January 21


The First Act of Uniformity sets the course for the Anglican Church.

When Henry VIII withdrew the Church of England from the authority of the pope, its theology and ceremonial remained visibly Catholic. His successor, the boy-king Edward VI, wished the Church to become authentically part of the new reform movement. He would import Protestant preachers and university lecturers from the Continent, evict Catholic bishops from their sees and replace them with reformers, end clerical celibacy and finish the destruction of the monastic system.

On January 21, 1549 Parliament passed “An Acte for the unyformytie of Service and Admynistracion of the Sacramentes throughout the Realme”. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer had overseen the preparation of a Book of Common Prayer and the new Act commanded that all “ministers in any cathedral or parish church or other place within this realm of England, Wales, Calais, and the marches of the same, or other the king’s dominions, shall, from and after the feast of Pentecost next coming, be bound to say and use the Matins, Evensong, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, commonly called the Mass, and administration of each of the sacraments, and all their common and open prayer, in such order and form as is mentioned in the said book, and none other or otherwise.”

Many Protestants complained that this new order of things was not reformed enough: its use of words concerning the Eucharist might be interpreted in a Catholic way. Many Catholics, however, were furious at the abolition of the Latin Mass and parts of the country rose up in rebellion at the new liturgy. In the west of England, Cornishmen called for a return to Henrician Catholicism with the battle cry “Kill all the gentlemen and we will have the Six Articles up again, and ceremonies as they were in King Henry’s time.” The rising was put down by the government’s army of foreign mercenaries.

In 1552 a new prayer book, clearly more Protestant, replaced the 1549 version.

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