This thesis explores the early career of Hugh Latimer (c. 1485-1555). Against the backdrop of the 1530s in England, it tracks his emergence on the national stage as a controversial preacher and supporter of the King’s Great Matter, his appointment as bishop of Worcester, and his resignation in protest over the Act of Six Articles. The
thesis is a response to a research problem presented by the cutting edge of early English Reformation scholarship, namely, the challenges the early evangelical reformers faced in tethering their aspirations to a decidedly ambiguous royal agenda. It is grounded upon the premise that, more than any of his contemporaries, Latimer
must be studied in a national context.
While many studies have treated Latimer’s career during the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I, focussing especially on his sermons, preaching skills and martyrdom, his early career, particularly his tenure as bishop of Worcester, has not been adequately explored. The thesis includes the first comprehensive examination of Bishop Latimer’s diocesan activities as revealed in his largely unexploited episcopal register.
The thesis demonstrates that from his emergence as a supporter of the royal agenda and champion of reform, until his resignation from the episcopate, Latimer was manifestly the king’s man. Yet he neither expediently nor disingenuously pinned his aspirations to the implementation of the king’s. Until the passing of the Act of Six Articles, royal and reformist causes for Latimer were as indivisible as the royal–divine matrix which underpinned his theology, informed his worldview, and affirmed his vocation as a minister of the word to the realm. In keeping with his nascent understanding of divine kingship and Godly nationhood, the reformation of the body politic entailed the restoration of the church and vice versa. Since reformation fell squarely within the king’s remit, Latimer’s mission as an apostolic and prophetic reformer encompassed the execution of the king’s reformation and the reformation of the king. As the king’s reformer, Latimer’s cure of souls was nothing less than England itself; his parishioners, the king and the king’s subjects. In ministering to his cure, Latimer is presented as a figure who acted on the national stage above all others.