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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


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Publication details for Professor Alec Ryrie

Ryrie, Alec (2009). Paths not taken in the British Reformations. Historical Journal 52(1): 1-22.

Author(s) from Durham


Traditional historiographies of the Reformation, seeing it as a unified, directed transition from Catholicism to Protestantism, seem increasingly untenable. This article looks in detail at three individuals from the British Reformation whose careers did not fit this pattern: a Scotsman, John Eldar, and two Englishmen, John Proctor and John Redman. Enthusiasts for Henry VIII's Reformation, they found themselves alarmed, but disempowered and compromised, in the face of Edward VI's more radical religious changes. Redman died in 1551, but Proctor and Eldar both celebrated Mary I's Catholic restoration, while not entirely forgetting their Henrician sympathies. The article argues that these men represent a distinctive religious strand in Reformation Britain. Such ‘latter-day Henricians’ valued Henry VIII's distinctive Reformation: anti-papal, anti-heretical, sacramental, Erasmian, and Biblicist. The vicissitudes of religious politics in both England and Scotland in the 1540s and 1550s left no space for such beliefs, although the article suggests that traces of Henricianism can be seen in Elizabeth I herself. It also argues that the impotence of the latter-day Henricians under Edward VI is a symptom of the paralysing weakness of all English religious conservatives in the reign, a predicament from which they were rescued only by Mary's restoration.