John Knox, his  early days in England.

It is very easy to think of John Knox as being involved only in the Scottish Reformation along with the Lords of the Congregation. But Knox  spent several years in England before his appearance on the Scottish scene and had become well known there, sufficient to be appointed a chaplain to King Edward VI. In this respect he exercised a considerable influence in the Church of England which was subject of petitions to Parliament for reforms by the Puritans and other non conformists. Their particular common cause was to remove any remaining signs of popery. Inevitably Knox became involved on several fronts.

England was an obvious and convenient sanctuary for those fleeing from oppression in Scotland. But it was not a bed of roses in the time of Henry VIII despite his renunciation of the Pope. The newly formed Church of England, although nominally Protestant, was a mixed bag of rules and regulation under a new English Pope. Henry was arrogant and violent in the exercise of his new powers over religion  and hopelessly confused in his seeking to prove his opposition to Luther and maintain a fealty of sorts to Catholicism - in the same Parliament acts were produced  against the authority of the Pope and also against the tenets of Luther. It was for this attack on Luther that the Pope conferred the title "Defender of the Faith" which continues to appear on British coinage to this very day. The Protestants in Scotland were highly dissatisfied with the bastard religion that Henry had created and were relatively pleased when the young Edward VI  came to the throne in 1547. The succession meant that Archbishop Cranmer, who was King Edward`s tutor, was able to promote the Reformation in England.

Knox had gathered a reputation from his preaching at St Andrews as well as a modest fame from his imprisonment in the French galleys. He was readily received on his return to England and appointed to Berwick on Tweed where he laboured hard to defeat the dregs of popery. His efforts were especially noted among the soldiers of the garrison who had been noted for their licentiousness and turbulence ( disorder and fighting). His impact was likewise great on the local clerics who were galled by Knox`s fervour and success, and through them arose complaints to Tonstal, Bishop of Durham. The bishop has been described as the patron of bigotry and superstition, and could not take direct action against Knox because he had been appointed by the ruling Council (there was Regency for Edward VI). However, Knox was called before an assembly in Newcastle on 4 April 1550 to explain  his teaching that the mass was idolatrous.  Never one to hold back Knox proceeded to dismantle the opposition using the Scriptures and a sharp tongue to silence the bishop and his  learned assistants. As a result of his defence Knox`s fame grew throughout England. In December 1551 he was appointed chaplain in ordinary to King Edward VI  with an annual salary of forty pounds. Under the protection of the king the six chaplains were vitriolic at times and roundly condemned the excesses of the Court and the continued Romish practices. Although this inevitably gained them enemies, their upstanding  and public criticism was well received among the people at large.

In 1552 Knox was consulted about a revision of  the Book of Common Prayer and some of his concerns noted.  His influence brought change to the Communion, excluding the notion of the corporal presence of Christ in the sacrament, and guarding against the adoration  of the elements. Kneeling at their reception was done away with. This of course infuriated the Papists. Knox was extremely diligent and in addition to ordinary services on the Sabbath he preached regularly on week days and frequently on every day of the week. He was also employed in providing religious advice in between finding time for his own studies. His work was recognised by the governing council who wrote letters in support of his work and  ensured that he received his salary timeously. In September 1552, as a mark of the council`s favour they granted a patent to Knox`s brother, William, to trade to any part of England in a vessel of one hundred tons burden.

It was during his stay in Berwick that Knox met with his wife to be, Marjory Bowes. She was the fifth daughter of Richard Bowes, Captain of Norham Castle, the younger son of  Sir Ralph Bowes of Streatlam Castle; her mother was Elizabeth, daughter  and co heiress of Sir Roger Aske of Aske. The marriage did not take place until either late in 1555 or early 1556, as the proposed marriage was not to the liking of the Bowes family;  eventually Marjory and her mother split from the family and went to Geneva with Knox arriving there in September 1556.

The death of the Duke of Somerset as protector (regent) for Edward VI saw the emergence of the Catholic Duke of Northumberland to power. He was an apostate in the sense that his avowed support for reformation was a sham in order to get power. His chance to attack Knox came when at Christmas 1552, Knox preached against the obstinacy of papists and asserted that they were enemies of the gospel and secret traitors to the crown. They cared not who who ruled over them provided they had their idolatry. This freedom of speech  resulted in a summons to London to explain himself, where the council saw the malice of his accusers and found him not guilty. 

Knox returned to London in April 1553 ostensibly to take up the living at All Hallows in the city. The Duke of Northumberland was irate at the appointment - made at the direction of the council, and tried to prevent it. But it was Knox who turned it down even though it had been granted at the behest of the young King Edward. Offence was taken and again he was summoned before the council to explain himself. The main thread of his objection was the need for reformation in the Church of England which, in its present condition, militated against the proper exercise of his ministry. The council dismissed him with a mild warning that he should come to terms with the Communion according to the established rites (including kneeling). He was then offered a bishopric by King Edward which he rejected on the grounds that it was "destitute of divine authority in itself, and its exercise in the English Church to be inconsistent with ecclesiastical canons."  In his last sermon before King Edward, Knox savaged the abuse of power by crafty counsellors and called them dissembling hypocrites and then proceeded to denounce the Duke of Northumberland and the Marquis of Winchester.

 Tragically the young Edward VI died on 6 July 1553  and his sister Mary Tudor succeeded to the throne. A staunch Catholic she soon set about restoring the Church of Rome and earning her title "Bloody Mary". This was a terrible blow for the English Reformation and for Knox who was forced to seek sanctuary abroad, landing in Dieppe  on 20 January 1554. before departing however, Knox issued his "Faithful Admonition" and declared that "the devil rageth in his obedient servants, wily Winchester, dreaming Durham and bloody Bonner, with the rest of their bloody butcherly brood". He denounced Queen Mary for her renewal of persecutions and called her " a breaker of promises and designated her " that most unhappy and wicked woman."

So ended Knox`s direct personal involvement in the English Reformation. However, his influence continued while abroad following the establishment of the English Church in Geneva. Here Knox and his co-minister Christopher Goodman,  taught and preached a purer reformed church that was stripped of all signs of popery. Thus, when Mary Tudor died in 1558, there was a flow of English exiles back to their homeland who wanted change to the ritual,  liturgy, discipline and government of the Church of England. 

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