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which the canons of the Wrst general councils allowed to every national
church in Christendom™.À• Nevertheless, Warner recalled that Peter™s
Pence had Wrst been agreed to by King OVa at the Synod of Calcuith.À’
There was also the vexing matter of the pall which Gregory had gifted
to Augustine on the successful completion of his mission. The pall, or
pallium, is a circular band of white wool granted to archbishops by the
pope which they wear over their shoulders as a sign of their communion
with Rome. However, in the early modern era, there was a major debate,
spilling over from the Gallican writings of Pierre de Marca (1594“1662),
who ended his controversial career as Archbishop of Paris, as to whether
the pall constituted a mark of subjection or merely a token of esteem.À“
According to Smith, ˜the Bishop of Rome never sent a pall to the British
archbishops, and the Wrst who wore that badge of subjection was St
Augustine the Wrst Archbishop of Canterbury™.À“
However, one should not exaggerate the degree of anti-Saxonism.
Hostility to the Saxons was never vociferous or universal. It is widely
acknowledged among scholars that the study of Old English was ˜begun
for purposes of religious polemic™. Richard Vann has stressed that Saxon
history remained, in spite of its blemishes, a crucial arena for ecclesiastical
debate. Although the Augustinian conversion of the Kentish Jutes was
˜commonly held to have commenced the subversion of the English
church™, England™s Protestant antiquarians could not simply ignore their
Anglo-Saxon heritage. The history of the ancient Britons may not have
been contaminated by Romish inXuences, but as a storehouse of reliable
ÀÀ Roger Twysden, Historical vindication of the Church of England in point of schism as it stands
separated from the Roman and was reformed I Elizabeth (London, 1657), pp. 4“5.
ÀÃ George Smith, Britons and Saxons not converted to Popery, pp. 442“3.
À• Warner, Ecclesiastical history, I, p. 149. À’ Ibid., I, p. 157.
À“ Collier, Ecclesiastical history, I, pp. 159“64.
À“ George Smith, Britons and Saxons not converted to Popery, pp. 295“6; Inett, Origines
Anglicanae, I, p. 26; Carte, General history, I, p. 223.
Britons, Saxons and Anglican quest for legitimacy 107

sources and concrete examples to supply the detail necessary for ecclesi-
astical polemic it was deWcient. The ancient British past was vague and
sketchy. On the other hand, according to Vann, ˜there were too many
Anglo-Saxon precedents handy in a situation where good precedents
were uncommon™. Thus the Saxon phase of English church history came
to play a more signiWcant role in its identity than was warranted by
confessional correctness. In spite of its deWciencies, the Anglo-Saxon past
came to act as ˜a witness for Protestantism™.À”
From before about 1540 the Anglo-Saxon past had been plundered by
apologists of the reformed Church of England. However, ecclesiastical
Saxonism had come into its own under the research project directed by
Archbishop Matthew Parker in the Wrst half of Elizabeth™s reign. Parker™s
team, which included his secretary John Joscelyn (1529“1603), showed
that the Church of England of the Saxon era had yet to succumb to
several of the major anti-Christian corruptions which had disWgured the
unreformed church. The Scriptures and services remained in the ver-
nacular, and the clergy had not been bound to celibacy. Parker also
argued that transubstantiation was a relatively novel doctrine unknown in
Anglo-Saxon England. For example, Parker™s acolytes promoted Aelfric,
an eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon abbot, as a proto-Protestant, publish-
ing his writings in 1566, as evidence for the Protestant doctrine of the
historic ecclesia anglicana under the title A testimonie of antiquitie, shewing
the auncient fayth in the church of England touching the sacrament of the body
and bloude of the Lord here publickley preached, and also receaued in the
Saxons tyme, above 600 yeares agoe.û
In the seventeenth century Anglican scholars continued to hold up the
Saxon church as a standard against which to measure the anti-Christian
corruptions and ecclesiastical tyranny which had followed the Norman
Conquest. William L™Isle (1579?“1637) argued in A Saxon treatise con-
cerning the Old and New Testament (1623) that in the Saxon era the
Scriptures had been in the vernacular.æ The leaders of the reformed
Church of England were keenly aware of the ecclesiastical utility of
Saxonist scholarship. Sir Henry Spelman established the Wrst Anglo-
Saxon lectureship at Cambridge in 1638 for the study of ˜domestic
À” R. Tuve, ˜Ancients, moderns, and Saxons™, Journal of English Literary History 6 (1939),
165, 167“8; Vann, ˜Free Anglo-Saxons™, 262; E. N. Adams, Old English scholarship in
England from 1566 to 1800 (New Haven, 1917), p. 11; J. A. W. Bennett, ˜The history of
Old English, and Old Norse studies in England from the time of Francis Junius till the
end of the eighteenth century™ (University of Oxford DPhil. thesis, 1938), pp. 3“4; J.
Levine, Humanism and history (Ithaca and London, 1987), p. 177; J. P. Kenyon, The
history men (1983: 2nd edn, London, 1993), p. 15.
û T. D. Kendrick, British antiquity (London, 1950), p. 115; Tuve, ˜Ancients, moderns, and
Saxons™, 166; Adams, Old English scholarship, ch. 1.
æ Tuve, ˜Ancients, moderns, and Saxons™, 169“70.
108 The three kingdoms

