CHAPTER II. THE RELIGIOUS CHANGES UNDER HENRY VIII. AND EDWARD VI.
Parliament met in November 1548. To put an end to the religious confusion that had arisen an Act of Uniformity enjoining on all clergy the use of the Book of Common Prayer was introduced. The main discussion centred around the Eucharist and the Mass. Bishop Tunstall of Durham objected that by the omission of the Adoration it was implied that there was nothing in the Sacrament except bread and wine, a contention that he could not accept, as he believed in the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ both spiritual and carnal. Bishop Thirlby of Westminster maintained that the bishops had never agreed to the doctrine contained in the Book regarding the Eucharist but had allowed it merely to go forward for discussion. The Protector reproved him warmly for his tone and statement, but Thirlby stood firmly by his point of view, adding the interesting item of information that when the Book left the hands of the bishops it contained the word "oblation" in reference to the Mass, which word had since been omitted. Bonner of London pointed out that the Book of Common Prayer, embodying as it did statements condemned abroad and in England as heresy, should not be accepted. Cranmer and Ridley defended strongly the Eucharistic doctrine it contained. When the disputation between the bishops had been closed (19th Dec., 1548) the Bill for Uniformity was brought down and read in the Commons. Of the bishops present in the House of Lords ten voted in favour of the measure and eight against it. Gardiner was still in prison, the Bishop of Llandaff, who had spoken against Cranmer, was absent from the division, and some others are not accounted for.
The first Act of Uniformity (1548), as it is called, displaced the Mass as it had been celebrated for centuries in the English Church, and substituted in its place the new liturgy contained in the Book of Common Prayer. This latter while differing completely from any rite that had been followed in the Catholic Church, had a close affinity both in regard to the rites themselves and the ceremonies for the administration of the Sacraments to the liturgy introduced by the German Lutherans. According to the Act of Parliament it was to come into force on Whit Sunday the 9th June (1549). That it was expected to meet with strong opposition is evident from the prohibition against plays, songs, rhymes, etc., holding it up to ridicule, as well as by the heavy fines prescribed against those who might endeavour to prevent clergymen from following it. Forfeiture of a year's revenue together with imprisonment for six months was the penalty to be inflicted on any clergyman who refused to follow the new liturgy. Complete deprivation and imprisonment were prescribed for the second offence, and the third offence was to be punished by life-long imprisonment. For preventing any clergyman from adopting the new liturgy the penalties were for the first offence a fine of £10, for the second £20, and for the third forfeiture and perpetual imprisonment. Finally Parliament satisfied Cranmer's scruples by permitting clergy to contract marriages.
The attempt to abolish the Mass and to force the new liturgy on the English people led to risings and disturbances throughout the country. In London, where it might have been expected that the influence of the court should have secured its ready acceptance, many of the churches maintained the old service in spite of the frantic efforts of Cranmer and his subordinates. Bishop Bonner was reproved sharply for encouraging the disobedience of his clergy, and as he failed to give satisfaction to the government he was committed to prison. In Devonshire and Cornwall the peasants and country gentlemen rose in arms to protest against the new service which they had likened to a Christmas game, and to demand the restoration of the Mass, Communion under one kind, holy water, palms, ashes, images, and pictures. They insisted that the Six Articles of Henry VIII. should be enforced once more and that Cardinal Pole should be recalled from Rome, and honoured with a seat at the council. In the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, where royal visitors and hired foreigners like Peter Martyr, Bucer, and Ochino were doing their best to decatholicise these seats of learning, violent commotions took place, that served to arouse both students and people, and soon the country around Oxford was in a blaze. The religious disturbances encouraged those who preferred small farms and sturdy labourers to grazing inclosures and sheep to raise the standard of revolt against the new economical tendencies, and to accept the leadership of the Norfolk tanner, William Kett. By the strenuous exertions of the Protector and the council, backed as they were by foreign mercenaries raised in Italy and Germany to fight against Scotland, these rebellions were put down by force, and the leaders, both lay and clerical, were punished with merciless severity. The disturbed condition of the country, however, the open dissatisfaction of the Catholic party, the compromises that were offered to those who fought against inclosures, and the unfortunate war with France into which the country had been plunged, pointed to Somerset's unfitness for the office of Protector. A combination was formed against him by the Earl of Warwick, assisted by the leaders of the Catholic party. He was arrested, found guilty, and deprived of all his offices (Dec. 1549), and the Earl of Warwick, created later Duke of Northumberland, secured the principal share in the new government.