The Early Reception
by David Loades

John Foxe's relationship with his readers, and what might be broadly termed 'the authorities' of Elizabethan England was complex and controversial. He had many non-conformist leanings but was also a darling of the establishment. He rejoiced wholeheartedly at the return of the Gospel to England, yet despaired (for a time at least) of a true and Godly Reformation. He was keenly aware of the global, or at least European dimensions of the True Church, but believed that God was extending a 'special providence' to England. In spite of his unique status, and the friendship of such important men as Edmund Grindal and William Cecil, he held only two ecclesiastical preferments, one of them very briefly. His swift resignation from a prebend in Durham cathedral, which is usually ascribed to his vestiarian non-conformity, was almost certainly forced by his absolute unwillingness to reside, even to the most minimal extent.[1] A similar prebend in Salisbury cathedral, that of Shipton-under-Wychwood, he retained for nearly twenty five years, but was in constant trouble for neglecting his cathedral responsibilities. He hardly ever visited Shipton either, but was intensely conscientious in the provision of spiritual care for its people.[2] It seems that he never sought preferment, but whether this lack of ambition was occasioned by disillusionment with the paths which the church was taking, or by a desire to concentrate upon his great work is not clear. The nominal value of Shipton was nearly £40 a year, but Foxe leased the revenues to Thomas Randall for a smaller figure - probably about £30 a year. He also received an annuity of £20 from the Duke of Norfolk, which was ingeniously continued after the latter's attainder.[3] This meant that, while he was never rich, he and his family could live in comfortable circumstances, and that he could be free from the constant pressures of conformity which the possession of a substantial cure, particularly in London, would inevitably have engendered.

Foxe's ambiguous attitude towards the Elizabethan church was not untypical, and was shared to some extent by his influential friends. Grindal's disastrous falling out with the Queen over 'prophecying' is only one (albeit the best known) example.[4] It was also reflected in the successive editions of the Acts and Monuments, especially those of 1570 and 1583. Whereas the 1563 edition had been full of rejoicing and hope, celebrating Elizabeth as the 'new Constantine' and relating the early history of her reign as a token of what was hoped for, by 1570 the mood had changed. In the words of one scholar, Foxe had moved from a prophetic to an apocalyptic mode.[5] Both the fulsome dedication and the narrative of 1558-62 were dropped, and number of warning or threatening notes sounded. As is clear also from the Sermon of Christ Crucified, also published in 1570, Foxe was deeply disappointed by the failure of his Godly friends to persuade Elizabeth to further reformation over the previous decade. Not only did the 'dregs of popery' remain within the church, but far too many catholics (or crypto-catholics) were still in high office or about the court, and the Queen was constantly threatening that ultimate betrayal, a catholic marriage. Too much should not be made of this, however. In spite of fears and disappointments, Elizabeth was still a Godly Prince, and the church of England a True Church. Foxe had in no sense become a hostile witness, but he was deeply troubled (as he had not been in 1563) about what the future might hold. The sacrifices of the saints and martyrs of England might yet prove to have been in vain. The edition of 1576 was largely a reissue of that of 1570, and was not significant in this connection, but by 1583 the mood had changed again. Although the alterations were not major, this was a more mellow and mature work. The fears of 1570 had gone the same way as the extravagant hopes of 1563. The Queen had not concluded a catholic marriage, and would almost certainly not now do so. The bull Regnans in Excelsis had dispersed the ambiguities of the 1560s, leaving Elizabeth fully committed to a protestant position, and the pope unequivocally a hostile foreign power.[6] Deteriorating relations with Spain were threatening an all-out war, which many of the council desired and which would inevitably have a powerful ideological dimension. The Queen had burned her boats, and as long as she lived there was no further danger of apostasy. In spite of its many imperfections, it began to look as though God would continue to favour the English church, and that was an immeasurable comfort. By the end of his life, Foxe had distanced himself from the radicals with whom he had earlier been associated. He did not live to see the Armada, or the Marprelate controversy, but both would have served to confirm that the measured satisfaction of the 1583 edition was fully justified.

