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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 4: Royal Supremacy and Accommodation 89

Extract

Chapter4 Royal Supremacy and Accommodation 'By the ordinance and sufferance of God, we are king of England, and kings of England in time past have never had any superior but God only' .I This is the most famous expression of the King's thinking on the supremacy issue, hardly new in 1515, however. Mayer made it very clear that during the English occupation of Tournai the King had made several claims of exclusive authority, going so far as to remove the clergy from French ecclesiastical patronage; 'we having the supreme power as lord and king in the regalie of Tournai without recognition of any superior owe of right to have the homage fealty and oath of fidelity as well of the said pretended bishop by reason of his temporalities which he holdeth of us as of other within the precincts of the same territory' .2 The King recognised no 'superior' authorities in his territory. An incident sparked off in 1510 is equally illustrative of future events. The southern Bishops were divided between Fox and Warham in a heated dispute over testamentary jurisdiction. The difficulties spread over to the next convocation, 1513, with both sides building up alliances and appointing proctors at Rome. 3 For whatever reason, in March 1512, the Pope authorised Henry to settle the matter in England, wanting it resolved by royal authority.4 Henry agreed, and by April the issue had been assigned to 'certayne of our counsell'.5 This could be taken as a precedent for 1515. While not...

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