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reformers stimulated the development of Anglo-Saxon studies, the
ancient British church alone had an untarnished record. The Anglo-
Saxon church, though certainly lauded by comparison with the clear
degeneration of the church under the Normans, was not without blemish.
Bale located the origins of an English priestcraft with the mission of
Augustine introduction of noxious practices.•’ Foxe™s Acts and monuments
told the history of two churches, the true church and a false church which
had appropriated the institutional structures of the former to mount a
plausible facade of veracity. The British church was indisputably a na-
tional manifestation of the true church universal: the Saxon church, by
contrast, upheld the truth, but had also, from the time of Augustine™s
mission, carried the virus of falsehood. In addition, Foxe convicted the
idolatrous Saxons of responsibility for some of the worst persecutions
inXicted upon the noble British Christians, including that which followed
the coming of Hengist and the pogrom which had prompted the Xight of
the Britons to Wales.•“
From the early seventeenth century the intellectual and political
leaders of Anglicanism “ Bancroft, Andrewes, Overall and Laud “ entered
into a deep love aVair with the pristine church of the early Fathers and
Councils. The Huguenot scholar Isaac Casaubon was brought to Eng-
land under the auspices of James I to construct a patristic alternative to
Baronius.•“ After Casaubon™s death in 1614 Ussher carried the torch of
Anglican apologetic. According to John Spurr, the achievements of the
•• Levy, Tudor historical thought, pp. 99“102; Vann, ˜Free Anglo-Saxons™, 261“2; J. Facey,
˜John Foxe and the defence of the English church™, in P. Lake and M. Dowling (eds.),
Protestantism and the national church in sixteenth-century England (London, 1987), pp. 162,
164“5, 180“1 (as Facey points out, the phases were not exact; see e.g. the ambivalent
place of the orthodox but declining Anglo-Saxon church of the third phase, though the
key era of corruption was the eleventh century; see A. Milton, ˜The Church of England,
Rome and the true church: the demise of a Jacobean consensus™, in Fincham, The early
Stuart church, p. 195; Milton, Catholic and Reformed, p. 286).
•’ Levy, Tudor historical thought, p. 91.
•“ Foxe, Acts and monuments, I, pt II, pp. 313, 321“3, 327“8; Levy, Tudor historical thought,
p. 94.
•“ B. Wormald, Clarendon (1951: Cambridge, 1989), p. 246; Trevor-Roper, ˜Ussher™,
p. 134; G. V. Bennett, ˜Patristic tradition in Anglican thought, 1660“1900™, in Oecu-
menica (Gotersloh, 1972); Sharpe, Cotton, pp. 87“8; Milton, Catholic and Reformed, p.
`
273.
Britons, Saxons and Anglican quest for legitimacy 113

seventeenth-century patristic tradition ˜count among the great jewels of
English scholarship™.•” However, its reliance on patristic support opened
the Church of England to further attack from Rome since the papacy
derived much of its polemical ammunition and self-conWdence from the
early history and traditions of the church. In his Concilia (1639), which
dwelt largely on the institutional history of the Saxon church before 1066,
Spelman nevertheless chose to emphasise the British origins of English
Christianity and to downplay the foundational role of Augustine™s
mission to the Saxons of Kent.’» As the Concilia was part of a Laudian
project which appeared suspiciously soft on popery, it was vital for
Spelman to emphasise the non-Roman origins of the church. The history
of ancient Britain in the Wrst four centuries lent powerful local support for
the Anglican patristic case. Indeed, they were mutually reinforcing. The
universal patristic case and the special ˜patristic™ evidence drawn from the
ancient British church provided a dual legitimation for Anglican practice.
Furthermore, the history of the British church assumed the status of
England™s ancient ecclesiastical constitution.
In his sensitive study of seventeenth-century English antiquarianism,
Graham Parry notes that an unbalanced emphasis upon the ancient
British Christians to the exclusion of the Augustinian mission was ˜the
standard, indeed, the necessary, Anglican position™.’¦ Ancient British
origins proved necessary to sustain any argument for the institution of the
Church of England as an apostolic and primitive church. An ancient
ecclesiastical constitution which dated only from the post-patristic era of
the Anglo-Saxons conferred much less prestige on the Church of Eng-
land, and might possibly have conceded too much ground to Roman
Catholic scholars who questioned the claim of a historic autocephalous
church in England. Anglicans justiWed their doctrine and worship in
terms of a balance of Scripture, right reason and the best and purest
tradition of the church. The construction of the last pillar rested not only
upon patristic scholarship, but was also founded on indigenous ecclesias-
tical history. For the history of the ancient British church embodied the
best and purest traditions of Christianity. As Frank Brownlow has ar-
gued, when seventeenth-century Anglicans spoke of adhering to the
standards of the primitive church of the Wrst four centuries ˜they had in
mind a real historical entity, once actually represented in Britain™.’ 
Whereas it seemed folly to concentrate one™s resources on the marshy
•” J. Spurr, The Restoration Church of England, 1646“1689 (New Haven and London, 1991),
p. 158; E. DuVy, ˜Primitive Christianity revived: religious renewal in Augustan England™,
in D. Baker (ed.), Renaissance and renewal in Christian history (Studies in church history
14, Oxford, 1977).
’» Henry Spelman, Concilia (London, 1639); Parry, Trophies of time, pp. 169“71.
’¦ Parry, Trophies of time, p. 185. ’  Brownlow, ˜Herbert™s ˜˜British Church™™™, p. 115.
114 The three kingdoms