To this gratifying situation, the Acts and Monuments had made its own major contribution. The first edition had been a blockbuster. The original idea, of using martyrology as a line upon which to hang a history of the conflict between the True Church and the False, had belonged to Foxe, following the lead of John Bale.[7] However, during the years of exile, between 1554 and 1559, it had been picked up by Edmund Grindal and others, who began to assemble the martyr stories and similar material which the persecution in England was then generating. On their return to England Grindal, now bishop of London, aided by William Cecil and others, persuaded Foxe to convert his general intention into a specific work of propaganda designed not only to celebrate the sufferings of the Godly, but to make as sure as possible that England never suffered such a visitation again. The Acts and Monuments was not only a team effort it was also, indirectly at least, an official tract. John Day, the printer, invested heavily in it, and it is very likely that financial support also came from those Nicodemite protestants who had kept their heads down in Marian London, and were now anxious to establish their godly credentials.[8] That the work was a huge success is always taken for granted, but it is less clear how this became so. It was very large, and each copy probably retailed at about 15 shillings. When William Turner wrote to Foxe in November 1563, suggesting various modifications, he concluded '… by cutting out useless and superfluous things, the price of the book will not exceed ten shillings …' [9] which suggests that the current price was substantially more. Even ten shillings was a lot of money - about three weeks wages for a skilled craftsman - so it is unlikely that queues were forming at John Day's shop. On the other hand knowledge of its contents spread far and wide, so many copies must have been put into circulation. It is quite possible that the senior clergy of the new establishment, and sympathetic gentlemen (particularly those with a vested interest in the regime), bought copies and passed them around among their friends. Courtiers and officials seem to have been particularly avid readers, perhaps aware of Cecil's involvement.[10] It is not clear that the Queen herself ever saw it, although she must have been made aware of how her own role was presented, and made no recorded protest. The others who certainly read it, with enthusiasm, anxiety or outrage, were those who featured in it, either directly or indirectly. On the 26th of April Archbishop Parker wrote to Heinrich Bullinger, reporting that Foxe's 'huge volume' had been published in English four days before Easter, and added 'the papists themselves are now beginning to abhor the cruelty of the archpapists … '[11] This not only suggests a sharp perception of the nature of religious conservatism, but also an extremely rapid dissemination of Foxe's message. Reactions of course varied. The families of those who had suffered were for the most part delighted, and bombarded Foxe with additional material; eye witness accounts of burnings, letters from and to the martyrs, and personal memoirs of all kinds. Much of this material was incorporated into the second edition, some remains unused among the Foxe MSS. Others wrote indignantly that they, or their kinsmen, had been grossly misrepresented; or called at Day's printshop with the equivalent of a horsewhip. In some of these cases Foxe was persuaded that his information had been incorrect, and modified his text accordingly; in others the protest was ignored. Sometimes the pressure was more subtle, or common sense prevailed. In the last Latin version, the Rerum of 1559, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland had been accorded a very hostile treatment, but in the first English edition of 1563 this had been toned down considerably. Foxe had not necessarily changed his mind, but John's two surviving sons, Robert and Ambrose, were in high favour, and both were emerging as leaders of the Godly party.

Foxe ostensibly aimed the original Acts at the Queen, his fellow scholars, and the unregenerate papists, and it was the latter who reacted most forcibly. Parker may have been right about the broad spectrum of religious conservatives; many of them had been deeply unhappy about the persecution in the first place, but those whom he called 'the archpapists' fought back vigorously. They did not, on the whole, seek to deny that the people named had died as described, but they denounced the pious embellishments (and even more pious conclusions) as fraud, lies and deceit. The most forceful and effective of these rebuttals came pseudonymously from Nicholas Harpesfield, then a prisoner in the Tower. The Dialogi Sex was published in Louvain in 1566 under the name of Alan Cope.[12] Five of the six dialogues were aimed at Jewel's Apology, but the sixth and longest was against Foxe. Insofar as Harpesfield was concerned to deny protestant victims the status of martyrs, his polemic could be ignored - especially as it was written in Latin and not translated. However, the former archdeacon also knew enough to undermine the credibility of some of those whom Foxe had sought to represent as Godly. A few were (or could be represented as) common criminals. More had held very dubious convictions, convictions which were as heretical to Foxe and his backers as they had been to Bonner or Gardiner.[13] The martyrologist never openly conceded on any of these cases, but the second edition was modified in ways which can be shown to be responses to Harpesfield's attacks. Bonner himself, also from prison, furiously rejected the demonisation to which Foxe had subjected him, and with scholarly hindsight can be seen to have had a case, but at the time his protests were ignored.[14] Apart from Harpesfield, the most effective challenges came from those who could prove themselves to have been misrepresented, like the persecutor who was said to have suffered a horrible death at the hands of an outraged deity, but was in fact indignantly alive!

Somewhat paradoxically, it was the second edition of the Acts rather than the first which received the official seal of approval. In April 1571 the upper house of convocation ordered that it should be set up alongside the bible in all cathedral churches, and in the homes of senior and cathedral clergy. A less formal (and until recently unknown) archepiscopal instruction also required parish churches to provide copies, and surviving church wardens accounts record some purchases.[15] Insofar as the work was actually acquired, most copies were probably donated. These orders provide at least a partial explanation for the scale and rapidity with which Foxe's stories and images penetrated the public conscience. Over the twenty years or so which separated the first edition of the Acts and Monuments from the fourth, the battle for the hearts and minds of what would later be known as 'middle England' was won. This was partly due to loyalty to a protestant Queen (particularly after 1570); partly to the increasingly pervasive perception of the papacy as a 'front' for hostile foreign powers - particularly, but not only, Spain - and partly to the Black Legend created by officially sponsored protestant polemic. Foxe's work was the most conspicuous contributor to the latter; massive, comprehensive and compelling. Only the well-to-do owned their own copies, but among the basically educated such ownership was a badge of allegiance, rather like the ownership of an English bible. Among the kindred and dependents of such men these copies were freely available, and reading may well have been encouraged, as it was in the nurseries of Victoria's reign. When we add to them the number who saw and read (or had read to them) the copies which were displayed in parish and cathedral churches, the phenomenon becomes easier to understand. It may well be that even by 1600 only a minority of Englishmen had ever heard of the Acts and Monuments, let alone seen a copy, but that would be irrelevant. The elite knew it, and most of them embraced its message. Below that level, opinion formers of all kinds, clergy, schoolteachers and community leaders, had also absorbed its meaning. So deeply had this sunk into the English subconscious that unacknowledged references can be found, not only in the works of Shakespeare and Spenser, but also in such lesser pieces as Thomas Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller (1594), where the title is used simply as a trope for A Very Large Book. Dr. Betteridge has recently written:

