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Author: Alec Ryrie

This book is about one of the most extraordinary national transformations in European history. During 1559 and 1560, the kingdom of Scotland experienced what was arguably the first modern revolution. The book aims to present a new synthesis of ideas on the origins of the Scottish Reformation, building on the recent scholarship but also suggesting some new directions. It asks not only why the Scottish Reformation took place, but why this Reformation took place, rather than one of the many other 'Reformations' - and, indeed, counter-Reformations - that seemed possible in sixteenth-century Scotland. It tries to reconnect religion and politics, and to trace their interaction. In particular, it emphasises how acts or threats of violence drove political processes and shaped religious culture. Violence isolated moderates and aggravated division. Sometimes it discredited those who applied it. Equally often, it managed to destroy its targets, and those who refused to use violence were outmanoeuvred. As such this is a tale of few villains and fewer heroes. The book also tries to place the Scottish Reformation on the wider stage of the European Reformation. Despite the nationalism of the traditional accounts, and of much Scottish history in general, the Reformation's natural stage was all Europe. The Scottish Reformation can be illuminated by international comparisons, and it was itself an international phenomenon. Religious developments in England and France, in particular, were a decisive influence on Scottish events.

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Alec Ryrie

Introduction Introduction T his book is about one of the most extraordinary national transformations in European history. During 1559 and 1560, the kingdom of Scotland experienced what was arguably the first modern revolution. The turmoil was sparked by religious conflict, but its impact was far wider. Scotland’s political culture, social structure and international position were all profoundly affected by these events. Like most revolutions, the Scottish Reformation was chaotic and unpredictable, in its course and in its consequences. It began unexpectedly: an

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
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The Scottish revolution?
Alec Ryrie

The origins of the Scottish Reformation Conclusion: the Scottish Revolution? The Scottish Reformation was a long time coming, but when it came it came dramatically. In early 1559 Protestants were an outlawed minority in a Catholic and pro-French state. In less than eighteen months, they won a civil war, created a new Protestant and pro-English establishment, and outlawed the practice of Catholicism in turn. The speed and decisiveness of these events were bewildering to those who lived through them, and they are scarcely less so for historians. Traditional

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
Alec Ryrie

The origins of the Scottish Reformation Chapter 4 –: imperial Reformation THE ROUGH WOOINGS A s the young Mary, Queen of Scots reached her first birthday in December 1543, it was becoming clear that she was likely to live. She had survived a bout of smallpox in August; Ralph Sadler saw her later in the summer, and declared that ‘she is a right fair and goodly child, as any that I have seen, for her age’.1 The question of whom she might eventually marry was becoming more urgent. The English regime of Henry VIII still favoured pledging her to her cousin

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
Alec Ryrie

The origins of the Scottish Reformation Chapter 1 A ‘corrupt’ Church? ‘CORRUPTION’ AND ITS IMPORTANCE A fter 1560, when Roman Catholics looked back on the disaster that had engulfed their Church in Scotland, they knew who to blame. There was the greed of the nobles, the lassitude of the common people and – of course – the depravity of the Protestants. Above all, however, they blamed themselves. Lord Herries, who had repented of his own former Protestantism, described the years before the crisis in a tone of lamentation: It is certain that in these days the

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
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The Reformation under James V
Alec Ryrie

countries’ while boasting that Scotland had ‘never as yet admitted any opinions contrary the Christian faith’. Those bringing heretical books into any Scottish port were to have their ships seized. The act was to be proclaimed in the ports, but – perhaps more importantly – it was also sent to Rome, where 29 TOOC02 29 29 29/3/06, 2:33 PM The origins of the Scottish Reformation a few months later Pope Clement VII was commending the Scots’ zeal for orthodoxy.1 Even in 1525, however, the regime saw the Lutheran threat as more than theoretical. The royal letter notifying

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
Alec Ryrie

English stooges? How were the English, who had lost an internationalised war in Scotland in the 1540s, able to win one ten years later? And how did the war affect the religious life of Scottish parishes? The rebellion itself may be thought of as a drama in three acts.1 In Perth, on 11 May 1559, following a sermon by John Knox, there was an iconoclastic 161 TOOC08 161 161 29/3/06, 2:27 PM The origins of the Scottish Reformation riot. The town’s churches and monasteries were stripped of the paraphernalia of Catholic worship and taken over for Reformed usage. Mary of

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
Alec Ryrie

the Catholic faith, and seem almost extinguished.1 We know, of course, that this confidence was premature, and that a few years later, the heretical infection would break out more virulently than before. Traditional, Protestant histories of the Scottish Reformation would argue that the apparent peace of the 1550s was deceptive. On this view, Protestantism was silently coalescing from simple reading-groups into formally organised ‘privy kirks’: a network of underground Protestant churches, waiting fully formed in the parishes and preparing for government.2 This

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
Alec Ryrie

ambitious, reforming synods whose legislation was aimed at the suppression of heresy.2 They are the high points of a reform programme which was wider in its ambitions and more consistent in its methods than has usually been recognised. 95 TOOC05 95 95 29/3/06, 2:31 PM The origins of the Scottish Reformation In 1559 Hamilton’s reform programme was overtaken by events, as the Protestant movement which seemed to have been suppressed reappeared in open rebellion. Some of the leading Catholic reformers joined the rebels. The reform effort’s failure is commonly ascribed

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation
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Alec Ryrie

to modern eyes, we should not dismiss James V’s concerns so lightly. In a patriarchal, patrilinear monarchy, the difficulties confronting a ruling queen were formidable. The problem 53 TOOC03 53 53 29/3/06, 2:32 PM The origins of the Scottish Reformation was not her immediate authority. Queens regnant, and female regents, were frequently able to wield real power in early modern Europe. The difficulty lay in those sinews of monarchy, marriage and succession. The intractability of these problems for queens regnant is neatly demonstrated by the various solutions

in The origins of the Scottish Reformation