Book Reviews, History, Reading

5 Cities that Ruled the World? post 3

By this point, England was crucial to the future of the Reformation. The Reformation had broken out on the Continent, but the political pressures on the Reformed churches there made things difficult. England joined the Reformation late, but the country’s involvement in the movement during the reign of Elizabeth was vital. Whoever the titular head of England would be if the Armada surrendered, he or she would not be a Protestant.

This sentence appears on pages 131-132 of 5 Cities that Ruled the World in a section about London. It springs out of nowhere and has no connection to anything preceding it. The Spanish Armada has not been mentioned up to this point, and to be honest, very little had been said about the Tudors and what had been said was hopelessly incomplete. And now, there is a sudden introduction of the Armada.

I had to read this paragraph several times before I actually read it. Read that last sentence carefully. The author writes: …if the Armada surrendered

Are you kidding me? How did that get past the editors? The Spanish Armada was soundly defeated in 1588!

First of all, the author should have really read through his notes and realized that he was mentioning the Armada out of thin air, and probably reorganized things to explain why he was mentioning it.

Second, the editors should have read this sentence and corrected it. It should read something like: Whoever the titular head of England would be if the Armada succeeded, he or she would not be a Protestant.

And third (while I’m at it) how incredibly Anglo-centric to assume that England was the powerful force that moved the Reformation ahead while the Continent was bogged down in politics! The only reason the English had left the Catholic Church was POLITICAL! Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon.

The Pope would not allow the divorce because the marriage created a strong alliance between England and the Trastamara in Spain. Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor; and the Pope refused to let the alliance fold.

In point of fact, Charles V was probably overjoyed that Catherine was sonless since that would have given his family claim on England – to draw it into the empire. If Henry had not broken from the church, Charles’ son Philip’s marriage to Henry’s daughter Mary would have created a Catholic union of the two nations (as indeed Philip tried desperately to make happen, even after Mary’s death).

To say the English Reformation was, at its beginning, anything OTHER THAN POLITICAL is absolute balderdash!

It is true that Elizabeth I’s reign was crucial to the development of English Protestantism. The miraculous defeat of the Spanish Armada preserved Britain’s independence from the Catholic powers and, some might say, stemmed the flow of the Holy Roman Empire which had extended over most of western Europe. This set up the formalization of the English Bible under James I, which itself did more to move English Protestantism forward more than anything else.

And in Douglas Wilson’s defense, he does address these concerns; but the student of history cannot hear the things he says that are correct over the poorly constructed narrative, terrible editing, and often incorrect historical statements.

Oh Lord, please let me finish this book soon!


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