This was the age of assassination; with every attempt on Elizabeth’s life, fears for national security grew and increasingly draconian laws were passed to protect it.
Distrust and hatred from both sides fed each other. ‘Only the question is,’ wrote the Queen’s godson Sir John Harington, ‘(which in my conscience I cannot certainly decide): which was first? I mean, whether their sinister practises drew on these rigorous laws, or whether the rigour of these laws moved them to these unnatural practises. But thus, in the end, acts of religion became to be treasons. (Pg.4)
A Reformation of ideas and faith may have been sweeping through Europe and across the Channel, but at Harrowden Hall life carried on much as usual. Under the instruction of the family chaplain, young William read his catechism and his primer. He recited the paternoster and the Ave Maria. He read the lives of the saints and chose his favourites. He joined the household in observing the fasts and celebrating the feasts. He prayed for his family and for the souls of his dead ancestors.
And he was taught what to do at his First Communion: with his heart ‘inflamed in fervent love and charity’, his hands at his breast, his head ‘conveniently lifted up’, his mouth ‘reasonably open & not gaping’, and his tongue ‘not too much put forth’, he had to receive the consecrated wafer and swallow it without chewing and without letting it touch the roof of his mouth.
For a quarter of an hour after receiving, he was not allowed to spit, or if it was absolutely necessary, ‘at the least it is decent to spit where it may not be trodden on’. Likewise, he had to refrain from eating meat for a while, ‘lest thou mix corruptible food with that divine and heavenly food which thou so lately receivest’
Children could only receive their First Communion when they were deemed old enough to understand transubstantiation. This was usually around the age of twelve.
Just as William, third Baron Vaux reached this important milestone everything that he had been taught was overturned. What had been radical heresy under Henry VIII became orthodoxy in the reign of his son and what had been considered traditional worship was denounced as idolatry.
William was twelve years old at the change of monarch in 1547 and eighteen when Edward VI died in 1553. As the boy became a man, England was transformed into a Protestant country. (Pg.14)
William’s grandfather Nicholas, the first baron, had left instructions in his will for its foundation at Harrowden. He endowed a priest ‘and his successors … to sing for the soul of me and the souls of my grandfather, my father, my mother, my wives, my children and other my ancestors’ souls, and all Christian souls’.
In November 1547, Edward VI’s first Parliament abolished the chantries with the reformed logic that as there was no such thing as purgatory, prayers were wasted on the dead. At a stroke, Lord Vaux’s foundation was rendered obsolete. (Pg.15)
Jessie Childs is an award-winning author and historian. She was born in London, England, in 1976 and went to the University of Oxford, where she read history and took a first-class honours degree.
Her first book, Henry VIII’s Last Victim: The Life and Times of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was published by Jonathan Cape in the UK in 2006 and by St Martin’s Press in the USA in 2007. Described by A.N. Wilson in the Telegraph as ‘a truly superb biography’, it won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography in 2007.
Jessie’s second book, God’s Traitors: Terror and Faith in Elizabethan England, was published by Bodley Head in the UK in March 2014 to widespread critical acclaim. It was Book of the Week in the Times and the Guardian, an Evening Standard bestseller, and a recommended summer read in the Times, Sunday Times, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday. It is published in the USA by Oxford University Press.
Jessie frequently speaks at festivals, events and on the radio, and has written and reviewed for many publications, including The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Literary Review, History Today, BBC History Magazine and Standpoint.
She lives in Hammersmith, London, with her husband and two daughters.
Edited by: EZorrilla.