debatable lands of the Saxon era, the ancient British past provided
promising terrain upon which to construct a Protestant apologetic. First
of all, however, Anglicans needed to contest Catholic attempts to appro-
priate the British era for Rome. There were, after all, some stains on the
Protestant character of the ancient British church. The champions of the
Church of England easily disposed of the legend of a direct Petrine
conversion of the Britons, noting its unreliable source in the work of
Simeon Metaphrastes.’À As far as Anglicans were concerned, the only
major problem with the British era “ barring embarrassment over Pelag-
ianism “ was the legend of King Lucius, a second-century king of the
Britons, who had supposedly sent to Pope Eleutherius for religious in-
struction.’Ã Easier to rebut was the charge that monasticism, according to
Romanist polemic, enjoyed a quasi-apostolic foundation in Britain
through Joseph of Arimathea™s establishment at Glastonbury.’• Stilling-
Xeet argued that the Arimathea legend was ˜an invention of the monks of
Glastonbury to serve their interests, by advancing the reputation of their
monastery™.’’ The evidences of the Glastonbury legend, concluded Col-
lier, ˜look untowardly when brought to the test, and do not shine at all
upon the touchstone™, and even his usual whiggish opponent, John Old-
mixon, agreed, adding that monasticism was ˜a way of life unknown to the
apostles and primitive Christians™.’“
Evidence of continuity from the Wrst centuries of primitive Christianity
constituted one of the most compelling notae ecclesiae, a canon of distin-
guishing marks carried by the ˜true church™. The leading Counter-Refor-
mation ecclesiologist Cardinal Robert Bellarmine set out Wfteen evi-
dences, or notae, which proved the Roman Catholic Church to be the true
church. The Wrst lay in universality and the use of the very term ˜Cath-
olic™. However, the second distinguishing feature was antiquity: the true
church precedes the false as God had preceded the Devil. Uninterrupted
duration was the third of the Wfteen notae.’“ The Church of Rome, of
course, had a formidable claim to such an ancient, apostolic and uninter-
rupted pedigree. It was therefore necessary for Protestant churches such
as the Church of England both to question the authenticity of the Roman

’À Champion, Pillars of priestcraft, p. 56; StillingXeet, Origines Britannicae, p. 45.
’Ã Bede, English church and people, bk I, ch. 4, p. 42; Kendrick, British antiquity, pp. 110,
112“13; Levy, Tudor historical thought, pp. 90“1; Milton, Catholic and Reformed, p. 277 n.;
Williams, ˜Protestant views™, 229“30; Woolf, Idea of history, pp. 42, 44; Champion, Pillars
of priestcraft, pp. 58“61. See e.g. StillingXeet, Origines Britannicae, pp. 58“69; George
Smith, Britons and Saxons not converted to Popery, pp. 274“5, 280“1.
’• Kendrick, British antiquity, p. 112. ’’ StillingXeet, Origines Britannicae, p. 6.
’“ Collier, Ecclesiastical history, I, p. 23; John Oldmixon, The critical history of England,
ecclesiastical and civil (2 vols., London, 1724“6), I, pp. 61, 80“1.
’“ W. Rex, Essays on Pierre Bayle and religious controversy (The Hague, 1965), ch. 1,
˜Antiquity™, p. 8; Milton, Catholic and Reformed, p. 131; Spurr, Restoration Church of
England, p. 91.
Britons, Saxons and Anglican quest for legitimacy 115

