward VI.

Help has arrived in the form of ‘The Boy King’ by Diarmaid MacCulloch, known to Tyndalians for his excellent Cranmer biography and related talk at a Hertford College Tyndale conference in the 1990s. Readers of this book will also spot a quote from our guest speaker at the October 2003 Geneva conference, Andrew Pettegree. While there is just one reference to William Tyndale in ‘The Boy King’ —the Spanish Bible translator Enzinas merits two—Edward’s reign is of obvious interest to the Tyndale Society, and Reformation enthusiasts need not hesitate.

Is MacCulloch the antithesis of Eamon Duffy and other revisionists who have sentimentalized the Catholic piety of the early 1500s? In ‘The Boy King’ Duffy’s portrait of traditional devotion is taken as part of the truth, just not the whole story.

“To write the history of the Edwardian Reformation from churchwardens’ accounts and parish records is positively to invite a negative view of what happened, as the comfortable formulae of a settled system broke down under the strain of sudden change. Unless an archival accident hits on a parish of evangelical zealots, the theme of the wardens’ payments will be the decline from a rich devotional life to its steady impoverishment and dismantling…”.

Some loyal Catholics were indeed shattered and took their observances into hiding. Elsewhere, however, layabouts on street corners began cutting church attendance altogether. What you’ll read about Edwardian England may surprise you. All of which is to say that some degree of revisionism is appropriate. It is time to peel away the layers of sanitization that have clung to this subject since the dawn of the Reformation itself (a photograph of a statue of Bishop Hooper clad in vestments—hardly Hooper’s first choice in evening wear—is included among the illustrations).

Contrasting assessments of Edward’s reign reflect this ambiguity:

“The pattern of the first twelve months could be demonstrated over the next two years: constant repetition of the themes of unity and peace, and careful, incremental wearing down of opposition, at each stage accompanied by ostentatious and empty gestures of reassurance to Charles V and to conservatives at home. Naturally the government exploited the English habit of deference to the monarchy (…) there is much that we may deplore about their six-year adventure under the boy-king: much that was negative, destructive and cynical in the revolution which [Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley] unleashed. However, we will misread their work and do injustice to their memories if we do not listen out for the genuine idealism, the righteous anger and the excitement which were essential components of the play of King Edward”.

The vitality of MacCulloch’s approach comes across in many ways, in his readiness to portray the King not as a stick-figure but as a flesh-and-blood boy, with friends his own age (two of the King’s aristocratic contemporaries are shown in miniature portrait).

That normalcy is a veneer, for those pals of the King were swept away by the sweating sickness of 1551. Edward, no tower of strength himself, had to grow up fast. We see him making policy decisions (striking Saint George from membership of the Order of the Garter, an action that warmed Hooper’s heart). The king was particularly insistent on inviting the most fanatical preachers to court. And he left a paper trail, including foreign-language homework assignments that would shame the best of today’s A-level students. Instructed by some of the finest tutors then available, Edward wasn’t the boy next door.

MacCulloch paints contrasting portraits of Edward’s handlers, Somerset and Dudley. Cranmer is brought to life as a sharp-elbowed chessplayer, a latter-day Gary Kasparov up against Deep Blue (but winning). Cranmer humiliates Bishop Bonner by making him play host to a visiting European heretic (according to Richard Marius, Henry VIII had dumped a similarly onerous job on Thomas More’s lap some twenty years previously). The Archbishop was the veteran and witness of countless bureaucratic battles and knew how to put his experience into action.

Your reviewer noticed a parallelism between the sluggish development of policy at the beginning of the Marian and Edwardian regimes—one unexpected side-effect of the rule of law.

