Church of the Holy Trinity

Catholic resurgence

Last updated: 09 February 2011

Edward VI, the 'Boy King' - a zealous Protestant - occupied the throne from 1547 to 1553.

Edward's advisors replaced the mass with the communion service, a definite rejection of Catholicism. The marriage of clerics was now permitted.

Catherine of Aragon's daughter Mary occupied the throne from 1553 to 1558. Ardently Catholic, she returned her kingdom to papal obedience, and sought to rescind the changes of her two predecessors.

Mary sent to the stake 300 heretics, including White at Cardiff, Nichol at Haverfordwest and Ferrar, Bishop of St David's, at Carmarthen.

The Welsh, a conservative people, probably supported Mary's efforts. Had Mary lived longer, Wales might well have become a stronghold of renewed Roman Catholicism.

Elizabeth I, daughter of Anne Boleyn, reigned from 1558 to 1603. Her ideal was the restoration of the pope-less Catholicism of her father, but she was obliged to co-operate with men of strongly Protestant views.

A modification of the 1553 Prayer Book was adopted in 1559 and the Church of England's 'middle way' between Roman Catholicism and advanced Protestantism was set out in the Thirty Nine Articles of 1563.

The Welsh warmed to the settlement, partly because of the dissemination of the myth that originally the Christianity of Wales had been Protestant and that its purity had been defiled by the Romish practices imposed upon it.

Elements within Welsh society remained faithful to Roman Catholicism. On Elizabeth's accession, about 15 Welsh priests fled to mainland Europe to plan the restoration of their country to Rome. Some Welshmen involved themselves in the plots to replace Elizabeth with her Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.

Yet despite these plots and martyrdoms, a huge majority of the people of Wales became adherents of the State Church, a marked contrast with Ireland where the government proved unable to prevent the campaigns of the Catholic orders.

Advanced Protestantism made little headway, although the Puritan John Penry of Breconshire, a bitter opponent of bishops, was hanged in 1593 and became for future generations the founding martyr of Welsh Nonconformity.

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