Marian exiles

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Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, fleeing Catholic England with her husband Richard Bertie, her daughter Susan and a wet nurse. Catherine Willoughby exiled.jpg
Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, fleeing Catholic England with her husband Richard Bertie, her daughter Susan and a wet nurse.

The Marian exiles were English Protestants who fled to Continental Europe during the 1553–1558 reign of the Catholic monarchs Queen Mary I and King Philip. [1] [2] [3] They settled chiefly in Protestant countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, and also in France,[ citation needed ] Italy[ citation needed ] and Poland.[ citation needed ]


Exile communities

According to English historian John Strype, more than 800 Protestants fled to the continent, mainly to the Low Countries, Germany, and Switzerland, and joined with reformed churches there or formed their own congregations. A few exiles went to Scotland, Denmark, and other Scandinavian countries.

Notable English exile communities were located in the cities of Aarau, Basel, Cologne, Duisburg, Emden, Frankfurt, Geneva, Padua, Strasbourg, Venice, Wesel, Worms, and Zürich. The exiles did not plan to remain on the continent any longer than was necessary; there was considerable controversy and anxiety among them and those who remained in England over the legitimacy of fleeing, rather than facing, religious persecution. This concern contributed to the attention and authority given to those who remained in England and were martyred, as in the writings of one of the most famous exiles, John Foxe.

During their continental sojourn, few of the exiles became well integrated economically or politically into their new communities. With the exception of the exile community in Aarau, the majority of exiles were clergy (67) or theological students (119). The next largest group was composed of gentry (166) who, with others back in England, financed the exiles. This group included Elizabeth Berkeley (Countess of Ormond), Sir Peter Carew, William Cecil, Sir John Cheke, Sir Anthony Cooke, Sir Francis Knollys, Sir Richard Morrison, Dame Dorothy Stafford, and Sir Thomas Wroth. Of about 500 known English exiles, there were 40 merchants, 32 artisans, 7 printers, 3 lawyers, 3 physicians, 3 yeomen, 13 servants, and 19 men with no profession. Of the artisans 12–17 were weavers who settled in Aarau. Strype names London merchant and exile Thomas Heton (or Heyton, Eaton) as the host-general of all the exiles. Financial backers for the exiles included London merchants Richard Springham and John Abel. Support also came from the King of Denmark, the Prince Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Württemberg, the Duke of Bipont, and many continental leaders of the reformed movement: Heinrich Bullinger, Konrad Pelikan, Bibliander, Josias Simmler, Wolphius, and Ludwig Lavater.

The Marian exiles included many important or soon-to-be important English Protestant leaders. Former and future bishops among them included John Aylmer, Miles Coverdale, John Ponet, John Scory, Richard Cox, Edmund Grindal (future archbishop of York, then Canterbury), Edwin Sandys (future archbishop of York), John Bale, John Jewel, James Pilkington, and Thomas Bentham. The conflicts that broke out between the exiles over church organization, discipline, and forms of worship presaged the religious politics of the reign of Elizabeth I and the emergence of Puritanism and Presbyterianism. [4]


The English congregation in Strasbourg organised its services in conformity with the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. Its leaders and membership included at times the former and future bishops John Ponet, John Scory, Richard Cox, Edmund Grindal, Edwin Sandys, John Aylmer, and John Bale. Others there included Cheke, Morison, Cook, Carew, Wroth, James Haddon, John Huntington, John Geoffrey, John Pedder, Michael Renniger, Augustin Bradbridge, Thomas Steward, Humphrey Alcockson, Thomas Lakin, Thomas Crafton, Guido and Thomas Eton, Alexander Nowell, Arthur Saule, William Cole, Christopher Goodman, Richard Hilles, Richard Chambers, and one or both of the Hales brothers. Myles Coverdale apparently made several visits to the Strasbourg community. [3]


The first English exile group in Frankfurt arrived on 27 June 1554. With the help of a local magistrate, they secured the use of a vacant church building. They held their first service on 29 July using a reformed liturgy drawn up by William Whittingham. The congregation adopted a semi-Presbyterian system where deacons were expected to preach.

At the request of local authorities in this Lutheran city, the English church order had been made to conform to the newly established French reformed church in Frankfurt. The French church included a number of Walloon weavers who had been brought to England by Protector Somerset. Since then they had been under the supervision of Valerand Poullain, formerly John Calvin's successor as minister of the French congregation in Strasbourg. In England, Poullain's congregation had as much autonomy as the London Stranger churches and, like them, based their church order on the models of Zwingli and Calvin.

Following this continental reformed precedent, the English exiles in Frankfurt offered themselves as the model church for all the English in exile and put out a call for ministers from the other congregations. However, they had gone further than many of their countrymen would follow, particularly those in Strasbourg and Zürich who wanted to retain use of the second (1552) Edwardian Book of Common Prayer. For that reason the English Church at Frankfurt became preoccupied with disputes over the use of the prayer book and church order in general.