'What interests me about this reference is the extent to which it reflects an image of the Acts and Monuments as not only an exemplary, authoritative work of history, but also as a material book … '[16]

and he goes on to suggest that Nashe was influenced in writing The Unfortunate Traveller by Foxe's own stories of epic journeys, particularly that of the Duchess of Suffolk. Later writers, such as Milton and Bunyan were more explicit in acknowledging their debt, but by then Foxe's stories of suffering, endeavour and special providence were part of the national cultural stock.[17] In the early seventeenth century this was manifested in a succession of plays deeply indebted to the martyrologist, and representing the history of Tudor England as an epic struggle between Catholics and Protestants for world dominion. Samuel Rowley's When You See Me You Know Me (1604), Thomas Dekker's The Whore of Babylon (1606) and Thomas Heywood's If You Know Not Me You Known Nobody (1604), and a number of more ephemeral works all gave the Acts and Monuments the same political twist, which clearly gratified a popular demand, however much it might have horrified Foxe himself.

Another reason for this political development was the extent to which the Acts and Monumentswas adopted as a manifesto by the 'forward' protestant party in the politics of Elizabeth's reign. That party was eventually successful, not so much because Elizabeth was persuaded as because events forced her hand. However reluctantly, the Queen was forced to support her men of action on the high seas, to execute her rival, Mary, to fight Spain, to support Henry IV of France, and to suppress Catholic rebellion in Ireland. Much of this happened only after Foxe was dead, and we do not know what his reaction would have been, but there is one pointer in his friendship with Sir Francis Drake. Drake expressed the warmest admiration for 'father Foxe', and possessed his own copy of the 1576 edition the woodcuts of which he had (apparently) coloured in his own hand.[18] The friendship of this unlikely pair was well known at the time. They corresponded and each expressed admiration for the qualities of the other. We may wonder how much Foxe actually knew of Sir Francis's tactics, but he seems to have accepted him as a true warrior of the faith. In the apocalyptic view of church history which the martyrologist had adopted in 1570, there were other ways to promote the truth and do the will of God, apart from suffering. Where it had the means, the Church Militant could confront the legions of Antichrist in a very tangible manner. Perhaps it was for that very reason that God had called truly Christian states such as England into being.

Such a thought of course increased the pressure upon a Godly Prince to be true to his (or in this case her) calling, but it also made the Christian warrior an acceptable, even an heroic figure. Most important of all, it could justify the political status and power of a church which was supposed to be defined as an afflicted and persecuted remnant. God could dispense any rule that he had made, and was doing so now for the benefit of England. How much more important that made it to be true to the calling! When Drake read extracts from the Acts and Monuments to his Spanish prisoners during his Carribbean expedition of 1587, he was not only pointing out to them the errors of their catholic ways, he was also pointing out how God had used suffering to create in England a church which was both true and strong - strong enough to inspire such men as himself and his colleagues.[19]

Foxe himself never explicitly embraced what would later be known as a 'jingoistic' attitude, but his eschatology made it possible for him to envisage a protestant military victory as part of God's plan for the Last Days, when Antichrist would finally be vanquished and Christ would come again in glory. The Acts and Monuments does not represent England as an Elect Nation, or a New Israel, but it does speak of special providences in ways which enabled those who wished to do so, to read in such a message. Explicit nationalism did not emerge until Timothy Bright's abridgement was published in 1589. Bright was an entrepreneur who had (among other things) invented a form of shorthand which had attracted the favourable attention of the Queen. As a reward he had been given a patent which entitled him to publish anything he liked, as long as it satisfied the council censors and did not belong to someone else. It was under the terms of that patent that the abridgement was published, almost certainly with the official encouragement of Archbishop Whitgift.[20] Bright abridged mainly by cutting out letters, doctrinal disquisitions, and extended meditations on the iniquities of popery, leaving the bones of the narrative largely intact. He also added 'A Speciall Note of England', which represented the country as the fount of all true reformation, and concluded 'Englande, the first that embraced the gospel; the only establisher of it throughout the world; and the first reformed.'[21] Foxe might have accepted that at the end of his life, but he had never come close to saying it. What Bright did by this means was to turn the Acts and Monuments into a manifesto of protestant nationalism which had never been its original intention. A work which had set out to make use of the English language and English pride in an effort to promote the formation of a True Church, had become by 1590 a work which was using protestant identity as a device to bolster a war effort which required the government to strain every fibre, and was using Foxe's demonisation of selected English bishops as a means of stiffening economic and moral fibre for the struggle with Spain.

