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Reading: Catholic, Anglican, and Puritan Representations of Royal Martyrs


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Catholic, Anglican, and Puritan Representations of Royal Martyrs


Nick K Crown

University of East Anglia, GB
About Nick
Recent graduate from UEA Norwich, specialising in the English Reformation.
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This journal article is derived from my doctoral thesis undertaken at UEA Norwich, which provided the first in–depth comparison of printed representations of Catholic and Protestant martyrdom in Tudor England since the work of McGrath and Dickens during the 1960s. In this piece of research, a martyr is defined as one who bore witness to persecution during the Tudor Reformation (c.1530-1600), and who ultimately died for his or her beliefs rather than abjure. The main themes discussed were issues of continuity and change: to what extent did Protestant depictions of martyrs draw upon pre–Reformation ideas? Were they a radical break from the past; or did they represent gradual evolution and transition in which some older beliefs were perpetuated, some were reinterpreted allegorically, and others were abandoned and replaced with new representations? Novel contributions to the historiography include the representation of non–martyrs (individuals executed for their religion but who failed to gain full recognition in Catholic or Protestant martyrologies); Puritan efforts to reform the Church of England internally by supplanting lingering pre–Reformation rituals, relics and images with abstract, Old Testament inspired sermons; and the depiction of persecutors’ untimely deaths as evidence not only of divine providence, but also of the illegitimacy of rival churches. Additionally, I have examined depictions of the state’s dominance over the criminal’s body and the extent order was maintained through terror or, conversely, willing popular consent. Although firmly grounded in history, my methodology also incorporated elements from other disciplines, especially gender studies, death studies, religion, philosophy, and some aspects of art history. In particular, I have reassessed gender roles in the sixteenth century, and discussed the language of inversion, where exceptionally courageous female martyrs were portrayed with the masculine virtues of courage, analytical rationality or self–control; and allegedly negative feminine traits such as cowardice, deceit, treachery, or sexual misconduct were used to shame and discredit clergymen from rival religious groups or sects. 

How to Cite: Crown, N.K., 2017. Catholic, Anglican, and Puritan Representations of Royal Martyrs. Royal Studies Journal, 4(1), pp.15–34. DOI:
Published on 06 Jun 2017.
Peer Reviewed


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