Sir Thomas More, that most heroic of Henrician Catholics, believed that English devotion to the saints was ‘so planted by goddes owne hande in the hertes of the hole church, that is to wit, not the clargie only, but the hole congregation of all Christen people, that if the spiritualtie were of the mynde to leve it, yet wolde not the temporaltie suffre it’. In other words, he held the view that any official attempt to undermine the cult of the saints would be met by stubborn resistance from the laity. But, in the decades after More’s execution, the saints came under fierce reformist fire, and the vast majority of England’s people put up with it. By 1600, a nation of once contented traditionalists had come to accept an essentially Protestant church, and the number of people who had lost their lives in the process was small by continental standards. Many communities had, of course, endured serious internal conflict along the way, and relatively few had come to be numerically dominated by Protestants of the more zealous variety. The English Reformation, therefore, had been neither fully peaceful nor fully successful. In a majority of settlements, however, it had happened, or was happening, and religious quarrels had generally not gone much beyond the inevitable ‘grudge murmor and debates’ reported in Henrician Suffolk.
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