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Henry VIII's Conservative Scholar

Bishop John Stokesley and the Divorce, Royal Supremacy and Doctrinal Reform

Andrew A. Chibi

Through a careful reexamination of manuscripts, archival materials, primary documents and other secondary sources, this book traces the central importance of one of Henry VIII's lesser known advisors. Bishop John Stokesley was deeply involved in the King's matrimonial controversies, in the development of royal supremacy theory, in both doctrinal and clerical reform and proved himself a conscientious pastoral shepherd. The result of this research draws attention away from the major figures of the Henrician period forcing the reader to consider the key events of the reign from a new perspective: that of an important conservative scholar and Bishop.


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Chapter 2: The Divorce: Diplomacy 43


Chapter 2 The Divorce: Diplomacy The failure of the Blackfriars trial set dynamic changes into motion. Political thinkers took the first tentative steps towards solving the King's dilemma through a parliamentary programme pressuring the Pope with threats of schism and loss of money, prestige and finally the English Church itself. Parliament was summoned on 3 November 1529 but proved initially ineffective. The King's intellectual brigade, Stokesley, Fox, Pole, Starkey, Gardiner, Lee and Cranmer took up the questions hinted at in the scholars' writings: an appeal to universal Christendom, an appeal over the Pope's head to a general council and an examination of the Pope's real authority. Their immediate concern was the King's cause. Stokesley later noted that he was thought to have been the 'principal cause and instrument' of the matter! and also said that he had promoted the measure in several assemblies throughout almost the entire world: 'not to mention that I recovered it when it had already fallen to the ground from the hands of the legates and was thereafter despaired of and wept over'. This is a significant claim. We have examined his formulation and defence of theological arguments but he was also proud of his diplomatic achievements: 'what [I achieved] among our neighbours'.2 What had he done in France and Italy and later back in England to justify these claims? On the continent he and the others contacted, convinced and enticed jurists, divines and interested parties, both the famous and the obscure, to the King's side....

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