Review: The Gospel and Henry VIII: Evangelicals in the Early English Reformation, by Alec Ryrie

Discoveries 22.1 (2005). 14 May 2005

Reviewed by Ronald H. Fritze

The last years of Henry VIII’s, reign from 1539 to his death in January 1547, have generally been seen as a time of resurgence by supporters of traditional religion.  Christopher Haigh has even ventured to call this episode a “Counter-Reformation” and asserts that the Reformation was halted.  It is also widely maintained that evangelical Eucharistic beliefs similar to Martin Luther’s had little support in England, except for a few individuals like Thomas Cromwell, Robert Barnes, and temporarily Thomas Cranmer.  These views have always sat somewhat uneasily with the fact that evangelicals operated openly and frequently in the Henrician court and in the countryside during the king’s last years.  Evangelicals were engaged in a Reformation in progress and Henry VIII, a man with a ferocious and deadly hatred of sacramentarianism, tolerated them and even patronized them.  Alec Ryrie’s The Gospel and Henry VIII explains how this situation could be and does so in an extremely well-documented and convincing manner.

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