“Throughout 1547, conservatives could exploit the fact that Henry VIII’s exuberantly traditional Act of Six Articles of 1539 was still in force to regulate religion, and they used it to harass religious opponents for their religious views. Some evangelicals imprisoned during the conservative clampdown of summer 1546 were still in gaol during King Edward’s first spring; (…) while most remarkably of all, that April [1547], the diocese of London received a new commission to inquire and make prosecutions under the Six Articles Act. (…) Quite what the London commission actually achieved is not now clear, but the Act itself could not be abolished until Parliament was summoned at the end of the year”.

Policy on the Eucharist was slow to develop; no statement at all saw daylight until 1550, no fully developed position until 1553. This denoted a desire not to tread on European Reformist toes, as well as the innate combustibility of the subject matter.

I also learned that whereas governments of this period were morbidly sensitive to outbreaks of public unrest under most circumstances, during visitations of Church property the inevitable onlookers felt free to run amok. And not just the onlookers:

“In Norwich, local enthusiasts took matters into their own hands in September, when divers curates and other idle persons toured the city’s rabbit warren of parish churches, tearing down and removing images. (…) The problem for the Norwich [authorities] was indeed to decide just how unlawful such actions could be, when the king’s representatives were indulging in equally dramatic behavior. Far away to the north, the central parish church in Durham witnessed the remarkable spectacle of a royal commissioner jumping up and down on the city’s giant Corpus Christi processional monstrance in order to smash it up more effectively”.

These and other touches make for a highly readable experience. Connoisseurs of gore will note the woodcut of William Gardiner, burned at the stake in Portugal; his sacrilegious hands were sliced off at the time of his execution. There are many such nods to contemporary art history in the text. One searches a Geneva student’s classroom doodles of John Calvin for traces of humanity or warmth; there aren’t any.

In short, the subject matter is never set in aspic, and the sensational stuff (personally, I cannot get enough of it) is handled with aplomb. Brace yourself for Tudor wife-swapping parties and Bishop Bonner’s sado-masochism (read the book!). And while there were no posthumous Elvis-sightings of the young Edward, the king was nonetheless rumoured to be still alive (and imprisoned in the Tower of London) in the early days of Elizabeth’s reign! If there is an Edwardian gap in your personal Tudor library, fill it with this admirable publication.

Neil L. Inglis, December 2003.

Diarmaid MacCulloch Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490 - 1700 Allen Lane £25 (0-713-99370-7)

England in the 16th and 17th centuries, with its reputation for relative tolerance in religious matters, judicially murdered more Roman Catholics than any other country in Europe. This is one of many startling insights in Diarmaid MacCulloch’s new history of the Reformation.

For those whose studies of the Reformation focused on 16th century England, this book is an admirable corrective. The geographical canvas is vast, and the period covered from 1490-1700 permits the Reformation drama to extend to its full five acts.

There is an introductory appreciation of the strengths of the old Church of the Latin West. There follows an analysis of the strands and strains in the Protestant Reformation. Justice is also done to the innovations of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. Then the fourth act tells the tragic story of the European civil war, fuelled by religious antagonisms; and finally the reader is assisted to understand why the West European Enlightenment took on such an anti-religious character.

This is a story, though mostly banished from the conscious mind, whose consequences haunt our continent to this day.

MacCulloch displays the familiarity with Continental historical sources which might have been expected from his biography of Archbishop Cranmer, in which he refreshed a well-worked field by excavating from the Polish archives new information about the Archbishop’s early life as a diplomat.

Poland does in fact play a significant part in the Reformation story, and was for a time a beacon of hope that here might be some kind of co-existence between the various communities that emerged from the breakdown of the old Western Church. The narrative weaves together developments in every part of Europe, from Spain to Reformed Transylvania, together with reflections on the understandable paranoia engendered by the Turkish threat. In little more than a century after 1530, seaborne raiders flying the crescent flag are estimated to have enslaved a million West European Christians. There are also valuable essays on the way in which Europeans exported their religious conflicts to other continents.

This pan-European view is a helpful contribution to reflection on the question ‘Who are we now?’ which has surfaced in an acute form in the debates on the new European constitution. A further virtue of the book is that it does justice to the Jewish and Muslim contribution as part of the European spiritual inheritance, and is not alien to it.

