Saturday, June 9, 2012

June 09, 2012

The Marian Persecutions

So, was she? Bloody? Mary I of England, daughter of the infamous Henry VIII, has certainly garnered a bad reputation. While in the 21st century we might be tempted to chalk that up to propaganda of the day, Protestants of the era --- and we their descendants --- cannot find much to admire. That is because of the Marian persecutions. Mary’s brother Edward VI was a Protestant; during his reign, Protestantism was encouraged in England, and many took up the five solas of the Reformation like a banner. (“Grace alone,” “faith alone,” “in Christ alone,” “Scripture alone,” and “for the glory of God alone.”) Yet after Edward’s death, Mary I, his elder half sister, did everything in her power to return England to its former Catholic state.

Mary I was a zealot who believed that the only way to nurture peace in England and to restore God’s favor was to burn Protestant believers. It is believed that the martyrs were burned instead of hanged, drawn, and quartered, as was the standard practice, because stake-burning was the norm in Spain. Mary was briefly married to Spanish king Philip II. As was often the case, Protestant ministers, those who taught the faith, were the first to die. Mary I’s “reign of terror” produced about three hundred Protestant martyrs. While some might argue that that is not such a “great number” compared to those killed in other persecutions, even one person suffering and dying unjustly at the hands of a tyrant is unacceptable. 

To pick a random Protestant believer killed during the Marian Persecutions of the 1550s, Joan Trunchfield died February 19th, 1556. She was known, along with others, as the Ipswich Martyr. She was married to a middle-class laborer. Like many men and women imprisoned for their Protestant faith, she endured horrid imprisonments. She was sentenced to burn at the stake, and it is said that she managed a surreal amount of fortitude and even sympathy toward her fellow martyrs, proving herself an example of steadfastness and faith.

That is only one. In the 1550s, England, a country that would soon become known as a Protestant nation, would soon assist the French Huguenots by opening their gates to these much-beleaguered believers, and would soon become known as the starting point for America’s founders --- the Puritans --- was overshadowed by an all-encompassing cloud of smoke that issued from Mary I’s burnings. If she hoped to stamp out Protestantism, she only succeeded in strengthening resolves and cementing convictions.

Mary I died in 1558. Elizabeth I, who held at least some Protestant tendencies and would gradually lead her country in that direction, became queen. The English Protestants’ suffering was over.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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