For this purpose the Acts and Monuments had the immense advantage of bringing together those factions within the English church which might otherwise have weakened both it and the realm. Foxe had one enemy, the catholic church, and was extremely agile at disguising rifts between protestants which would have reduced the energy and unanimity of the assault. In the early 1570s when John Whitgift, at that time Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University and Thomas Cartwright, the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, were beginning their long running quarrel over the form and worship of the church, each attempted to enlist Foxe in their army. The man himself refused to be drawn, but there developed an extraordinary competition between these two protagonists in expressing admiration for the Acts and Monuments. A few years ago Daniam Nussbaum observed

'More than simple polemical advantage was at stake in these exchanges, as both protagonists sought to outdo one another's avowals of the affection in which they held the martyrologist, both as a man and as a writer.'[22]

Whitgift referred to him as 'that worthy man (who hath so well deserved of this church of England) …', to which Cartwright responded 'You cannot speak so much good of M. Fox which I will not willingly subscribe unto; and, if it be any declaration of goodwill and of honour that one beareth to another, to read that which he writeth …'; to which he could not resist adding 'I think I have read more of him than you.'[23] Whitgift, the professor went on to allege, was not above using flattery in the hope of winning a favourable opinion from the great man, a charge which attracted the response, 'You may not judge my heart; I think of M. Fox as of one that I love and reverence. I will not utter all that I could lest I should seem to flatter'. The martyrologist's position was therefore unique. Within a decade of its publication, and when it was on only its second edition, the Acts and Monuments had become a decisive legitimating authority for the Church of England, and represented the 'soul' of that church, for the possession which these two powerful factions were locked in combat. If Foxe could have been tempted to express a judgement at that time, he might have declared for Cartwright, but he was never a Presbyterian, and was in any case far too wise to do any such thing. He had no great love of bishops, not because he regarded the office as unscriptural but because he believed too many men sought it for the wrong reasons and thus made it an object of scandal and concern.[24] On the other hand he remained a firm believer in the Royal Supremacy, and realised well enough that Episcopal government was an aspect of the church upon which the Queen would not budge. From his point of view there were far more important battles to be fought. Desirable as it might be to make England conform more closely to the 'best reformed' models, the real conflict was with Rome. It was that conviction, sharpened by the beginning of the Douai missions in the mid-1570s and the arrival of the first Jesuits in 1580, which finally swung him behind the ecclesiastical establishment. Although he never lost his sympathy with puritan objectives, towards the end of his life he came to see their persistent clamour as more of a hindrance than a help in the great battle against the Antichrist and his minions.[25]

Once Foxe was dead, the struggle to appropriate his legacy was renewed. In spite of his ostensible admiration, there were aspects of the Acts and Monumentswith which Whitgift was not happy, hence his promotion of Bright's Abridgement,and the fact that there was only one further edition of the full work (in 1596) during his twenty years as Archbishop. On the other hand John Field produced what was effectively a continuation of the Actes and Monuments in A parte of a register (1593), including vigorous denunciations of the 'popish' remnants within the English church, and what were in effect statements equating the afflictions of persecuted puritans with the sufferings of the martyrs. A little earlier Martin Marprelate had paraded the martyrologist alongside Tyndale, Frith, Barnes, Hooper, Penry, Travers and Cartwright, as a truly reformed protestant. Martin also flattered by imitation. Those puritans who had suffered deprivation or imprisonment at the hands of such 'prelatical tyrants' as Whitgift and his predecessors could be (and were) also made to look like martyrs in the Foxean tradition.[26] The effect of this device was at first limited because the extravagant mockery and abuse which characterised the Marprelate Tracts was immediately counter productive. Sympathetic courtiers and gentlemen drew back, alarmed by this unconstrained assault upon authority. At the same time the dramatic retreat of the Spanish Armada made it plausible to claim that God thought well enough of his Englishmen and the way in which they conducted themselves. The 'alarm spiritual' which the more radical puritans had been trying to sound was muted, and appeared out of place. Foxe's appropriation by the establishment continued although without (it would seem) the same whole hearted enthusiasm that he had attracted twenty years before. Perhaps it was just that the paranoia which had afflicted England through most of Elizabeth's reign was subsiding by 1600. Whitgift was not bidding for a Cardinal's hat, and the champion of Antichrist was beginning to look like a paper tiger.

Bright's abridgement showed a number of different emphases from Foxe's original Not only was the Speciall Note more patriotic than evangelical, but Bright also toned down Foxe's hostile comments on the ex officio oath, by which Whitgift set great store. To the martyrologist it had been 'a cruel statute', a 'bloudie law', and a law designed 'to spill the bloud of saintes' - all comments far more in keeping with puritan polemic than with the defence of the establishment.[27] Bright's presentation of the same material was by comparison neutral and colourless. Hooper's stand against vestments in 1551 had caused Foxe problems. To him the Bishop of Gloucester had been right, and had been supported by the 'Godly Imp', Edward VI. A sinister conspiracy of nameless bishops had defeated him, but unfortunately those same bishops had also been his Godly heroes, Ridley and Cranmer. Foxe had left the paradox unresolved, while making it perfectly clear that he shared Hooper's specific (and at the time very troublesome) scruples. Foxe's account of Hooper continued to be appealed to throughout Elizabeth's reign by the opponents of vestments, and in spite of his eventual sympathy with the conformity which Whitgift was striving to achieve, he never removed his stringent comments from the Acts and Monuments. By promoting the abridgement, Whitgift undoubtedly hoped to retain the credit for being a great Foxeian, while escaping from some of the more inconvenient aspects of what he had actually said. That he should have thought it worth his while to do that speaks volumes for the prestige which the martyrologist had acquired by the end of Elizabeth's reign, and he was sufficiently successful for most practical purposes. The 1596 edition, issued by the Stationers Company, did nothing to increase his embarrassment. Although nothing was taken out, the additional material was innocuous enough, relating mainly to such foreign atrocities as the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve in Paris. The same was true of the 1610 edition, edited by Edward Bulkeley, although that did contain an account of the Gunpowder Plot.