This wider perspective also helps those concerned with the religious inheritance of the British Isles in the far northwest of the continent to understand why their Reformations developed in such different ways. The author identifies the survival of the cathedral establishments in England, the influence of Lancelot Andrewes, and Westminster Abbey as significant contributors to the development of a distinctive ethos in the Church of England.

MacCulloch identifies his own viewpoint in the introduction as being ‘neither confessional nor dogmatically Christian’. There is, however, imaginative sympathy in this Reformation history, and a reluctance to rush to judgements. There is no sub-Marxist assumption that spirituality and ideas are simply mould grown on the rock of economics.

At one level, the Reformation was a debate in the mind of the formative theologian for the Western Church, St Augustine. Luther, a monk in the Augustinian order, articulated the master’s ideas on the grace of God in a way that subverted Augustine’s own teaching about the nature of the Church.

At a time when we are perhaps better able to appreciate and fear the reality of religious passion than our immediate forbears, MacCulloch helps us to enter into the minds of furious disputants. At the same time he exposes the many ironies in the story, such as the earnest efforts of the irenic Cardinal Pole to reconcile the realm of England to the Roman obedience while being himself on the run from the Holy Inquisition.

As we ponder the reconciliation of the successor parts of the Western Church and reach out to the Christian East, this book helps us to understand the complexity of the task, and gives us the humility necessary if we are to make progress. Including the notes, select bibliography and the useful index, Reformation extends to 832 pages. Once embarked upon it, however, I found it impossible to put down.

Rt. Revd. Richard Chartres

This review by the Rt. Revd. Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, first appeared in the Church Times on 31 October 2003.

Anne O’Donnell, S.N.D.& Jared Wicks, S.J(ed) An Answere vnto Sir Thomas More’s Dialoge — The Independent Works of William Tyndale. The Catholic University of America Press, 495pp, inc. commentary, notes, etc. $60 (ISBN 0 8132 0820 3) 2000

In June 1529 Thomas More published his Dialogue Concerning Heresies in which he attacked Tyndale. In 1531 Tyndale published his Answer to More. After a 60-page introduction in which he defends his translation of the New Testament — for example, his preference for ‘love’ instead of ‘charity’, ‘favour’ instead of ‘grace’ and congregation’ instead of ‘church’ — he responds to More in four books, each answering a book of More’s work. The first deals with More’s arguments concerning saints and the nature of worship; the second is along similar lines, rebutting More’s arguments attacking the Pope’s authority and asserting the supreme authority of the Bible; the third continues to insist that Scripture must be the ultimate arbiter and attacks various errors and abuses in the Church. In book four he deals most fully with justification, the sacraments, free will and the nature of true faith. This is where Tyndale is at his most pungent. Here is a flavour of the Tudor Tyndale:

‘Hereof ye se what faith it is that iustifyeth vs. The faith in christes bloude of a repenting herte towarde the lawe doeth iustifie vs onli. Naie Sir, we make good werkes frutes where by oure neyboure is the better and wherby God is honoured and oure flesh tamed. And we make of them sure tokens where by we know that our faith is no fayned imagination’.

This edition is based on the 1531 edition. Most readers of Tyndale will have used the 1848 Parker Society edition, collated from this and Foxe’s 1573 edition. As the editor notes, ‘When weary from rowing through Tudor spelling, the reader can steam ahead by consulting Answer in its Victorian form.’ The reader may be encouraged that Tyndale himself only takes about 212 pages in both Parker and in the present edition; the rest consists of scholarly introductions, notes and comment. The Editorial Board for The Independent Works of Tyndale includes David Daniell, author of the acclaimed 1994 biography.

