Matthew Parker (1504-1575) and the English Reformation
My doctoral research focuses on Matthew Parker (1504-1575) and the English Reformation, using Parker’s career as a way into the world of moderate Protestantism. In the winter of 1558-9 Parker, a middle-aged former Cambridge academic, found himself as the only serious candidate to fill the position as the first Elizabethan archbishop of Canterbury. Parker had fraternized with early evangelicals in 1520s Cambridge and became one of Anne Boleyn’s chaplains in 1535. He made his name at Cambridge University, becoming master of his old college, Corpus Christi, in 1544 and vice-chancellor of the University twice in that decade. Parker lost his preferments following the accession of Mary Tudor in 1553 spending the rest of Mary’s five year reign in quiet obscurity in England. Parker’s biographers from John Strype in the eighteenth century to Victor Brook in the twentieth have focused on Parker’s primacy largely narrating the events of his pre-1559 career. However, I believe that Parker’s earlier career as an evangelical academic is crucial to understanding fully both his promotion to Canterbury in 1559 and his actions as primate.
Historians emphasize the importance of Parker’s ‘moderation’ in explaining his appointment as archbishop of Canterbury in 1559, however few have attempted to define what ‘moderation’ in this context really means. My research aims to diagnose the strain of moderation found in Parker and the Elizabethan religious settlement, challenging the notion that the settlement was an Anglican via media between Rome and Geneva. My research analyses the documentary evidence for the adiaphoristic conflicts of the early Elizabethan church and hopes to offer fresh insights into these established sources influenced by my research on Parker’s early career.
Parker’s decision to remain in Marian England is often interpreted unfairly as revealing the cooler nature of his Protestantism. My thesis hopes to show how Parker’s marriage and ties of friendship and family help to explain his decision eschew continental exile during Mary’s reign, and my research has uncovered new evidence which throws light on the issue that has baffled historians for hundreds of years: the whereabouts of Matthew Parker in Marian England.