Volume 2

 

VOLUME 2

The Practyse of Prelates

William Tyndale, The Practyse of Prelates (1530), title page.

Folger Library Shelfmark: STC 24465. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

The Practyse of Prelates appeared in 1530 in defense of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In order to facilitate his divorce from Catherine, Henry broke with the Church of Rome and set up himself as the head of an autonomous Church of England. Drawing upon German Lutheran sources, Tyndale devotes a portion of the work to showing how the medieval church usurped secular authority. This serves to introduce the book’s main argument: England’s clergy have conspired against Henry by insinuating that he ought to divorce his wife only because the divorce would benefit them. Tyndale opposes both proposals. He rejects the divorce and defends Henry’s marriage from the Old Testament, and he criticizes English bishops for meddling in secular affairs. The work’s principal villain, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Tyndale memorably calls “Wolfsee.” This book is said to have infuriated Henry. John Foxe, the martyrologist who compiled the influential Book of Martyrs during the reign of Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth I, read Prelates and used its ideas as the basis for the substantial expansion of the Book of Martyrs in its second edition (1570).