A satirical procession

Procession was intrinsic to the pre-Reformation English church, its use prescribed in a whole separate book of ritual known as the Processional. Such practices were anathema to early Protestants. The Royal Injunctions of 1547 abolished processions, naming as especially offensive the procession that initiated the Mass on Sundays and major feasts such as Corpus Christi. A small exception was made for the Litany, since this part of the liturgy was adapted to honour the monarchy; but even so it was a static ritual form. Meanwhile the procession became a staple of anti-Catholic propaganda. Foxe’s Actes and Monuments contains mock processions such as that for the burning of Bucer’s bones in 1557. Scandalised accounts of the auto-da-fé in Spain ritually lampooned the elaborate processions of priests and friars, alongside the desecrated victims. Here we see a survival of this into the Exclusion Crisis of 1679 to 1681. In 1673, when he refused to take the oath prescribed by the new Test Act, it became publicly known that James, Duke of York, the brother and heir of Charles II, was a Roman Catholic. The ‘Petitioners’, who backed a series of petitions to Charles to call Parliament together to complete the passage of the Exclusion Bill, became known as the Whigs. In huge processions in London the pope was burnt in effigy. BC

The solemn mock procession of the Pope, cardinalls, Jesuits, fryers, &c. through ye City of London, November ye 17th, 1679.

LPL: Prints 024/007

Further Reading

Tim Harris, London Crowds in the Reign of Charles II: Propaganda and Politics from the Restoration Until the Exclusion Crisis (Cambridge, 1990).

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