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Joan of Kent, Lollardy and the English Reformation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 March 2011


Joan Bocher, or Joan of Kent as she came to be called, is well known as the victim of the Edwardine Protestants in 1550. She was burnt for her Anabaptist view of the Incarnation: that Christ did not take flesh of the Virgin. Her Lollard and sacramentarian background is less well known. The purpose of this study is to draw attention to that background and to its significance. The story of Joan of Kent reveals that Tudor Lollardy, far from being an abortive movement, was a highly influential, eclectic and evolutionary branch of reform in England.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1982

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2 Ibid., iv(ii). 4242(3), 4850.

3 Lambeth Palace Library, Register Pole, fos. 430r–431r.

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5 For the depositions discussed in the following two paragraphs see Letters and Papers, iv(ii). 4254.

6 Evangelism was a European phase of reform that arose as a response to Luther. It was not a coherent movement, had no conscious interchange of letters or books as did other reforming bodies, but nevertheless presents a definite phase in the Reformation. Adherents of evangelism, both orthodox and unorthodox, postulated vague doctrines of faith and grace without going the whole way in accepting solifidianism. It was espoused by such divergent figures as Cardinals Seripando and Contarini on the one hand, and Juan Valdes and Jacques Lefevre d'litaples on the other. It elevated the authority of scripture and laid emphasis upon preaching rather than the mass and the sacraments. It can be observed in otherwise orthodox circles in Spain and Naples, and in more divergent centres of reform like Meaux, Zurich and Strasbourg. It was an eclectic movement, open to influences of a varied sort, such as Erasmianism, Illuminism and Lollardy. In England Cambridge men, under the leadership of Thomas Bylney, far from evincing pure Lutheranism, combined their vague espousals of faith and attacks upon so-called ‘voluntary works' with Lollard views about saints, images, pilgrimages and papacy. Chrisman, M. U., Strasbourg and the Reform, New Haven 1967Google Scholar; Jung, Eva-Maria, ‘On the nature of Evangelism in sixteenth-century Italy’, The Journal of the History of Ideas, xiv (1953), 511–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Longhurst, J. E., Erasmus and the Spanish Inquisition: the case of Juan de Valdés, Albuquerque 1950Google Scholar; Mousseaux, M., Aux sources françaises de la Réforme, Paris 1968Google Scholar; Pollet, J. V., Huldrych Zwingli el la Réforme en Suisse, Paris 1963Google Scholar; Davis, J. F., ‘The trials of Thomas Bylney and the English Reformation’, Historical Journal, xxiv (1981)Google Scholar.

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