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date: 27 November 2022

Martyrdom in Early Modern Englandlocked

Martyrdom in Early Modern Englandlocked

  • Shanyn AltmanShanyn AltmanSussex University

Summary

At the advent of England’s Reformation, the monarch assumed sovereignty over the English Church. This created an established state church, which was designed to counter the papacy’s assertion of supremacy. In doing so, the English Church more emphatically linked itself to the monarchy’s temporal control and its attendant realpolitik than was the case with the Pope’s authority over Roman Catholic territories, barring the small Papal States. For those in England who remained faithful to Roman Catholicism, this created an environment where some Protestants took “popery” to be akin to sedition. Whereas during Mary I’s regime, where the English Church was back under papal authority and martyrs died under heresy statutes rather than treason statutes, it was held under Protestant regimes that to act against the English Church was to act against the English state. Given the wide sway of perspectives within English Protestantism from Presbyterianism to Arminianism, as well as the old faith’s continuing appeal among many, English subjects were confronted with competing notions of what it meant to be a good Christian and, consequently, conflicting views about who qualified as a Christian martyr and what precisely Christian martyrdom involved. Martyrologies and other discourses on martyrdom were powerful tools for defining true religion and influencing the behavior of religious adherents, even if the popular representation of the martyr-figure that arises from these works did not necessarily reflect all of the views on martyrdom held by Catholics and Protestants in contemporary society.

Subjects

  • British and Irish Literatures
  • Middle Ages and Renaissance (500-1600)
  • Enlightenment and Early Modern (1600-1800)

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