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Source Exercise 5: The Henrician Reformation 7

Reginald Pole was Henry VIII’s cousin. He had acquired a first-class Renaissance education in Italy at the king’s expense, but by the early 1530s he found himself increasingly alienated from Henry’s policies. Spurning almost certain promotion to the archbishopric of either York or Canterbury, Pole returned to Italy. After the execution of John Fisher and Thomas More in 1535 for denying Henry’s claims to royal supremacy over the Church of England, Pole composed a powerful and sophisticated refutation of the king’s position, his Defence of the Unity of the Church. Although it was not printed until some years later, Pole sent a manuscript copy to Henry and his Council, and various English scholars were commissioned to refute Pole in turn, including Tunstall and Stokesley.

In 1535, Henry VIII launched a nationwide ‘visitation’ – or enquiry – into England’s monasteries and religious houses. The main purpose of this was to ensure that each and every one of England’s monks signed up to the royal supremacy in person, but it also aimed at investigating and improving their moral condition. The visitation was organised by Thomas Cromwell, a loyal political administrative servant who had helped Henry draft the legislation breaking the link with Rome and whom in 1535 Henry appointed Vicegerent in Spirituals, i.e. the administrative head of Church matters under the king.

Source 3

By this bringer, my servant, I send you relics, first two flowers wrapped in white and black sarcenet that on Christmas Eve, at the very hour when Christ was born, will spring and burgeon and bear blossoms, which has been proved, says the Prior of Maiden Bradley. Ye shall also receive a bag of relics, wherein ye shall see strange things ... as God’s coat, Our Lady’s smock, part of God’s supper from the Lord’s Supper, part of the rock on which Jesus was born in Bethlehem – belike there is in Bethlehem plenty of stones and some quarry, and make their mangers of stone. The scripture of everything shall declare you all; and all these of Maiden Bradley, where as is an holy father Prior, and hath but six children, and but one daughter married, yet of the goods of the monastery trusting shortly to marry the rest. His sons be tall men waiting upon him, and he thanks God he never meddled with married women, but all with maidens the fairest could be gotten, and always married them right well. The pope, considering his fragility, gave him licence to keep an whore…

(The words given here in italics were written in Latin in the original.)


6. What is this document about?

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