antiquities touching our church and reviving the Saxon tongue™.à At
Oxford, the Queen™s College circle of Saxonists which Xourished in the
later seventeenth century included some rising clerics: Edmund Gibson,
later Bishop of London, who produced an edition of the Anglo-Saxon
chronicle in 1692, Edward Thwaites and William Nicolson, later Bishop
of Carlisle.ÃÀ The anti-Catholic fears provoked by the reign of James II
generated such works as No antiquity for transubstantiation, plainly proved
from the judgment of the most learned men that lived in time of the Saxons
(1688). Writing in 1697, Gibson encouraged Thwaites to forage for
˜undeniable evidence to all posterity, that the belief of our Papists at this
day is a very diVerent thing from that of our Saxon ancestors™.ÃÃ Jeremy
Collier (1650“1726) contended that, because the eleventh-century
Saxon clergy appeared to know no grammar (that is, Latin), the church
service must have been in the English vernacular, conformable, of course,
to later Protestant practice.Õ George Hickes, another of the Oxford
Saxonists, contended that research into the Saxon past would ˜show the
faith and other chief doctrines of the Anglo-Saxon church to be the same
with ours and perfectly answer that never ending question: what was your
church before Luther?™Ã’
Nevertheless, in spite of this high proWle, a question mark hovered over
the character of the Anglo-Saxon church. The Saxon phase of church
history lacked the unimpeachably non-Roman and ˜Protestant™ qualities
of the previous epoch. Even the Saxonist No antiquity for transubstantiation
equivocated:
But what was the condition and state of the church, when Aelfric himself lived?
Indeed, to confess the truth it was in divers points of religion full of blindness and
ignorance: full of childish servitude to ceremonies, as it was long before and after:
and too much given to the love of monkery, which now at this time took root, and
grew excessively.Ó

Thus, although the Saxon past remained a vital theatre in the war of
words with the forces of Catholicism, it had less strategic importance than
à Quoted Kenyon, History men, p. 15; Parry, Trophies of time, ch. 6.
ÃÀ D. Fairer, ˜Anglo-Saxon studies™, in L. S. Sutherland and L. G. Mitchell (eds.), The
history of the University of Oxford, vol. V, The eighteenth century (Oxford, 1986),
pp. 807“29; F. G. James, North country bishop: a biography of William Nicolson (New
Haven and London, 1956), ch. 4. ÃÃ Quoted in Fairer, ˜Anglo-Saxon studies™, p.
808.
Õ Collier, Ecclesiastical history, I, p. xvi.
Ã’ George Hickes to the Bishop of Bristol, May 22, 1714, quoted in Levine, Humanism and
history, p. 95. See Fairer, ˜Anglo-Saxon studies™, pp. 821“2, for the value of the Saxonist
Anglicanism of Elizabeth Elstob.
Ó No antiquity for transubstantiation, plainly proved from the judgment of the most learned men
that lived in time of the Saxons (London, 1688), ˜Preface™, p. xii.
Britons, Saxons and Anglican quest for legitimacy 109

the ancient British era. According to the champions of the Church of
England, in Hugh Trevor-Roper™s telling depiction of the scholarly con-
sensus as it stood in the early seventeenth century, ˜it was this sound
native British Christianity, not the imported Roman kickshaws of St
Augustine of Canterbury, which had supplied the real substance of the
Anglo-Saxon church™.Ó


