Date of Graduation

Spring 2012


Master of Arts in History



Committee Chair

David Gutzke


Inquisition, Mary Tudor, Henry VIII, heresy, England, Edmond Bonner, law, justice, John Foxe, Philip II

Subject Categories



Infamously, during the reign of Mary Tudor (1553 to 1558) a terrible persecution occurred in which the government executed 283 Protestants for the crime of heresy. The Crown adopted these harsh polices in order to preserve the royal regime. As heresy became synonymous with sedition, Queen Mary's government adopted an inquisitorial system of justice in England from 1555 to 1558. Through both royal statutes and patents, Mary, urged on by her Spanish husband, Philip II of Spain, used this unique legal system to bolster her tenuous time on the English throne. Moreover, during her brief reign, the government established a central heresy court in London under the leadership of the Bishop of London Edmond Bonner. This central heresy court quickly sent out groups of heresy commissioners throughout Southeastern England to enforce religious orthodoxy. The commissioning of these heresy judges, also served a dual function of defeating the regimes most potent enemies and maintaining social cohesion. These heresy commissioners also performed many actions that paralleled early modern inquisitorial techniques elsewhere in Europe. Thus, with its own royally controlled ecclesiastical court system for trying heresy, and its commissioning of groups of itinerant inquisitors, it appears that a brief formal inquisition occurred during Mary Tudor's reign in England.


© David Allen Hill

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