It is good to see the editors’ admission that Protestants would find More’s Dialogue ‘hardly convincing’, as he rarely gets to grips with the real issues; and the inclusion of More’s admission that his half-million word response to the Answere, the Confutation of Tyndale, was ‘ouer long, and therefore to to(o) tedyouse to rede’. The introduction and commentary to this edition, however, themselves demand a health warning. The introduction muddles Tyndale’s theology: for example, his insistence on works as the evidence of true faith is interpreted as teaching that works are integral to justification — a mistake compounded in comments on the text. There is an apparent attempt to rehabilitate Fisher, whose 1526 sermon Tyndale demolished in The Obedience of a Christian Man, by producing arguments for the phrase ‘faith wrought by love’ instead of the biblical ‘faith active in love’ (Gal. 5:6). Tyndale’s rejection of all but the two biblical sacraments is played down. There is a statement that ‘some friars became notable reformers’, but no indication is given of the rejection of More’s theology that their conversion entailed.

The impression is of a soft-pedalling in the editorial comments on Tyndale’s actual text, particularly concerning the breach with Roman Catholicism that Tyndale and the other Reformers represent. This smacks of the revisionism whereby the Roman church reclaims the Reformers as reforming and slightly aberrant members of their own communion, without acknowledging the chasm on issues of authority and theology that the Reformation entailed.

The moral is, read Tyndale well, but be wary of the interpretative notes. It is a pity that more of Tyndale, for example Pathway into the Holy Scripture and The Parable of Wicked Mammon, is not available to a wider readership. Those who want to grapple with Tyndale in the original will doubtless value this scholarly edition, but it is a shame that it could not have been provided by editors with greater sympathy with, and understanding of, Tyndale’s theology.

Mostyn Roberts

This book review was first published the Banner of Truth issue no 477 June 2003.

Martin, Priscilla (ed) William Tyndale's New Testament. Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2002. 474p + 29p. n.p.

‘William Tyndale, yet once more to the Christian Reader,’ seems a good way to start a review of another edition of Tyndale’s 1534 New Testament in modern spelling.

Priscilla Martin’s Introduction is clear, simple and honest, and she used the 1938 CUP edition of Tyndale’s 1534 New Testament, which I have used when checking her transcription of Tyndale’s text. Her method of transcribing the text was to modernise the spelling but to retain the archaic verbal endings (e.g. –eth).

It is a pity that the selection of marginal notes has been consigned to the end of the text, and also that some important ones have been omitted. There is no reason for including only one marginal note from Matthew’s Gospel, ‘Peter is Satan’, which only points Christ’s words in the text, and omitting those which are commentaries of the text. In his Preface, William Tyndale wrote of the importance of the covenants God has made with his people, ‘Wherefore I have ever noted the covenants in the margins, and also the promises’. Why were these marginal notes omitted, especially from chapter 13? Just looking at Matthew’s Gospel chapter 1 (a promise); 5 (Covenants); 6 (Covenant); 7 (Covenants); 10 (Covenants); 13 (A covenant to them that love the word of God to further it, that they shall increase therein, and another that they that love it not, shall lose it again, and wax blind.); 18 (Covenant to the unmerciful); 19 (Covenant); 25 (Covenant [twice]).

Martin’s transcribing of Tyndale’s text could have been done with more care. I closely checked only the first 7 pages, and found the following errors:

‘their due and necessarye fode: so dressinge it and ceasoninge [seasoning] it, that the weake stomackes’


‘their due and necessary food, so dressing it and occasioning it, that the weak stomachs’ (p. 4).

‘therfore god powred [poured] his wrath vpon them’,


‘therefore God powered his wrath upon them.’ (p.6).

‘from iniquite to iniquite tyll they were thorow [thorough] herdened and past repentaunce,’


‘from iniquity to iniquity, till they were through hardened and past repentance.’ (p.6).

‘turneth to desperacion [desperation] in tyme of tribulacion and when god cometh to iudge,’


‘turneth to dispersion in time of tribulation and when God cometh to judge,’ (p.7).