claim to continuity “ did it, for instance, take account of corruptions and
innovations in Roman practice? “ and to concoct such a provenance for
their own brand of Christianity which superWcially appeared to be only a
sixteenth-century innovation. Antiquity constituted a compelling bench-
mark of legitimacy. ˜I cannot but hold truth more ancient than error™,
wrote Twysden, ˜everything to be Wrmest upon its own bottom, and all
novelties to be best confuted by showing how far they cause it to deviate
from the Wrst original.™’” Thomas Fuller (1608“61), who would later
produce a Church history of Britain, published an illuminating essay in
1642 on the subject of ˜The true church-antiquary™. This set out contem-
porary expectations of the role of the Anglican scholar and reveals the
ways in which the study of primitive antiquities in the ancient British era
underpinned the wider enterprise of the reformed Church of England.
The true church-antiquary, wrote Fuller, ˜baits at middle antiquity, but
lodges not till he comes at that which is ancient indeed™. If one scratched
the surface of antiquity, one might plausibly become convinced of pop-
ery, but deeper probing into the primitive era conWrmed the truths of
Protestantism. Roman Catholic errors arose from ˜adoring the reverend
brow and gray hairs of some ancient ceremonies, perchance, but of some
seven or eight hundred years standing in the church, and mistake these for
their fathers, of far greater age in the primitive times™.“»
There was a continuing need to answer Catholic scholars whose aim, in
the words of the Anglican scholar Joseph Bingham (1668“1723), was ˜to
varnish over the novel practices of the Romish church, and put a face of
antiquity upon them™.“¦ In answer to Rome™s assumption of priority over
the Church of England, Inett claimed a historic precedence over Rome:
˜The Britons had been converted in all probability before Christianity was
settled in Rome.™“  Proclaimed Gregory Hascard (d. 1708), Dean of
Windsor: ˜Our religion is the same with that of the early Christians,
martyrs and confessors believed in the Wrst three hundred years, and
defended by all Councils truly general.™“À Henry Rowlands argued that
the apostolic British church ˜in its Wrst rudiments was senior to that of
Rome by so many years™.“Ã In 1724 John Oldmixon reiterated the message
that the ancient British church had been founded ˜upon a primitive
scripture bottom™.“•
’” Twysden, Historical vindication, p. 4.
“» Thomas Fuller, ˜The true church-antiquary™, in Fuller, The holy state (Cambridge, 1642),
bk 2, ch. 6, p. 69. See also Milton, Catholic and Reformed, pp. 272“6.
“¦ Bingham, Origines ecclesiasticae, I, ˜Preface™, pp. viii“ix.
“  Inett, Origines Anglicanae, II, p. 488.
“À Gregory Hascard, A discourse upon the charge of novelty upon the reformed church of England,
made by the papists asking of us the question, where was your church before Luther?, in Edmund
Gibson (ed.), A preservative against Popery, in several select discourses (3 vols., London,
1738), I, p. 216. “Ã Rowlands, Mona antiqua restaurata, p. 138.
“• Oldmixon, Critical history, I, p. 78.
116 The three kingdoms

