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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 6: Resistance, Praemunire and Conservative Retrenchment, 1537-1540 151

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Chapter 6 Resistance, Praemunire and Conservative Retrenchment, 1537-1540 The period under examination in this chapter is one in which conservative desires for a firmer Catholic settlement were realised. International isolation and domestic conditions prompted the King to take a more inflexible stand against radical religious innovations seeking a more traditionalist image. It was piecemeal, however, finally culminating in the Act of Six Articles. Although not so dramatic as in previous years, Stokesley had a certain influence over this steady re-establishment of conservatism and died shortly thereafter much to the King's apparent regret. In previous chapters we have seen the Bishop use what influence he had in government and in the diocese to stall or modify radical measures. This had left him in a position as a focus of reactionary attention; he had become the hope of conservatives. So if it is doubtful that the Bishop was the focus of a government campaign of interference, it is clear that Elton was correct to write that Cromwell was investigating Stokesley. It is doubtful that this was the personal vendetta which it seemed to be. Moreover, it is doubtful, given his thinking on the role of priests and Bishops, that Stokesley had been doing anything more than what he perceived as his Episcopal duty but, nonetheless, there were ramifications of the image he had gained. Stokesley, as indeed his conservative colleagues, became the targets of investigation by Cromwell for their apparent resistance to his policies. For Stokesley this resulted in a praemunire charge...

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