The text of the New Testament appears to be more accurately transcribed, although I have checked only Matthew chapters 1-5. Matthew 3:12, we find that the corn is threshed on the ‘flour’ rather than the ‘floor’. In Matthew 5: 26 we read,

‘and the iudge delivre thee to the minister’


‘and the judge deliver thee to the master.’

Apart from many words being transcribed wrongly we also find that changes in the punctuation alter the sense of a passage.

‘And Matt. vii. all that here the worde of God and do not therafter bylde on sande:’


‘And (Matthew 7) all that hear the word of God and do not, thereafter build on sand:’(p.7)

takes away all sense from the passage.

As with David Daniell’s Tyndale’s New Testament, where capital letters are substituted for lower case where modern usage demands it there is one exception, the Holy Spirit (Ghost), although a proper name for the third Person in the Godhead, is left in the lower case.

I look forward to a second edition of this work, after the text has been corrected, as I believe there is a place for it alongside David Daniell’s work.

Ralph S. Werrell, March 2003.

Hazel Pierce Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership, University of Wales Press £40 (0-7083- 1783-9)

Hazel Pierce’s book is a gripping study of the dramatic life of Margaret Pole, who became the only woman in the 16th century, apart from Anne Boleyn, to hold a peerage in her own right.

Born a princess with a promising future, Margaret became the orphaned daughter of an executed traitor when she was not yet five years old; and, with the death of Edward IV, her claim and that of her brothers to the throne of England was strong enough to endanger their lives.

When she was married off by Henry VII to his half-cousin, Richard Pole, Margaret’s position became relatively safe, until she was widowed in 1504. Then she was almost destitute, with several children to care for, and still an inconvenient liability to the Crown.

Her warm, supportive and bravely loyal friendship for the widowed and dishonoured Catherine of Aragon brought rewards when Catherine married Henry VIII, and Henry restored Margaret to the earldom of Salisbury.

This made her one of the most powerful women in the land, but the monumental political changes in England during the years 1519-38 drew Margaret and her family into an horrific and tragic drama, which led to Margaret’s death by the axe in 1541, at the age of 67.

Hazel Pierce combines her history of Margaret Pole with sympathetic portraits of the people whose personal faults, strengths and actions shaped the course of English politics. Using surviving documents relating to Margaret’s estates, the author also provides an insight into the material culture of elite society. At her zenith, we are shown Margaret equipping her palaces, gardens and chapels, entertaining royalty, and paying for her children’s education and marriages.

Hazel Pierce’s study of Margaret Pole offers a vivid and scholarly evocation of the knife-edge of survival that was politics in the Tudor period.

Dr Sally Crawford

This review by Dr Sally Crawford, Lecturer in Mediaeval Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, was first published in the Church Times August 2003.

Clive Anderson C.H.Spurgeon: In the Footsteps of the Prince of Preachers Day One Publications (ISBN 190308711)

The ‘Travel With…’ guides, of which this is one, are a very welcome addition to the list of existing literary guidebooks. This one, written by Clive Anderson, pastor of the Butts Church in Alton, Hampshire, is pocket sized and very attractive in its general format and illustrative clarity. There are lucid street plans and maps together with information very useful to tourists of all kinds. In fact the little book is packed with information, bibliography and biographical detail.

One would have to be truly devoted to Spurgeon`s memory to attempt to visit all the associated sites in London, Surrey, Hampshire, Essex and Cambridgeshire as well as Menton on the Riviera. With this little guide no doubt one could follow the ‘prince of preachers’ throughout his life but, at the same time, many readers would not feel so great a need, for here everything is so graphically stated.

In its 127 glossy pages the enquirer will find all the main details of the story of this remarkable man (plus some rather unnecessary ones). He was admired in his day by other great orators including Gladstone and Lloyd George, and it is fascinating to try to imagine the timbre and power of a voice that could be heard clearly by 2000 people under one roof without the boost of any public address system!

