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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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Conclusion 173

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Conclusion Stokesley was 'in a manner the leader of the conservative hierarchy'! and as such had a clear and major influence on the events of the Henrician reformation and on the King. His relationship with Cromwell, however, clearly indicates that this influence was not always a positive advantage. The Bishop also had an independent mind and a strong will. Some historians have used these to question his motivations, referring to Cromwell's efforts to implicate him in various conspiracies to underpin an argument that he was not trusted in government circles. Stokesley was the one Bishop-councillor who did not conform with government thinking on every issue, and this was noted; 'I marvaile (quod my lorde of Canterbury,) that my lorde of London ys so frowarde, that he will not do as other men do'. 2 How do we account for this attitude and his continued service to the King? The King needed a consistent view with regard to Catholic doctrine and Stokesley provided it. He provided the King with a workable and orthodox foundation upon which to base his divorce and found the King further support in Italy and France. He also provided the King with a solid theological defence of the royal supremacy, supported this with a finn intellectual steel, and it served the King well for the rest of the reign. The Bishop took an active role dissolving monasteries; he led the conservative thinkers during the formulation of the ten articles, the Bishops' Book, and the six articles; he...

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