Bishops and persecution: solidarity across centuries

These two seventeenth-century prints provide a striking example of commemoration across the centuries and of history pressed to new uses. One depicts the five former bishops who were executed as Protestant heretics during the reign of the Catholic Mary I; the other depicts seven bishops who had been imprisoned in 1688 for seditious libel for opposing the Second Declaration of Indulgence of James II, a proclamation which granted toleration to Catholics and other Christian groups outside the Church of England. Although these two prints are not part of a set (note the Dutch and French on the print of the seven bishops, which was presumably prepared for an international market), they clearly have a common origin. The iconography of each print echoes the other, creating and emphasising an implied relationship between these two groups of men. Comparisons between the Catholic James II and ‘Bloody Mary’ were frequently invoked by his Protestant opponents as part of their polemical attacks on the king and his regime. Invoking the sufferings of the Church of England in centuries past was thus not simply an act of commemoration but a powerful intervention in the religious politics of the late seventeenth century. CL

The bishops who suffer’d martyrdom for the protestant faith under the persecution of Q. Mary ye 1st.

The seven bishops imprisoned by James II in 1688.

LPL: Prints 009/041 and 029/009

Further Reading

Thomas S. Freeman, ‘Inventing Bloody Mary: perceptions of Mary Tudor from the restoration to the twentieth century’, in Susan Doran and Thomas S. Freeman (eds), Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives (Basingstoke, 2011), pp. 78–100.

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