The signiWcance of the British church
Why were the ethnic and historical associations of the Church of England
so incongruent with the Gothic identity of the English political nation?
Why was the English clerisy so committed to the history of the ancient
British church, to a phase of church history which was out of step with the
political history of English liberty? How could historians reconcile split
ethnic loyalties with such remarkable equanimity?
There were a number of compelling reasons for Anglicans to retain,
even to embellish, their connection with the ancient Britons. Most press-
ing of all was the need to meet the challenge of Roman Catholic criticism.
The legitimacy of the Church of England was threatened by Roman
charges of novelty and schism, and by the argument that the ecclesia
anglicana was part of the proper jurisdiction of the pope. The debate
between Rome and the Church of England was as much historical as
theological. Most famously, Cardinal Baronius (1538“1607), author of
the Annales ecclesiastici (1588“1607) which traced the history of the
church universal from its beginnings to 1198, put historical research at
the forefront of Counter-Reformation apologetic.
Baronius touched upon the experience of England, but there was
already an emergent Catholic interpretation of English history which
would Xower throughout the seventeenth century in the works of Robert
Parsons (1546“1610), the Jesuit author of A treatise of three conversions
(1603); Richard Broughton (d. 1634), who wrote various works of ec-
clesiastical history; the Jesuit historian Michael Alford (1587“1652); and
Hugh ˜Serenus™ Cressy (1605“74), an Anglican convert to Catholicism
who took the monastic name of Serenus on his admission into the
Benedictine order. In 1662 the Historia anglicana ecclesiastica of the six-
teenth-century Catholic Nicholas HarpsWeld (1519?“75) at last found its
way into print. Among non-English scholars, Emanuel Schelstrate
(1648/9“92), one of the successors of Baronius as prefect of the Vatican
Library, devoted a particular treatise to refuting the autonomy of the
Church of England. Into the eighteenth century Anglicans faced the
Ó H. Trevor-Roper, ˜James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh™, in Trevor-Roper, Catholics,
Anglicans and Puritans (London, 1987), p. 128.
110 The three kingdoms

continuing challenge of Hugh Tootel (1672“1743), who wrote The
church history of England (1737) under both a false Brussels imprint and
the pseudonym of Charles Dodd.Ô
The whole history of England, including the British era, was of service
to Catholic antiquaries keen to elaborate an anti-Protestant interpreta-
tion of the origins and nature of the Church of England. Catholics argued
from history that Catholicism or at least subjection to the papacy had
been an essential part of the spiritual pillar of England™s historic constitu-
tion since its Wrst conversion, which had been accomplished by agents of
the papacy. Parsons™s Treatise of three conversions provided threefold insur-
ance for a Roman interpretation of the origins of the Church of England.
First, there had been a direct apostolic conversion of the Britons by St
Peter; then King Lucius™s correspondence with Pope Eleutherius had
gained the Catholic church the beneWts of establishment within Britain;
and thirdly there was the Augustinian mission to the Saxons under the
authority of Pope Gregory. Broughton also exploited the British past,
arguing that St Peter had ˜ordered, and settled one British church with
such perfection™; in addition, he deployed the Glastonbury legend to
support his claim that there had been a pre-Benedictine primitive monas-
ticism in England. Continental polemicists saw the value of the British
period to the Roman case. Schelstrate contended that the British church,
being subordinate to Rome, had received papal legates.•»
Despite the importance to Romanists of the primitive era, their aware-
ness that the Anglo-Saxons constituted the historic core of the English
nation suggested the Augustinian mission to the Saxons of Kent “ Par-
sons™s third conversion “ as the likely location for the establishment of an
invasive bridgehead into Anglican apologetic. In 1565 the Catholic con-
troversialist Thomas Stapleton had produced an edition of Bede™s History
of the English church and people (731) which denied any aYnity between
the Anglo-Saxon church and the innovations of modern Protestantism.
Stapleton claimed that the Augustinian conversion sponsored by Rome
Ô Robert Parsons, A treatise of three conversions (n.p., 1603); Richard Broughton, The
ecclesiastical historie of Great Britaine (Douai, 1633); Broughton, A true memorial of the
ancient, most holy, and religious state of Great Britain (n.p., 1650); Hugh Cressy, The church
history of Britanny from the beginnings of Christianity to the Norman Conquest (Rouen, 1688);
Emanuel a Schelstrate, A dissertation concerning the patriarchal and metropolitical authority
(1687: transln, London, 1688); Charles Dodd [Hugh Tootel], The church history of
England, from the year 1500, to the year 1688 . . . To which is preWxed, a general history of
ecclesiastical aVairs under the British, Saxon, and Norman periods, vol. I (Brussels [Sher-
borne], 1737); J. H. Preston, ˜English ecclesiastical histories and the problem of bias:
1559“1742™, JHI 32 (1971), 214“15; D. Woolf, The idea of history in early Stuart England
(Toronto, 1990), pp. 38“44.
•» Parsons, Three conversions; Champion, Pillars of priestcraft, p. 57; Broughton, True memor-
ial, p. 9, and ch. 2 for monasticism; Schelstrate, Dissertation, chs. 1 and 6, esp. p. 101;
P. Milward, Religious controversies of the Jacobean age (London, 1978), pp. 76“82, 201“3.
Britons, Saxons and Anglican quest for legitimacy 111

