History has not been kind to Mary Tudor. Compared to what followed, her reign seems like a brief but misguided attempt to hold back England's inevitable transformation to Protestantism. Compared to what came before, her regime looks like the regressive episode of a hysterical woman. Considered on its own terms, however, the regime appears much more complex, leading contributors to this volume of essays to reach far different conclusions about her reign: reestablishing traditional religion in England was an enormous undertaking that required rebuilding the Marian Church from the bottom up. Moreover, given more time it might have succeeded. Finally, as these essays continually remind us, concepts differentiating Catholicism from Protestantism — ideas taken for granted today — were still being sorted out during this period.
David Loades's introduction begins the volume by surveying the disturbance in religion during Mary's lifetime. He links the spread of humanism and classical scholarship to a substantial portion of this disturbance because it created an educated populace capable of raising questions about religious practices for which the traditional Church had no answers. Mary herself received a first-rate humanistic education and contemporaries even considered her well-educated. Loades suggests that, instead of unquestioningly embracing the tenants of the traditional Catholic faith, Mary was a "conservative humanist with an extremely insular point of view" (18). Nevertheless, her humanistic training did not extend to her devotion to the sacrament of the altar and her uncritical acceptance of the doctrine of transubstantiation. Ultimately, her uncompromising position on the latter would cause the downfall of many.
After this introduction, the first section of the volume, entitled "The Process," explores obstacles confronting the restoration of Catholicism in England, beginning with David Loades's examination of the degraded state of the episcopacy upon...
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