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How popular were the religious changes under Edward VI

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In order to successfully answer this question we must examine the extent of Protestantism in England. By 1547 20% of Londoners were Protestant meaning that 80% were obviously not. The other areas which had fixed Protestant minorities included Kent, East Sussex, Essex, Cambridge, Bristol and the East Anglian ports were other places mainly due to the influence of foreigners entering the countries. In other places it was pretty much non-existent. It’s a common belief that all the religious changes during Edward’s reign were popular.

As A. G Dickens said; ‘the forest of Protestantism was spreading relentlessly across the landscape of the nation. ‘ By this he meant that although Protestantism was spreading, it wasn’t spreading because of its popularity but because of the pressures from those in authority. By examining churchwarden’s accounts and wills, the beliefs of ordinary people have been shown. The churchwardens seemed to have gradually destroyed the old Catholic practises and put into practise the wishes of the Crown.

However, because there was a rapid restoration of Catholicism to England in 1553 this would seem to suggest that the old Catholic religion had still retained its popularity. It is also evident that many East Anglian parishes had carried on with traditional Catholic practises despite the pressure from the authorities. However, there is a lot of evidence suggesting the opposing view, for example the expenditure on church goods after 1540 had declined sharply.

However, I would argue that the only reason that there was this decline is because of the destruction caused by the Monarchy, and that people were living in fear of the crown and of its attitudes rather then them feeling that Protestantism was a good idea and showing support for it. The evidence from wills is to some extent unclear and confusing simply because the evidence is indecisive. This is mainly because the evidence is so hard to interpret. Also many wills have not been kept so the ones that are available are just a sample of the overall situation in England, also many people never even had wills.

The declaration in the preamble was key to reflecting the views of the person who’s will it was. However sometimes it reflected the views of the person who was writing rather then the owner of the will. The reason why wills are so important is because they are one of the few factors that show public opinion rather then official views. Historians have claimed that traditional preambles from areas such as Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire tended to disappear after the 1538 injunctions.

Other historians claim this as enthusiasm for Protestantism; by 1549 about 8% of wills in Kent had clear Protestant overtones in the preamble. In Suffolk this was around 27%, a much higher figure throughout all of Edward’s reign. Very importantly before 1550 there were only two Protestant toned preambles in all of York and only in the whole of south-west England. This is significant because both these areas had risen in rebellion against the crown’s religious policies.

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