On this date in 1550, the leaders of England’s Prayer Book Rebellion were hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn.
During the unsteady regency of Henry’s sickly heir, Cranmer would push frenetically to make the religious reformation that his former boss never completely backed. The Archbishop sent to the continent for Protestant theologians like Peter Martyr who could help him “do away with doctrinal controversies and establish an entire system of true doctrine.”
The piece de resistance of Cranmer’s project was his Book of Common Prayer — a reformed liturgy, and in English, to go with the new English Bible. Many centuries — and revisions — later, it’s still the basis of Anglican services and of rites in many other Protestant denominations.
In 1549, it debuted to decidedly mixed reviews.
Enforced by Parliament’s Act of Uniformity, the Book of Common Prayer replaced all Latin liturgies on Whitsunday 1549, and for many of England’s Catholics, it was one affront too many. (The country’s bumpy economic realignment couldn’t have helped matters.)
On Whitmonday, traditionally-minded parishioners in West Devon unimpressed* with this newfangled vernacular service forced their local cleric to break out the old vestments and say Mass in Latin. State attempts to enforce the ban soon produced a martyr for the cause — one William Hellyons, melodramatically impaled on a pitchfork — and a march to Exeter that spiraled into outright revolt, heavy with suppressed Cornish nationalism.
We, the Cornishmen, whereof certain of us understand no English, utterly refuse this new English.
Religion, theology, the liturgy, the text of the Scripture … these were things that early modern Europeans were ready to fight and die for.
Since this considerable plunder of Church wealth had been widely redistributed to the English gentry, talk about repossessing it really emptied the pews of potential allies.
Such principals as remained were reserved a more awful fate: drawing and quartering at Tyburn. These seem to be the chaps who endured it:
Henry Bray, Mayor of Bodmin
Landowner and military leader Humphrey Arundell
Landowner John Wynslade
We wyll haue the masse in Latten, as was before.
We wyll haue the Sacrament hang Oller the hyeghe aulter, and there to be worshypped as it was wount to be, and they whiche will not thereto consent, we wyll haue them dye lyke heretykes against the Holy Catholyque fayth.
We wyll haue . . . images to be set vp again in euery church, and all other auncient olde Ceremonyes vsed heretofore, by our mother the holy Church.
We wyll not receyue the newe seruyce because it is but lyke a Christmas game, but we wyll haue oure old seruice of Mattens, masse, Euensong and procession in Latten as it was before.