Friday, February 01, 2013

Question from Jay - Tudor apocalyptic thinking

Were there any times during the Tudor period where people thought the apocalypse was coming?

1 comment:

Foose said...

I think this was a period in which there was a tremendous amount of millennarian sentiment.

-The Protestant reformation, which made scriptures like the Apocalypse available in the vernacular languages, provoked a great strain of "end of the world" thinking, with the second coming of Christ confidently predicted. With the Reform movement splintering into various sects, many of them held together by their conviction that the world had become so sinful that God was determined upon its destruction, the sixteenth century saw situations like the Anabaptists taking over Munster, redistributing women, enforcing harsh penalties, imposing a community of goods - all in the confident expectation of the millennium.

-There was also the Sack of Rome in 1527. Rome's traditional prestige as the center of Western civilization and symbolic role in the biblical Apocalypse made this event especially horrific to the laity, and a sign that perhaps the world was coming to an end.

-Finally, in England itself, the furore stirred up by the Divorce produced a great deal of apocalyptic prophesying, by the nun Elizabeth Barton and others. Sometimes the "end of the world" was defined variously, conflating it with the death of Henry, the extinction of the dynasty, invasion of the kingdom by foreigners, etc. Protestant reformers seeing the accession of Mary Tudor, and Catholics witnessing the accession of Elizabeth Tudor, were each likely to scream "Apocalypse!" in turn. Foxe, the great martyrologist of the English Reformation, was obsessed with the Apocalypse.

-You might also check Carolly Erickson's nonfiction book on Anne Boleyn, Mistress Anne, which highlights the contemporary prophesy of "The Mouldwarp," a monstrous creature identified with Henry VIII, a sort of male Whore of Babylon. It's an older book, and the author may be exaggerating the period's concern with the Mouldwarp - I found just one reference in L&P - but it's certainly another manifestation of the apocalyptic thinking stirred up by scary events abroad, crises at home, and the uncertainty and excitement of religious discovery brought about by the New Learning.