Burnings of Protestants and the Failure of Mary's Religious Policy

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Burnings of Protestants and the Failure of Mary's Religious Policy

After Mary had taken the throne from Lady Jane Grey in 1553, she had, in her view, the task of returning the church to the state it had been in at the start of 1534. By the end of the year of her accession, Mary had re-implemented the heresy laws and by her death in November 1558, a minimum of 287 Protestants had died in the flames at Smithfield and elsewhere across the country. At the end of Mary's reign Protestantism was far from being suppressed, and upon the accession of Elizabeth, England once again swung to Protestantism. England would never be officially Catholic again. Although it can be argued that Catholicism was not a
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Mary had considered that policy would not be too difficult to pursue, as the country had been officially Catholic only 10 years previous. It has been argued as to what the causes of the failure of her religious policy actually were, and it is undisputed that there are a number of possible causes.

Historians from John Foxe (writing in 1563) to Robert Tittler (1991) have disputed the effect that the burnings had on the populace. The initial argument was that the burnings had such a profound effect on the people of England that they took up the new religion in favour of Catholicism. This argument hangs on the idea that people saw the victims of the burnings being prepared to die for their faith, and were converted as a result. Tittler talks of "widespread popular witness and sympathetic reaction" to the burnings that took place under Mary[2], and David Loades concurs when he describes the burnings of Rogers and Hooper: "At the same time the heroism of the early victims…made a deep impression upon many who were not
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