Other titles in this series so far (either published or appearing shortly) include ‘Travel with John Bunyan’, ‘Travel with William Booth’, Travel with John Knox’ and this reviewer would dearly love to see sooner rather than later ‘Travel with William Tyndale’.

David Green, April 2003.

Daniell, David, William Tyndale, Selected Writings. Fyfield Books, Carcanet, Manchester 2003. £9.95. (ISBN 1-85754-656-3).

Selected Writings in 91 pages; quite frankly if I had been selecting important passages from Tyndale’s translations and writings I would have wanted to extend the number of extracts. David Daniell has made a good choice, which could not have been bettered, and I am sure that it is a book which cries out for a large readership. It needs reading, it needs to be given to friends who have not come across William Tyndale, and the fact that his writing is modern for the twenty-first century will surprise readers who are discovering William Tyndale for the first time.

David Daniell’s introduction says a lot in few words and covers a lot of ground, yet it has a clarity and lucidity which makes it easy to read and understand, and will make those unacquainted with Tyndale ask for more. My first criticism is an omission in A note on the text. It would have been helpful if there had been an explanation of the addition of an extra word inserted in square brackets. One has to guess that it is the modern equivalent of the meaning of the preceding word. For example on page 42, `our neighbour’s wealth [welfare] only`.

My second criticism is the altering of Tyndale’s punctuation. In most cases it does not make any difference, but one or two places stood out as I read rapidly through the book before starting to make any notes. In those places (three or four only) I did not feel I was reading William Tyndale, in fact it was enough to make me check Tyndale’s writing – even though, in each case, only a ‘comma’ was missing. I also wondered whether any modernising of Tyndale’s punctuation was necessary (or is this just a niggle on my part?).

Prof. David Daniell has made at least one selection from most of William Tyndale’s writings, and all the selections were thoughtfully and sensitively chosen. I do not think a better selection could have been made, although I am sure that others, like myself, who are very familiar with Tyndale’s writings would have made some changes – but that would be a matter of personal opinion, as, indeed, was David Daniell’s selection.

Just over one third of the book consists of extracts from Tyndale’s Bible translations, pages 1-20 from the New Testament, pages 21-31 from the Old. I felt this emphasis on his translation work overpowered other writings which came from Tyndale’s pen. Those of us who have listened to Prof. Daniell’s lectures on Tyndale will know many of the passages he has chosen illustrate different aspects of Tyndale’s genius in the formation of Modern English and in translation.

That is followed (pages 32-48) with the whole text of A Pathway to the Holy Scripture. This is an enlargement of his Preface to his 1525 translation of the New Testament, of which only the ‘Preface’ and most of Matthew’s Gospel were salvaged when the printer’s workshop was raided to prevent the New Testament being published in English. A Pathway to the Holy Scripture is an important work, and I am glad it has been included in its entirety.

However, with less than half the space for extracts left, I felt an injustice had been done to some of Tyndale’s works. Having said that, The Obedience of a Christian Man (pages 52-64) and An Exposition upon the V. VI. VII Chapters of Matthew (pages 80-91) have received a reasonable amount of space, but his other writings could have provided many more gems which were worth including. I would also have liked an extract from Tyndale’s exposition of The Testament of Master William Tracy included in the selections.

It is a book to whet one’s appetite to learn more about William Tyndale. Give it to anyone you think might become interested in finding out more about a man who, nearly five hundred years ago, could write an English which changed the face of the English language, write with a simplicity and clarity which anyone could understand, and which is so alive, vibrant and relative to the twenty-first century. Add to that his clear understanding of the teaching contained in the Bible, his vision of God, of man, and of our salvation and place in the eternal purposes of God, and we begin to understand Tyndale’s greatness as a person, as a theologian, but above all as a child of God – his Father. Then follow it up with an invitation to join The Tyndale Society.

Ralph S. Werrell

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