The chief members of the Frankfurt congregation during its existence were David Whitehead, Sandys, Nowell, Foxe, Bale, Horne, Whittingham, Knox, Aylmer, Bentham, Sampson, Roger Kelke, Chambers, Isaac, both Knollyses, John and Christopher Hales, Richard Hilles, Bartholomew Traheron, Robert Crowley, Thomas Cole, William Turner, Robert Wisdome. An informal university established by the congregation had Horne teaching Hebrew, John Mullins (who came from Zurich after Knox left) teaching Greek, and Traheron teaching theology. Thomas Beccon came from Strasbourg to Frankfurt; he taught at Marburg University around 1556–1559.

All records of the group were destroyed in World War II with the Frankfurt city archives, and only partial transcripts from prior scholarship remain. These records disclose that native Frankfurters distrusted the English and suspected they were being used by members of the nobility to diminish the privileges of the burghers. The English were also accused of unfair commercial practices and of competing with local artisans—accusations which led to detailed censuses of the immigrants.

Troubles at Frankfurt

The organizational and liturgical differences between the English churches in exile soon led to protracted conflicts concentrated in Frankfurt. A particular clash between Richard Cox and John Knox came in time to stand for the general struggle between the Church of England and Presbyterian views.


Led mainly by Knox, the largest, most politically and theologically radical concentration of English exiles was at Geneva, reaching a peak of 233 people or about 140 households. (This was approximately 2% of the city's population.) Names, dates of arrival, and other information is preserved in the Livre des Anglais (facsimile edition by Alexander Ferrier Mitchell), a folio manuscript kept at the Hotel de Ville of Geneva. New members admitted to the church numbered 48 in 1555, 50 in 1556, 67 in 1557, ten in 1558, and two in 1559. Seven marriages, four baptisms, and 18 deaths are recorded. [5]

This was the first English congregation to adopt the wholly Presbyterian form of discipline and worship that was resisted in Frankfurt. These forms and standards were printed in 1556 as the Book of Geneva which went through several editions after 1556 in Geneva and was in official use in the Church of Scotland from 1564 to 1645. Sometimes titled Book of Our Common Order, it is the basis for the modern Book of Common Order used by Presbyterian churches.

The English church in Geneva was also the scene of the Geneva Bible's production, which was to be the most popular English version of the era and the most notorious for its annotations that supported Reformed theology and resistance theory. At Geneva Knox wrote his infamous First Blast of the Trumpet Blowen Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women during the winter of 1557–58. Published in Geneva in the spring 1558, it denounced all female rulers in the most strident language. This was opposed by many other English exiles, especially those seeking favor with Elizabeth I, such as John Aylmer, who published a retort to Knox called Harborowe for Faithful and True Subjects in 1559. Christopher Goodman took a more circumspect approach in a How superior powers ought to be obeyd of their subjects & wherein they may lawfully by Gods Worde be disobeyed & resisted, for which Whittingham wrote the preface. Laurence Humphrey, working out of Strasbourg, claimed to be clarifying what Knox, Ponet, and Goodman really meant when he defended passive resistance only and supported the legitimacy of female rule in De religionis conservatione et reformatione vera (1559).

John Calvin proposed that the English exiles should hold their own services in the building where he delivered lectures, later known as the Calvin Auditory. This worship in English continues in the building to the present day, under the Church of Scotland.

Members of the English church in Geneva included Sir William Stafford, Sir John Burtwick, John Bodley and the eldest of his five sons (Laurence, Thomas, and Josias who was later knighted), James Pilkington, John Scory, Thomas Bentham, William Cole, William Kethe, Thomas Sampson, Anthony Gilby, John Pullein, Perceval Wiburne, and Robert Fills.

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  1. Leo F. Solt (1990) Church and State in Early Modern England, 1509-1640, Oxford University Press, USA ISBN   0-19-505979-4
  2. George Edwin Horr (1910) "The Marian Exiles", Papers of the American Society of Church History, 2nd series, Vol.2, p.201, Putnam's, New York and London (Digitized by Google Books)
  3. 1 2 Christina Hallowell Garrett (1938) Marian Exiles: A Study in the Origins of Elizabethan Puritanism, Cambridge University Press
  4. Patrick Collinson (1979) Archbishop Grindal, 1519-1583: the struggle for a reformed Church, University of California Press, ISBN   0-520-03831-2
  5. Dan G. Danner (1999) Pilgrimage to Puritanism: History and Theology of the Marian Exiles at Geneva, 1555-1560, (Studies in Church History, 9.) New York: Peter Lang ISBN   0-8204-3884-7