In spite of the contemporary anxieties apparent in 1570, the editions of 1583, 1596 and 1610 had all been unequivocally histories. The great trials of the English church were in the past, and could be celebrated with relief and thanksgiving. The Whore of Babylon was still claiming her victims, but they were in other countries and as long as England kept up her guard, both literal and metaphorical, she could be kept at bay. Puritan attempts to maintain martyrdom as a living and contemporary possibility in England as both Field and Marprelate had endeavoured to do, had little resonance. 'If England to herself do rest but true … ' there was no foothold for Satan's minions here. However, that perception was not long to remain in the ascendant. Beginning with the little cloud of Richard Bancroft's sermon of February 1589, a new type of churchmanship began to emerge. This was anti-puritan, not on disciplinary grounds, but on doctrinal grounds. The differences were not great, but they were significant. Particularly over the interpretation of scripture and the High Calvinist concept of double predestination.[28] In spite of puritan claims to the contrary, there was nothing remotely popish about this form of piety, as the works of Richard Hooker make abundantly clear, but it swiftly became entangled in ecclesiastical politics. James I's experience in Scotland had made him deeply suspicious of the Presbyterian form of church government to which many of the English puritans were strongly inclined. He was not particularly sympathetic to Richard Bancroft's type of piety, but he recognised a strong champion of episcopacy, and promoted him to Canterbury after Whitgift's death in 1604. By the time that Bancroft died in 1610, a distinctive and non-puritan Anglican piety had fully emerged. This is sometimes called 'Arminian' after the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius whose views were condemned at the Synod of Dort, although that term is theologically misleading.[29] It is more usually associated with the name of William Laud, and was characterised by what Laud described as 'the beauty of holiness'. This meant an emphasis upon liturgy, ornament and church music; the placing of the communion table 'altarwise' in the East end of the church, and (most important in this context) a significantly different attitude towards the church of Rome. The main stream Elizabethan protestant, inspired by Foxe, regarded the Catholic Church, not only as a human invention, but as something altogether evil - a perversion invented by the Devil. The Pope was Antichrist. This did not mean that the innocent dupe, brought up in this wicked synagogue and knowing no better, could never be saved, but it did mean that catholic priests, who were the deliberate manipulators and beneficiaries of this monstrous confidence trick, were irretrievably damned. The Laudians took a quite different view. Rome was indeed a human invention and its pretensions were ridiculous, but for all its corruptions it was a true church, and the mother from which the Church of England had sprung. Rome, they claimed, was like an erring parent whose corruptions must be rejected, but it was not evil in itself.[30] The pope might be a tyrant and a confidence trickster, but he was not Antichrist.

Such views began to gain ground among the educated elite during James's reign, but in spite of their enthusiasm for episcopacy both James himself and Bancroft's successor William Abbot, kept them at arms length. Laud achieved the distant and minor see of St. David's in 1621, but that was the nearest they got to the corridors of power. Nor was their popular following large. In fact they might have remained a fringe movement had it not been for one very important fact. Charles, the heir to the throne, had embraced their views with all the implacable enthusiasm of his limited nature. Consequently when he came to the throne in 1625 there was a seismic movement in the politics of the church. Within months Laud was moved to the key diocese of London, and the 'beauty of holiness' became the piety of the court. Within three months of his father's death, Charles had married a catholic princess - not Spanish as James had wished, but French. Henrietta Maria was zealous and tactless, little more than a child, and with her came a large and catholic chapel establishment.[31] Charles quickly ran his head into other problems, over money and over foreign policy, and fell out disastrously with his parliament. In March 1629 he dissolved it, with the firm intention of never seeing it again. By this time alarm bells were ringing all over the political nation. The king, it was widely believed, was riding roughshod over the liberties of 'free born Englishmen' and that he was about to convert to Rome. In fact Charles had no such intention, and both he and Laud were firmly anti-papal. The Queen's extravagances were swiftly curtailed, and the now somewhat ineffectual Abbot continued at Canterbury. However, the king was an appalling self promoter, and allowed the initiative to fall into the hands of opponents who might otherwise hardly have stirred. Pressure began to be applied to main stream protestant clergy as well as to more overt puritans, to enforce conformity to the new liturgical and ceremonial standards. In this climate of mounting suspicion and returning paranoia, in 1632 a seventh edition of the Acts and Monuments appeared.

