by DELIAN BOWER
The Oxford Martyrs by D. M. Loades (Batsford 50s.) THE story of the Oxford martyrs of the midsixteenth century—those who died for the Protestant cause —has been told numerous times. It has been analysed, popularised and argued about from the moment the three most important heroes of the Ecelesia
Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer submitted to the flames and commended themselves to God.
They certainly did not die in vain because the Anglican cause was to triumph. A recently published analysis, with the emphasis on the actual trials, by the Professor of Modem History at Durham University throws new and fascinating light on a troubled and confused period of English History.
The most important argument for us is propounded in the conclusion. Dr. Loadcs sums up by saying: "If we wish to understand in the twentieth century the circumstances in which the Marian martyrs died. we should look rather at the conflicts of secular ideology which surround us than at the Christian churches of our time."
It is a pity that we should have to reach the end of the hook before quite suddenly everything falls into perspective. On the other hand it would he unfair to the author not to suggest his final vonelusion is not subtly inherent throughout the whole analysis.
Henry VIII for all his many faults considered himself to be a devout Christian. He tried and succeeded in establishing an autonomous church freed from Papal supremacy. He also established the supreme authority of the Crown. Autho
rity which Queen Mary (15538) was also to hold.
Although she passionately wanted to revert to the restoration of a Catholic England,
she still held supreme authority. This poses the question: Did the Protestants die because they were protesting against Papal supremacy or was it that they were opposing the authority of the Crown?
This mayhe a question open to doubt and an argument with which doubtless many Protestants would disagree. However, Thomas Cranmer recanted for the second time in 1556 submitting to Rome, to the authority of the Crown and ideological principles of the state. But the Queen was still determined to execute him as a heretic. Theology and faith were not involved but rather conscience, authority and to a certain degree—emotion. This is what these authoritative, well-documented and dramatic accounts of the trials are all about.
Mary Tudor tried desperately hard to restore the Catholic Church in England. Her ways were ruthless and towards the end unbalanced. Her nal folly was to burn Thomas Cranmer despite his recantations. During her reign she was the Catholic Church's greatest asset in England, but since the day she died her memory has always been its greatest liability. The Anglican Church was at the point of failure, but it was saved by its martyrs and thrived as a result with Queen Elizabeth I et its lie-ad.
I found this a fascinating hook and could not easily put it down It will certainly appeal -to the student and also to the general reader who will learn much more about this puzzling period, ,
The book is a worthy addition to theIfi.,r,rir Trials Se, ec under the competent General Editorship of Professor J. P. Kenyon,