constituted the establishment of the Church of England.•¦ Published in
further Jesuit editions of 1622 and 1626, Bede seems to have been
strongly ˜tarred with the papist brush™.•  John Bossy has also identiWed
another possible link between Saxonism and Catholicism, arguing, with
some plausibility, that Verstegan™s attempts to show Englishmen that the
Britons were not their real ancestors may have been founded on the need
to dissociate Englishness from the legendary Protestantism of the ancient
British church.•À
The British church was emotively bound up with the identity of the
Church of England from the very start. The scheme of apocalyptic
reasoning inherited from the sixteenth century oVered good grounds for
identifying the ecclesia anglicana more closely with the ancient Britons
than with the English proper. Major reservations have been expressed
about the notion of England as the ˜elect nation™. Recently scholars have
argued that Foxe™s interpretation of history involved ˜a struggle of the
elect everywhere “ and not just in England “ against the Popish Anti-
christ™.•Ã Nevertheless, the ancient British church was an important el-
ement of sixteenth-century English religious polemic (and not only be-
cause of the need to establish a pre-Augustinian non-Roman pedigree for
English Protestantism). The contours of the church™s history of corrup-
tion and reformation, a story of primitive purity, of gradual decay and of
the eventual reign of the full-blown popish Antichrist, broadly coincided
with the main ethnic phases and political vicissitudes in the history of
England “ the era of the Britons, the establishment of the Saxons and the
Norman Conquest. The Normans were linked to the introduction of the
worst betrayals of the primitive Christian ideal, but the seeds of the
authoritarian Hildebrandine papacy which Xourished to the detriment of
true religion in the high middle ages had been sown with the pretensions
of the Gregorian papacy. The apocalyptic historians who emerged during
the English Reformation divided the history of the Christian church into
Wve phases of roughly three hundred years each. The Wrst three hundred
constituted a time of struggle for the primitive church, while the second

•¦ F. Brownlow, ˜George Herbert™s ˜˜The British Church™™ and the idea of a national
church™, in V. Newey and A. Thompson (eds.), Literature and nationalism (Liverpool,
1991), p. 115; K. Thomas, Religion and the decline of magic (1971: Harmondsworth,
1978), p. 508; Kenyon, History men, p. 6; Levy, Tudor historical thought, pp. 110“11.
•  Kenyon, History men, p. 6.
•À J. Bossy, ˜Catholicity and nationality in the northern Counter-Reformation™, in S. Mews
(ed.), Religion and national identity (Studies in church history 18, Oxford, 1982),
pp. 291“3.
•Ã Levy, Tudor historical thought, p. 98; J. P. Sommerville, Politics and ideology in England
1603“1640 (London, 1986), p. 78; A. Fletcher, ˜The Wrst century of English Protestant-
ism and the growth of national identity™, in Mews, Religion and national identity,
pp. 309“10.
112 The three kingdoms

saw the church in a Xourishing condition. From around 600 the corrup-
tion began, an era which coincided with the coming of Augustine to
Saxon England (though Foxe was much more sympathetic to Saxons
such as King Alfred than he was to the Normans who followed). Although
AD 1000 was the year of the Antichrist, a date suYciently close to 1066 to
permit some identiWcation of ecclesiastical corruption with the Norman
Conquest, the process had nevertheless begun long before.•• Much as the

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