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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 3: The Divorce: The Public Campaign, 1530-1534 71


Chapter 3 The Divorce: The Public Campaign, 1530-1534 The failure of the Blackfriars trial confmned the King in favour of the theological argument. While political thinkers initiated a campaign to pressure the Pope, the King's scholars were set the task of exploiting and disseminating their findings, particularly the central argument, to the full. A number of books, pamphlets, papers and even statutes were produced and circulated to a wider audience in the early 1530s. The result was that the issue was brought to a resolution in England with little difficulty. The focus on Stokesley allows us to keep abreast of the King's thinking on his marriage question, keeping him at the heart of the matter until 1536 and Anne Boleyn's death. The recent works of Virginia Murphy and John Guy have brought home just how prominent the central theological argument was and how integral to the King's actions were the scholars. In October 1527, for example, as Stokesley, Fox, Wakefield and Pace were drawing up the main points of the argument, the King was using them to treat with Thomas More. Although More was unconvinced, the King was sufficiently sure of his case to have More meet Fox to review the new material in more depth.1 A month later the King gathered the Bishops and some of the university professors to hear the verdict of his scholars; these now formed the central convictions in his own mind.2 Such activity carried on despite Wolsey favouring other options, and intensified when Stokesley...

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