22 September 2022

A Christmas Game?

During the 1549 Western Rebellion, one of the complaints made by the Catholic rebels was that Cranmer's 1549 Protestant Eucharistic rite was "like a Christmas Game".

This has tended to puzzle liturgists. It was, I think, Diarmuid MacCulloch who suggested that the reference reflates to the 1549 rubric requiring communicants to leave their places in Church and form up in the Chancel, women and men separately. Having everybody charging round the Church changing places seemed ... like a Christmas Game. 

These rubrical provisions were eliminated by Thomas Cranmer from his next liturgical draft!

I ws reminded of all this by a mention in A Murderous Midsummer (Yale), by Mark Stoyle. This is a book which I can warmly recommend. 

But with just one or two hesitations. Quite a few of the most vivid details in the historical sources describing this rebellion are either not mentioned, or merely given in summary. This appears to be because this material has all been worked over so much in recent years that Stoyle thinks that everybody already knows it all. 

My view is that not every potential reader is inevitably going to be a professional Tudor historian. 

And Stoyle does not engage very closely with the attitudes of Hooker, the Protestant narrator who supplies a great deal of our first-hand evidence. Hooker, despite the unambiguous Protestantism of his vantage point, had a great deal of sympathy with some of the players in this tragedy. For example: with Fr Welsh, Vicar of S Thomas's Without the Walls; he had dissuaded the rebels who were besieging Exeter from setting fire to the city ... but this did not ave him from being sentenced by the Tudor commander to be hanged from his Church Tower with the implements of his priestcraft hanging around him. Hooker was clearly moved by the quiet dignity with which Welsh met his end. 

And he offers an entertainingly ironic account of the Welshmen who arrived when the fighting was already over; looted a great deal of stuff from the citizens; and then sold it back to those from whom they had stolen it. Hooker dryly oberves that their prices were quite reasonable. 


Frederick Jones said...

Fr Couratin lecturing on the 1549 Rite said that the game alluded to was probably Sir Roger de Coverley.

william arthurs said...

I have mislaid my copy of Fr Couratin's articles but he does also discuss the new offertory arrangement

In the meane time, whyles the Clerkes do syng the Offertory, so many as are disposed, shall offer unto the poore mennes boxe every one accordynge to his habilitie and charitable mynde.

My view of this as a component of the Christmas Game is perhaps coloured by a horrible memory of, as a small child, being responsible for passing the collection plate round the nave at the carol service in York Minster fifty years ago. The seating had been rearranged to make an odd number of rows and I was not tall enough to see where the dish had disappeared to. I retrieved it in the end but I still have anxiety dreams about it to this day.

Now we have the cashless society, the new version of the game is based on the modern-style hi-tech collection plate that has a credit-card machine welded to the bottom.