In 1610 the additional material had been innocuous enough; a brief narrative of the continuing atrocities of the catholic church, and of the disasters which England had been spared by Divine providence. By placing this material in an appendix, Bulkeley respected Foxe's eventual determination to finish his history in 1558, and also retained the qualified optimism of the 1583 edition.[32] The 1632 version was quite different, and its antecedents lay in Field and Marprelate. Bypassing Foxe's later thoughts, it went back to the anxieties of 1570, although in a much more intense and specific form. A whole new section was added, with the significant title A treatise of afflictions and persecutions of the faithfull, preparing them with patience to suffer martyrdome. Far from the story of persecution having finished with the accession of Elizabeth, or been banished across the seas, it remained a lively and on-going threat at home. This reversion to an earlier form of protestant identity was a direct result of the Laudian ascendancy, and moved sharply away from Foxe's own positive view of the Royal Supremacy. 'It is impossible to live godly and not suffer persecution' wrote the author, quoting St.Paul. The source of the threat was not specifically identified, being attributed to the corruptions of human nature, but the conclusion was significant. Unless Englishmen repented and sought God with prayer and self discipline '… God hath, and will in all ages, raise up some Tyrant or other, as means to mortifie and tame the pride and rebellion' of his disobedient children.[33] Persecution was not some rare and occasional test imposed by God, but an unavoidable fact of life for all true Christians. Martyrdom, moreover, was a consummation devoutly to be wished, as irrefutable testimony to the favour and love of Christ. This Treatise effectively destroyed Foxe's painfully constructed justification for an established protestant church, reverting instead to something like George Joye's Present consolacion of 1544.[34] There was nothing particularly original about it, and it drew on a martyrological language which went back to the early church. What it did do was to detach the notion of godliness from the contemporary church of England, and to locate it elsewhere - within the 'godly remnant' who could only be the puritans, given a new lease of life by Laud, and moving into increasingly overt opposition.

By issuing their appeal as a part of a new edition of the Acts and Monuments, the editors undoubtedly hoped to attach Foxe's enormous prestige to their own cause. In the modern idiom, they 'hijacked' the Book of Martyrs, and converted it into a manifesto for their own brand of resistance. This device was not entirely undisguised, because the Treatise was embedded within a Continuation which also contained the material of Bulkeley's appendix, plus an account of the more recent persecution of the Vaudois in Northern Italy. Even with this historical material, however, the emphasis was subtly shifted; where Bulkeley's message had seemed to be that God remained on England's side, and would continue to protect her, the 1632 message was that persecution continued, and that England could not expect to escape the catholic resurgence then sweeping Europe.[35] This certainly struck a responsive chord. England was again a beleaguered fortress as she had been in 1588, and anxiety levels were high. The attempts, first of James and then of Charles, to establish alliances with catholic powers, attempts which resulted in constructive negligence with regard to the recusancy laws, were regarded by many as the thin end of the popish wedge. As early as 1623 Simonds D'Ewes received what he believed to be a divine warning against the troubles to come.[36] That particular alarm was linked to the abortive Spanish marriage, but the failure of that negotiation did not cause such fears to subside, and the French marriage of 1625 revived them, as we have seen. In 1629 a particularly abrasive puritan named Alexander Leighton launched a savage attack on the episcopate which (for some inexplicable reason) he chose to blame for England's military humiliations. He was tried in Star Chamber, mutilated and consigned to perpetual prison.[37] Elizabeth would almost certainly have treated him similarly, but times had changed. He became a martyr, and James Henric, an English pastor in Amsterdam, was moved to a general disquisition upon 'some English martyrs that have striven against Arminianisme, or at least the heirarchie, and have suffered for it'. By the early 1630s the language of martyrdom was being used indifferently to describe the threat from abroad, and the risk of being punished for religious dissent at home.[38] The 1632 edition of the Acts and Monuments was thus a large nail in the coffin of Charles I as a Godly Prince.

We do not know what the king's reaction to this development may have been, if he ever showed one. Laud's attitude to Foxe moved (as might be expected) from the ambivalent to the hostile. He had started, like most of his contemporaries, by regarding the Acts and Monuments as a pillar of the protestant establishment, but he had never particularly approved of its virulent anti-catholicism, and he was aware of Foxe's reputation as a non-conformist. The edition of 1610, which came out while he was at Oxford, did nothing to move him from a somewhat grudging endorsement; and it was presumably for that reason that he did nothing to oppose the new edition when then was proposed. However, when he saw the new version, he realised at once what had happened, and although he did not risk stirring up a hornet's nest by attempting to suppress it, he made sure as long as he had the power that there was no eighth edition. Charles promoted him from London to Canterbury in 1634 on Abbot's death, and the battle for conformity was fully joined. In 1638 the king and the archbishop extended their campaign to Scotland, with the almost unbelievable insensitivity of men who are convinced that they are doing God's work, and the whole structure of Charles's personal rule began to unravel. The Acts and Monuments had nothing directly to do with that, but the language of martyrdom, and the potent association of Godly Protestantism with true Englishness, which Foxe and Bright had created between them, had turned the great history into frontline propaganda. It may be doubted whether many of those who cited its stories or used its images had read it from cover to cover - although some certainly had - but it had become a symbol of identity. It had also become a manifesto of resistance in a way which the martyrologist himself would almost certainly have repudiated.

