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Susan Royal

The topic of this book is the reception of the lollards among evangelicals and Protestants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 1 The loosely connected groups of late medieval English heretics whom scholars call ‘lollards’ have aroused contentious debate for centuries. Notoriously difficult to define, lollard heresy was, in broad terms, characterised by the rejection of transubstantiation, the orthodox understanding of the Eucharist in which the material of the bread and wine were changed into the body

in Lollards in the English Reformation
History, radicalism, and John Foxe
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This book addresses a perennial question of the English Reformation: to what extent, if any, the late medieval dissenters known as lollards influenced the Protestant Reformation in England. To answer this question, this book looks at the appropriation of the lollards by evangelicals such as William Tyndale, John Bale, and especially John Foxe, and through them by their seventeenth-century successors. Because Foxe included the lollards in his influential tome, Acts and Monuments (1563), he was the most important conduit for their individual stories, including that of John Wyclif (d. 1384), and lollard beliefs and ecclesiology. Foxe’s reorientation of the lollards from heretics and traitors to martyrs and model subjects portrayed them as Protestants’ spiritual forebears. Scholars have argued that to accomplish this, Foxe heavily edited radical lollard views on episcopacy, baptism, preaching, conventicles, tithes, and oaths, either omitting them from his book or moulding them into forms compatible with a magisterial Reformation. This book shows that Foxe in fact made no systematic attempt to downplay radical lollard beliefs, and that much non-mainstream material exists in the text. These views, legitimised by Foxe’s inclusion of them in his book, allowed for later dissenters to appropriate the lollards as historical validation of their theological and ecclesiological positions. The book traces the ensuing struggle for the lollard, and indeed the Foxean, legacy between conformists and nonconformists, arguing that the same lollards that Foxe used to bolster the English church in the sixteenth century would play a role in its fragmentation in the seventeenth.

Susan Royal

Alongside the project to redress the lollards’ reputation for sedition, evangelicals realigned the lollards’ reputation for heresy. Rather than the errant, stubborn, and potentially dangerous deniers of Christ’s earthly vicar and his church, lollards were seen by first- and second-generation evangelicals as innocents who were systematically persecuted by the pope’s clergymen. To them, the fact that the lollards suffered for their beliefs reinforced the validity of their opinions. As numerous scholars have

in Lollards in the English Reformation
Abstract only
Susan Royal

This study has explored the role of the lollards, as shaped by Foxe’s Acts and Monuments , in the course of the long English Reformation. It argues that these medieval witnesses were crucial in helping evangelicals establish the Church of England in the sixteenth century, but that they also played a theological role in its breakdown in the seventeenth. Few scholars have considered the theological legacy of the lollards in the seventeenth century, aside from making correlations between the radical beliefs that the lollards held and those

in Lollards in the English Reformation
Susan Royal

, jumped from the pages of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments . Indeed, as a preacher himself, Foxe felt passionately about the need for a substantial preaching ministry. The lollards maintained a strong preaching tradition (with numerous sermons extant today), extending from Wyclif’s own emphasis on the open promulgation of God’s word. 8 An inflection point in what Foxe saw as the struggle for reform was the church’s repression of the lollards, manifest in the De heretico comburendo statute and in Arundel’s Constitutions . The latter, written in 1407 and issued in 1409 as

in Lollards in the English Reformation
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Susan Royal

differ on the interpretation of baptism, all Protestant confessions upheld these two rites as sacraments. Foxe, then, would have identified as precursors to his own movement the medieval critiques of sacramental theology. Every one of the seven traditional sacraments of the medieval church was called into question or even rejected wholesale by some lollards. Most lollards viewed the sacraments as being under the direct control of a corrupt clerical hierarchy, laden with unnecessary ceremony, and/or a means for priests to obtain money from lay

in Lollards in the English Reformation
Abstract only
Susan Royal

medieval witnesses were incorporated into nonconformists’ arguments for historical legitimacy. In fact, the appeal to medieval examples of godliness was made by both nonconformists and conformists, often to prove mutually exclusive truth claims, throughout the Reformation era. Among the earliest calls for reform were those of evangelicals William Tyndale and John Bale, whose tracts invoked medieval English dissenters called lollards to prove the historical longevity of their movement’s ideas. The lollards were significant because they

in Lollards in the English Reformation
Susan Royal

In early August 1407, the lollard preacher William Thorpe defended his views on tithes to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel. Thorpe explained to the archbishop that the mandatory payment of one-tenth of a community’s produce was a commandment of the Old Law for the Levitical priesthood, a commandment superseded by the New Law of Christ. 1 He, like most early lollards, upheld that Christ and his apostles had been nourished by pure alms, not by regular compulsory payments. 2 We remember that his story was

in Lollards in the English Reformation
Susan Royal

Since the time of Wyclif, the lollards had been associated with the subversion of the natural order of the commonwealth. Wyclif’s teachings that lords might take away the church’s temporal possessions and that the laity could lawfully rebuke their ecclesiastical ministers, including the pope, were sufficient for contemporary chroniclers of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 to attribute the rebellion to Wyclif’s instigation. 1 A further link to civil disorder was more direct: Oldcastle’s rebellion in 1414, which saw

in Lollards in the English Reformation