CHAPTER IV. THE REIGN OF QUEEN ELIZABETH (1558-1603)
A royal commission was appointed (1559) to administer the oath of supremacy to the clergy, and to enforce the provisions of the Act of Uniformity. As was to be expected, the attention of the commissioners was directed immediately to the bishops. If some of them could be induced to submit - and the government was not without hope in this direction - their submission would produce a good impression on the country; but if on the contrary they persisted in their attachment to the Mass and their obedience to the Pope, they must be removed to make way for more trustworthy men. To their credit be it said, when the oath of supremacy was tendered to the bishops they refused with one exception to abandon the views they had defended with such skill and bravery in the House of Lords, and preferred to suffer imprisonment and deprivation rather than lead their people into error by submission. Bishop Kitchin of Llandaff had opposed royal supremacy for a time. The Spanish ambassador reported to his master that he was about to follow the example of his brethren, but in the end he submitted and consented to administer the oath to his clergy. The religious communities, the Observants, the Carthusians, the Dominicans, the Benedictines, and the few communities of nuns that had re-established houses in England during the reign of Queen Mary, were suppressed; their property was seized according to an Act passed in the late Parliament, and many of the monks and nuns were obliged to depart from the kingdom. The commissioners proceeded through England administering the oath to the clergy, a large percentage of whom seems to have submitted. From the returns preserved it is difficult to estimate accurately what number of the clergy consented to acknowledge the supremacy of the queen or to abandon the Mass, but it is certainly not true to say that out of 9,000 beneficed clergymen in England at the time only about 200 refused the oath. On the one hand, the disturbances during the reigns of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. had reduced considerably the number of priests in England, while on the other, the fact that several clergymen did not put in an appearance before the commission, that others were allowed time to reconsider their views, and that not even all those who obstinately refused the oath were deprived, shows clearly that the lists of deprivations afford no sure clue to the number of those who were unwilling to accept the change. It is noteworthy that the greatest number of refusals were met with amongst the higher officials or dignitaries of the Church, the deans, archdeacons, and canons, who might be expected to represent the best educated and most exemplary of the clergy of their time in England. In the universities, too, the commissioners met with the strongest resistance. Several of the heads of the colleges, both in Cambridge and Oxford, the fellows and the office-bearers, either were deprived or fled, and men of the new school were appointed to take their places. But notwithstanding all the government could do, the universities, and particularly Oxford, continued during the greater part of the reign of Elizabeth to be centres of disaffection.
The complete extinction of the old hierarchy by death, deprivation and imprisonment, left the way open for the appointment of bishops favourable to the religion. Matthew Parker, who had been chaplain to Anne Boleyn and who had lived privately since he was removed from the deanship of Lincoln on account of his marriage, was selected to fill the Archbishopric of Canterbury, left vacant since the death of Cardinal Pole. The royal letters of approval were issued in September, and the mandate for his consecration was addressed to Tunstall of Durham, Bourne of Bath and Wells, Poole of Peterborough, Kitchin of Llandaff, together with Barlow and Scory. The three former, however, refused to act, and apparently even Kitchin was unwilling to take any part in the ceremony. New men were then sought, and found in the persons of Barlow, Coverdale, Scory, and Hodgkin. But even still grave legal difficulties barred the way. The conditions for the consecration of an archbishop laid down by the 25th of Henry VIII., which had not been repealed, could not be complied with owing to the refusal of the old bishops, and besides the use of the new Ordinal of Edward VI. without a special Act of Parliament for its revival was distinctly illegal; but the situation was so serious that Elizabeth's advisers urged her to make good the illegalities by an exercise of her royal authority. In the end the consecration of Parker was carried out in the chapel of Lambeth Palace on the morning of the 17th December, 1559. The story of the Nag's Head is a pure legend used by controversialists for impugning the validity of Anglican Orders. As a matter of fact the main argument against these Orders is drawn neither from the fable of the Nag's Head nor from the want of episcopal orders in the case of Barlow, the consecrator of Parker, though his consecration has not been proved, but from the use of a corrupt form, which was then as it is now rejected as insufficient by the Catholic Church, and from the want of the proper intention implied both by the corruption of the form and by the teaching of those who corrupted it. Once the difficulty about Parker's consecration had been settled other bishops were appointed by the queen, and consecrated by the new archbishop, so that before March 1560 good progress had been made in the establishment of the new hierarchy in England.