Mary Tudor and the Return to Rome

by Sylvia Lacoski

Within a month of Mary Tudor's ceremonial entry into London on August 3rd, 1553, Mass began to be said in some of the city's churches. It was greeted with riots. Mary, a devout Roman Catholic, was about to rule a country where the Reformation was twenty years old, and a generation had reached manhood to whom papal authority was strange and alien; a country which rejoiced in its insularity and hated foreign jurisdiction.

The Reformation had brought liberty to read the Scriptures in English, so long denied by the Roman Church, causing so many to look closely at the unbiblical position of Roman Catholicism. The effect of the Bible on the character of the people at large was for their good and the Nation's.

Now by order of proclamation, none should preach or interpret or teach any Scriptures or points of doctrine without special license. Books and works by the Reformers were banned.

Marriage to Philip of Spain

Then, against the advice of her counselors and the growing unrest of the people, Mary married Philip of Spain at Winchester Cathedral in July 1554. Marriage to a Catholic prince was part of the policy of restoring Roman Catholicism to England, but it emphasized all the more the alien character of papal supremacy. "At this time," noted a diarist, "there were so many Spaniards in London, that a man should have met in the streets for one Englishman above four Spaniards and talk of twelve thousand more coming into the realm, and rumors flying that the archbishopric of Canterbury was given a Spanish friar, was apt to cause swords to leap from scabbards when the two nations met!" (J.E. Neale)

The Return to Rome

On November 30th, 1554 amid scenes of emotion, England was returned to the Roman fold - the old heresy laws were revived and faggot and stake were to do their terrible work, attaching forever the epithet "bloody" to the name of Mary Tudor. Mary's reign was characterized by fierce reprisals against those who would not go a massing. The first to suffer was John Rogers, February 1555. He had been associated with Tyndale in the translation of the New Testament - "this pestilent little book" as the Roman Church called it.

The Pontificate of Paul IV (1555-1559)

In 1555, the beginning of the Marian burnings, Gian Pietro Caraffa mounted the papal throne as Pope Paul IV and was to present to the world the very embodiment of the spirit of persecution and his election brought a cry of horror because of his great devotion to the Inquisition.

Our Protestant Forefathers were well acquainted with the shameful history of the Papacy, but generations have grown up largely ignorant of what Cranmer described as "detestable enormities of the Bishop(s) of Rome." Paul IV was no exception. He entered on a bloody war with the Colonna - allies of Spain - during his first year as Pope, and in doing so enriched his brood of nephews with castles and fiefs torn from them. The youngest nephew, Carlo Caraffa, whose morals were of the loosest, was made a cardinal which enraged the Romans who viewed them as "upstart Neapolitans." The Inquisition was spurred on to greater activity as he sought to stamp out the Reformation - "heretics" were burnt in the Campo de Fiori, and the full force of the Inquisition let loose on those who sold prohibited books. The privileges the Jewish people had acquired under former Popes were revoked. The badge of servitude, the yellow cap, was reimposed on them with severest penalties.

At the end of his life, as he lay on his death bed, insurrection broke out in the streets. The palace of the Inquisition was sacked and the mob rushed to the Capitol, and threw down the newly erected statue of the Pope, dressed the head in the 'yellow cap" and after dragging it through the streets hurled it into the river Tiber, as the soul of the "Inquisitor Pope" departed this life.

When the lives and character of the Popes were such a scandal to religion, what influence and guidance could England's tragic sovereign Queen Mary I gain from such a man as Paul IV, the Inquisitor Pope?