Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth 1

Peter Ackroyd writes in this 2015 book:

* There was in any case no sense of privacy in the sixteenth-century world; men commonly shared beds, and princes dined in public. The individuals of every community were under endless scrutiny from their neighbours, and were subject to ridicule or even punishment if they breached generally accepted standards. There was no notion of liberty. If it was asked, ‘May I not do as I wish with what belongs to me?’, the answer came that no man may do what is wrong. In every schoolroom, and from every pulpit, the virtue of obedience was emphasized. It was God’s law, against which there could be no appeal.
The clergy were asked to supervise their parishioners, and the local justices were supposed to watch the bishops to see if they ‘do truly, sincerely, and without all manner of cloak, colour or dissimulation execute and accomplish our will and commandment’. ‘Taletellers’ and ‘counterfeiters of news’ were to be apprehended. The Act of Succession was nailed to the door of every parish church in the country, and the clergy were ordered to preach against the pretensions of the pope; they were forbidden to speak of disputed matters such as purgatory and the veneration of the saints. The royal supremacy was to be proclaimed from every pulpit in the land. Henry demanded no more and no less than total obedience by methods which no king before him had presumed to use. He made it clear that, in obeying their sovereign, the people were in effect obeying God. In the same period the king and Cromwell were reforming local government by placing their trusted men in the provincial councils. In Ireland and Wales and northern England, the old guard was replaced by new and supposedly more loyal men. The country was given order by a strong central authority supervised by Thomas Cromwell, who sent out a series of circular letters to sheriffs and bishops and judges.
The oath attendant upon the Act of Succession was rapidly imposed. The whole of London swore. In Yorkshire the people were ‘most willing to take the oath’. The sheriff of Norwich reported that ‘never were people more willing or diligent’. In the small village of Little Waldingfield in Suffolk, ninety-eight signed with their name, and thirty-five with a mark.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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