Nobody in the puritan camp wanted to acknowledge that, although it is clear enough that John Foxe, who had so carefully rejected any notion of rebellion against Mary, would not have countenanced similar resistance to Charles. This could have been embarrassing if John's son Simeon, who was still living in London, an aged and respected physician, had stood up and said so. However, Simeon chose to do no such thing. By 1641 Laud's machinery of coercion had ceased to function and was in process of being dismantled. As a result an eighth edition of the Acts and Monuments immediately appeared. The main substance of this was identical with that of 1632, but it also contained a biography of the author, subsequently known as the 'Old Memoir'.[39] This memoir had originally been written in Latin many years before, probably about 1611, but it had never been published in that form, and appears to have been translated into English by Simeon specifically for the 1641 edition. Simeon was not the most succinct of writers, and his memory was not always accurate, but the point of publishing his memoir at this stage was not to supply an authoritative biography. It was rather to emphasise his father's non-conformist credentials. The John Foxe who emerges through the Old Memoir is the anxious, frustrated man of 1570 rather than the optimist of 1563or the relatively relaxed figure of 1583. This is a Foxe burning with a sense of mission, contemplating a church half reformed, and deeply worried that his fellow countrymen would not prove equal to the task of justifying the trust which God had placed in them. At the end of his life, Simeon seems to have been motivated, not by any specific desire to help the 'Godly cause', but by the fear that his father's fame should have turned him into a kind of icon, and that the sharp spiritual struggles which had characterised his own life should become eroded into some kind of bland heroics

'… when I perceived that strangers had undertaken to write his life, men who never knew him and who depended upon hearsays and chance reports and that they in some points were extolling him above the truth, and in others were missating the facts, while many matters they passed over altogether through ignorance, I thought it my duty to preserve his memory untarnished …'[40]

Simeon did not necessarily do justice to the complexities of his father's nature, or to his ambivalent attitude towards ecclesiastical authority, but what he wrote certainly assisted rather than retarding the transformation of the Acts and Monuments from a establishment tract to puritan propaganda. It was this edition to which Milton referred, and which Bunyan took with him to Bedford gaol. Over the next twenty years it was to be as influential in its own way as the original edition, but it also acquired associations which were seriously to diminish its influence in the future. When the Anglican (and Laudian) church returned to power in 1660, Foxe was no longer a point of reference for the educated elite, and church copies were consigned to vestry cupboards. On the one hand it became a non-conformist tract, justifying and comforting those who were to suffer at the hands of the established church over the following half century. And on the other hand, it moved down market, spawning such bowdlerised abbreviations as The Spirit of the Martyrs is Risen (1665), and The Spirit of the Martyrs Revived (1683).[41] In the late seventeenth century popery was a political rather than an ecclesiastical issue. Although many catholic recusants remained, the real issue was not the danger of reconversion, but the danger of French influence, or even invasion. The Exclusion Crisis and the Popish Plot were at least as much about arbitrary government as they were about Catholicism. Significantly, when the two came together in 1684, after the defeat of the exclusionists, a new edition of the Acts and Monuments appeared - the ninth and last of the 'old' editions. After the Glorious Revolution Foxe was history in every sense of the word. No longer read or heeded in educated circles, his influence remained alive through the constantly reprinted and colourful broadsheets of martyr stories which appeared regularly throughout the eighteenth century. It could be said that the Gordon riots were among his legacies, but it was only when the Reformation became a battle ground of ecclesiastical factions in the nineteenth century that John Foxe re-emerged from folk memory into the light of serious scholarly attention.


David Marcombe, 'The Dean and Chapter of Durham, 1558-1603' (Durham University Ph.D., 1973), pp. 372-3.


When the living fell vacant in 1564, Foxe chose William Masters, a fellow exile and then Public Orator of Cambridge University, as the incumbent. Masters resided, and retained the living until his death in 1590.

See T. Freeman's biography of Foxe in this introduction; and

J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (Octagon, 1970), pp. 67-8.


The Duke's intention was apparently honoured by his heir, Philip, Earl of Arundel, in spite of the forfeiture of the Duke's property on his attainder.

J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (Octagon, 1970), p. 84.


Patrick Collinson, Archbishop Grindal, 1519-1583: The Struggle for a Reformed Church (Berkeley: California, 1979), pp. 233-53.


Tom Betteridge, 'From Prophetic to Apocalyptic: John Foxe and the Writing of History', in John Foxe and the English Reformation (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1997), pp. 210-33.


This bull, which was in response to an appeal from the northern Earls in 1569, declared Elizabeth deposed, and all allegiance owed to her null and void. For a contemporary response, see

John Jewel, A View of a Seditious Bull, reprinted in The Works of John Jewel (ed.) John Ayre (4 Vols., Parker Society, 1845-50).


The idea that the history of the visible church is simply an aspect of the cosmic struggle between good and evil had first been mooted by Bale in The Image of Both Churches (?1545). Foxe knew Bale well, and was greatly influenced by him.


Brett Usher, 'Backing Protestantism: The London Godly, The Exchequer and the Foxe Circle', in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999), pp. 105-35.


'All men praise it (the Acts and Monuments) highly, both argument and treatment: but not a few poor men complained of the price … '.

J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (Octagon, 1970), pp 137-8.

Turner was Dean of Wells at the time, and had been canvassing opinion, so Foxe's work had obviously spread well beyond London.


Glyn Parry, 'Elect Church or Elect Nation: the reception of the Acts and Monuments', in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999), pp. 167-81.


The Zurich Letters, (ed.) Hastings Robinson (2 Vols., Parker Society, 1842-5), I, p. 128.