The defence of the Church of England from charges of schism ad-
vanced by Roman Catholic polemicists determined the strategic necessity
of retaining an ancient British dimension to English identity. Twysden™s
Historical vindication of the Church of England in point of schism as it stands
separated from the Roman and was reformed I Elizabeth (1657) drew on
ancient British precedents.“’ Isaac Basire™s The ancient liberty of the Bri-
tannick Church, and the legitimate exemption thereof from the Roman patri-
archate (1661), a translation of an earlier version published at Bruges
during the Anglican diaspora of the 1650s, developed a systematic refuta-
tion of Romish claims to jurisdiction over England. Basire defended the
English Reformation on the grounds that Henry VIII had only been
˜restoring the same Britannic diocese unto the ancient liberty it enjoyed in
the primitive times of the ancient oecumenic councils™. A legalistic con-
ciliarism played a crucial role in Basire™s argument. The Church of
England™s primitive exemption from Roman jurisdiction could be dem-
onstrated using evidence drawn from within the tradition of the Catholic
church itself. The sixth canon of the Council of Nicaea had established
that metropolitans were independent within their respective provinces,
and that by the same token the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome was
limited to his province, despite the concession that, in point of dignity,
Rome, Antioch and Alexandria were pre-eminent within the wider
church. The eighth canon of Ephesus denied any bishop the authority to
exercise his jurisdiction in a foreign province and, thus, guarded against
the sort of interprovincial innovations which marked the rise of Rome.
These canons provided a powerful jurisdictionalist arsenal for the Church
of England. In particular, Basire™s reliance on the general councils sug-
gested that British opposition to Augustine was ˜grounded on very irre-
fragable, very Catholic reason™.““
Basire™s conciliarist position became even more central to Restoration
Anglicanism when it found reinforcement within the world of Roman
Catholic scholarship. In 1662 a French divine, Jean de Launoy (1603“
78), perhaps best known as the ˜denicheur des saints™ for his sceptical
´
martyrology, produced a subversively Gallican interpretation of the sixth
canon of the council of Nicaea (325) “ De recta Nicaeni canonis sexti . . .
intelligentia, dissertatio “ to the eVect that it did not treat of patriarchs and
their rights, but only the authority of metropolitans within their prov-
inces. William Beveridge (1637“1708) saw the possibilities in Launoy™s
argument for the Church of England to cast oV the slur of schism, and
defended the Gallican against his foremost critic, Adrien de Valois, or
“’ Twysden, Historical vindication, esp. pp. 4“8; F. Jessup, Sir Roger Twysden 1597“1672
(London, 1965), pp. 193“5.
““ Basire, Ancient liberty of the Britannick church, pp. 15, 26, 35“8, 43.
Britons, Saxons and Anglican quest for legitimacy 117

Valesius (1607“92).““ This argument became a fundamental pillar of
Anglican constitutionalism, which, in turn, maintained the historic sig-
niWcance of the primitive British church of England.“” The celebrated
patristic case for Anglicanism made by William Cave synthesised a careful
reading of the Councils, especially the sixth canon of Nicaea, the history
of the ancient British church and the parallel “ and reinforcing “ claims
for the ancient liberties of the Gallican church.“»
The conciliarist thesis found an echo in StillingXeet™s Origines Bri-
tannicae (1685): the eighth canon of the Council of Ephesus (431)
sanctioned the eVorts made by the British bishops to preserve their own
rights against foreign jurisdiction.“¦ Bingham, in his monumental patris-
tic survey Origines ecclesiasticae (1708“22), pointed out ˜that the authority
of the bishop of Rome in those days extended over the whole western
empire, is not so much as hinted at in the Nicene canon™. In an earlier
chapter on the autocephaloi, Bingham argued not only for the existence
of independent metropolitans before the rise of the patriarchal sees, but
also for the perpetuation of various autocephalous churches thereafter,
including the seven British bishops under the jurisdiction of Caerleon at
the time of Augustine™s mission to England.“ 
The Councils of the early church (which dated, of course, from the
centuries preceding the conversion of the Saxons and the establishment
of the Saxon Church of England) constituted a vital component of the
Anglican brief. Three bishops had represented the British church at the
Council of Arles (314), a matter of some pride to Anglicans. In Collier™s
view their presence gave a reliable indication of the British church™s
attitude to Rome: ˜the form of saluting that see is very diVerent from that
of later ages; here are no signs of submission, no acknowledgement of
supreme pastorship, or universal supremacy™. The participants ˜looked
upon the authority of the council to be perfect in its legislative capacity,
without the concurrence, or after-consent, of the bishop of Rome™.“À At
Arles, according to Warner, the supremacy of the pope was still ˜a thing
unknown™.“Ã Another line of Anglican legalism dated the appellate auth-
ority of the papacy only to the Council of Sardica (343“4). Not only had
the Bishop of Rome ˜enjoyed no pretence for receiving appeals, beyond
the suburbicary provinces, prior to the council of Sardica™, argued

““ Schelstrate, Dissertation, pp. iii“v, xx“xxi; William Nicolson, English historical library (3
vols., London, 1696“9), II, p. 20.
“” See e.g. Isaac Barrow (1630“77), A treatise of the Pope™s supremacy (1680), in Barrow,
Theological works (9 vols., Cambridge, 1859), VIII, p. 391.
“» Cave, Dissertation concerning the government of the ancient church, esp. pp. 49“52, 219,
244“55. “¦ StillingXeet, Origines Britannicae, p. 364.
“  Bingham, Origines ecclesiasticae, I, pp. 75, 347.
“À Collier, Ecclesiastical history, I, p. 63. “Ã Warner, Ecclesiastical history, I, p. 16.

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