William Cobbett on Latimer and Ridley

“Latimer began his career, not only as a Catholic priest, but as a most furious assailant of the Reformation religion. By this he obtained from Henry VIII the Bishopric of Worcester. He next changed his opinions but did not give up this bishopric! Being suspected, he made abjuration of Protestantism; he thus kept his bishopric for twenty years while he inwardly reprobated the principles of the Church and which bishopric he held in virtue of an oath to oppose to the utmost of his power all dissenters from the Catholic church. In the reigns of Henry and Edward he sent to the stake both Catholics and Protestants for holding opinions which he himself had before held openly, or that he secretly held at the time of his so sending them. Lastly, he was a chief tool in the hands of the tyrannical Protector Somerset in that black and unnatural act of bring his brother, Lord Thomas Somerset, to the block.

Ridley had been a Catholic bishop in the reign of Henry VIII, when he sent to the stake Catholics who denied the king’s supremacy and Protestants who denied Transubstantiation. In Edward’s reign, he was a Protestant bishop who denied transubstantiation himself. He in Edward’s reign got the bishopric of London by a most roguish agreement to transfer the greater part of its possessions to the rapacious ministers and courtiers of that day. Lastly, he was guilty of high treason against the Queen (Mary) for openly and from the pulpit exhorting the people to stand by the usurper, Lady Jane Grey, and thus endeavouring to produce civil war and the death of his sovereign, in order that he might, by treason, be enabled to keep that bishopric which he had obtained by simony including perjury.

A pretty couple of protestant “saints”; quite worthy, however, of Martin Luther who is by his disciple Melancthon called “a brutal man, void of piety and humanity, one more a jew than a Christian”. Altogether worthy of this great founder of that Protestantism which has split the world into contending sects: but black as they are they bleach the moment Cranmer appears in his true colours.”
From “The Protestant Reformation” by William Cobbett (Burns Oates Washbourne edition 1929 pgs. 208-209)

There you have it.

In my own reading I have now reached the reign of who Cobbett refers to ironically as “good Queen Bess” and have learned that the Huguenots were not persecuted because of their faith but because leading members of the sect had made secret deals with Elizabeth 1 which led to her seizing control of Dieppe and Havre which did little to enamor them to the their fellow Frenchmen. (Interesting news to me as one side of my family is descended from a Huguenot lineage.)

Cobbett also points out that “Good Queen Bess” probably committed more atrocities against her subjects through, again, criminalising Catholicism than so called “Bloody” Mary ever did. He states that the early part of Mary’s reign consisted of restoring the old ways of how monasteries operated and ensuring that much of the booty and plunder that was stolen in the name of the Reformation was used in ways that benefited the poor.

A truly extraordinary read indeed.


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