Dialogi Sex contra Summi Pontificatus, Monasticae vitae, Sanctorum Sacrarum imaginum oppugnatores, et Pseudomartyres … Peter Millward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age (Scolar: 1977), no. 86.


E.g. Joan Boucher, for whom not even Foxe tried to claim martyr status. For other examples, see:

Patrick Collinson, 'The Persecution in Kent', in The Church of Mary Tudor, (ed.) E. Duffy and D. Loades (Aldershot: forthcoming).


G. Alexander, 'Bonner and the Marian Persecutions', History, 60, 1975, pp. 374-92.


See T. Freeman's biography of Foxe in this introduction; and

J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (Octagon, 1970), p. 147.


In correspondence with the author, 20th December 2003.


Glyn Parry, 'Elect Church or Elect Nation: the reception of the Acts and Monuments', in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999)


Drakes's last letter to Foxe (although not in his own hand) is BL Harley MS 167, f.104.

Glyn Parry, 'Elect Church or Elect Nation: the reception of the Acts and Monuments', in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999)


Glyn Parry, 'Elect Church or Elect Nation: the reception of the Acts and Monuments', in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999), pp. 172-74.

Simeon also testified to Drake's enthusiasm for Foxe in the 'Old Memoir' in the 1641 edition.


Damian Nussbaum, 'Whitgift's Book of Martyrs: Archbishop Whitgift, Timothy Bright, and the Elizabethan Struggle over John Foxe's legacy' in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective, (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999), pp. 135-53.


Bright, An Abridgement, 2, sig. 8b.


Damian Nussbaum, 'Whitgift's Book of Martyrs: Archbishop Whitgift, Timothy Bright, and the Elizabethan Struggle over John Foxe's legacy' in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective, (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999), p. 140.


The Works of John Whitgift, (ed.) J. Ayre (Parker Society, 1851-3), p. 335.


Acts and Monuments (1563) p. 1053; (1570) p. 1677.


Damian Nussbaum, 'Whitgift's Book of Martyrs: Archbishop Whitgift, Timothy Bright, and the Elizabethan Struggle over John Foxe's legacy' in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective, (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999)


A parte of a register, contayninge sundrie memorable matters, written by divers godly and learned men in our time, which stand for and desire the reformation of our Church in Discipline and Ceremonies accordinge to the pure worde of God, and the Lawe of our Lande (London: 1593).

Peter Millward, Religious Controversies of the Elizabethan Age (Scolar: 1977), no. 110.

The Marprelate Tracts, (ed.) William Pierce, (London: 1911), pp. 81-82.


Cartwrightiana (ed.) Albert Peel and Leland Carlson (London: 1951), p. 29.

C. Cross, The Royal Supremacy in the Elizabethan Church (London: 1969), p. 85.


Nicholas Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism, c.1590-1640 (Oxford: 1987), passim.


Nicholas Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism, c.1590-1640 (Oxford: 1987), passim.

Jacob Arminius came significantly closer to a doctrine of freewill than any of his English followers.


Nicholas Tyacke, Anti-Calvinists: The Rise of English Arminianism, c.1590-1640 (Oxford: 1987), pp. 5-8.


For a discussion of Henrietta Maria and her impact on the English scene, see

C. Carlton, Charles I: the personal monarch (2nd ed., London: 1995)


Damian Nussbaum, 'Appropriating Martyrdom: Fears of Renewed Persecution and the 1632 Edition of the Acts and Monuments', in John Foxe and the English Reformation, (ed) D Loades (Aldershot: 1997), pp. 180-81.


Acts and Monuments (1632), sig. A2b.


George Joye, A present consolacion for the sufferers of Persecution (Antwerp: 1544),

which had presented suffering as an infallible mark of a True Church.


This was just before the impact of Gustavus Adolphus on the Thirty Years War had become apparent.

Damian Nussbaum, 'Whitgift's Book of Martyrs: Archbishop Whitgift, Timothy Bright, and the Elizabethan Struggle over John Foxe's legacy' in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective, (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999)


The Diary of Simonds D'Ewes, 1622-24 (ed.) E. Bourcier (Paris: 1974), p. 130.


Damian Nussbaum, 'Whitgift's Book of Martyrs: Archbishop Whitgift, Timothy Bright, and the Elizabethan Struggle over John Foxe's legacy' in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective, (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999), p. 188.


Damian Nussbaum, 'Whitgift's Book of Martyrs: Archbishop Whitgift, Timothy Bright, and the Elizabethan Struggle over John Foxe's legacy' in John Foxe: An Historical Perspective, (ed.) D. Loades (Aldershot: 1999), pp. 189-90.


On the 'Old Memoir', see

J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (Octagon, 1970), pp. 1-12.


J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and his Book (Octagon, 1970), p. 1.

The original Latin is preserved as BL Lansdowne MS 388.


Eirwen Nicholson, 'Eighteenth Century Foxe: Evidence for the Impact of the Acts and Monuments in the 'Long' Eighteenth Century', in John Foxe and the English Reformation, (ed) D Loades (Aldershot: 1997), pp. 143-78.

This includes an appendix of 61 'Foxe derived' publications issued between 1660 and 1837.