Κωνσταντίνος Γαγανάκης: Αναπληρωτής Καθηγητής, Τμήμα Ιστορίας & Αρχαιολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
Νικολέττα Γιαντσή: Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια, Τμήμα Ιστορίας & Αρχαιολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
Παπαθανασίου Μαρία: Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια, Τμήμα Ιστορίας & Αρχαιολογίας, ΕΚΠΑ
In the early 1520s, ships at the ports of south-eastern England unloaded, along with the general merchandise, printed material of Lutheran teachings, that had until then openly established the basis for a new doctrine. For its final prevalence, however, it required a series of actions that are distinguished in three basic stages: a) the break with the diocese of Rome, b) a definitive secession and c) enforcing it through civil or national governmental authorities. Exactly in that order one could observe the fulfillment of the Protestant venture in 16th century England, while at the same time might realize its deep dependence on the English monarchy and its interaction with the dominant theologies of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin, who formulated it dogmatically, until its establishment as an official doctrine of the English Church in 1559.
By the 1980s, the above simplified process constituted the classic narrative of the English Reformation sidelining people and actions that formed a body of resistance towards the consolidation of Protestant theology in the English kingdom, or fought for it from a rather not very prominent position. However, in recent years the studies of revisionists and postrevisionists historians, alongside with the community of gender historians who re-examined traditional areas of research, have provided a second reading of the English Reformation from which such actions emerge. The present paper attempts to be a part of this endeavor by featuring within the timeframe of the official English Reformation (1525-1560) the level of women’s involvement in it and the way they acted in favor of Protestantism highlighting their contribution to its consolidation process. The criteria with which the women had been selected and examined in this paper depended on the political and religious impact of their actions, as evidenced by contemporary sources (calendars, letters, books, court records, royal decrees) and by a relevant bibliography.
Specifically, the first part deals with the advent of the new theology and the contribution of Anne Boleyn to its dissemination, as well as her participation in the procedures which resulted in the break of the English Kingdom with the diocese of Rome. Subsequently, the crucial presence of Katherine Parr at Henry's side is discussed, at a time when the Catholic doctrine was almost restored and the evangelical movement was being thwarted in the court, while the case of Anne Askew is analyzed, which holds a prominent place in the history of English Protestantism. The third part refers to the aristocratic women who, during the six-year rule of Edward VI, carried out actions to strengthen the Protestant consciousness, while they resisted to the religious policy of Mary I, who along with a group of women of lower social classes, contributed greatly to the preservation of the Protestant congregation. Finally, the paper ends with the rise of Elizabeth Tudor bringing up the reasons that led her to the enforcement of the religious settlement of 1559, which sealed the unique and special character of the English Protestantism.
England, Reformation, Protestants, Women, Religion, Tudors, 16th century