Curriculum Kernewek

Cornwall Agreed Syllabus 2011

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+ Guide to the Catholic Emancipation in the C19th

Since the establishment of the English Church by Anglo-Saxon Kings the English throne had looked to Rome and the Pope for Christian faith, guidance and authority. In 1534, frustrated by the Pope's refusal to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII broke with Rome and declared himself Head of the Church of England. To justify and support his bold move, Henry drew on new Protestant ideas, which suggested that the role of the Pope went against the teachings of the Bible. New Acts were introduced to enforce the changes. It became a treasonable offence to maintain or defend the authority of the Pope and those taking Holy Orders or even starting a degree at university had to take an oath renouncing Rome and acknowledging Henry VIII as the Head of the Church.

In 1539, 522 monastaries were dissolved, their lands and wealth confiscated, the monks released from their monastic vows and any who resisted were excecuted for treason. Cornwall lost two key institutions, Crantock Monastery and Glasney College, centres of learning and culture (sources of Cornish language miracle plays).

When Edward VI (aged 9) and his Regency Council took the throne in 1547, the Church of England adopted a more assertive Protestant approach. Church interiors were stripped of images, rood screens and shrines and practices perceived as Catholic were banned. The Act of Uniformity 1549 enforced the use of Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer, the English Bible and essentially the use of the English language in Church services.

When Edward died in 1553, Mary (daughter of Catherine of Aragon) took the throne and attempted to restore Catholicism. She accused leading protestants of heresy and executed so many that she became known as Bloody Mary.

In 1558 Elizabeth became Queen and once again reversed the legislation. Parliament passed a law fining people who did not attend Sunday service in an Anglican church. Crucially in 1570, Pope Paul V issued Regnans in Excelsis, also known as the Roaring Bull, in which he excommunicated Elizabeth and made it the religious duty of all Catholics to oppose her. In response the government announced that all Catholic priests and anyone sheltering them were guilty of treason. Fines for those not attending Church were raised, prison was threatened to participants of Catholic Mass and Catholics were not allowed to hold a public office unless they renounced their faith. People who continued to hold Latin Mass in secret were known as 'rescusants'. In Cornwall, rescusants were imprisoned for harbouring priests or being unable to pay the steep fines for not attending their parish church. Some fled to the Continent and lived in exile.

After James I took the throne in 1603 he was threatened by several plots including the Gunpowder Plot, where a group of English Catholics tried to blow him up in the Houses of Parliament. The event removed any leniance he had shown towards Catholicism and he passed the Popish Recusants Act 1605 forbidding Roman Catholics from practising law, medicine, acting as a guardian or trustee and fining recusants £60 or forfeiting two-thirds of his land if he did not receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper at least once a year in his parish church.

Suspicion of Catholics continued and in part the perceived leaning of King Charles I towards Catholicism resulted in Civil War. The conversion of James II to Catholicism led to him being replaced with the Protestant William II. The Act of Settlement 1701 banned Catholics from the throne, and ensured that any Catholic would have to convert before they became king or queen.

During the eighteenth century the French Revolution prompted an influx of Catholics to Britain. Persecution of Catholics steadily lessened and the government began to weaken the anti-catholic legislation. Lord Arundell of Wardour offered Lanherne to a group of Carmelite nuns and a nunnery was established in Cornwall. The passing of a series of acts between 1778 and 1791 allowed Catholics to serve in the military, own property, inherit land, open schools, practise law, exercise their religion and attend university (although attendance remained restricted until the Universities Test Act 1871). Catholics were still prohibited to vote and sit in parliament, even in Ireland where some 80% of the population were Catholic.

The Act of Union in 1800 brought the Irish Parliament into a combined United Kingdom Parliament and the call from Irish Catholics for the right to vote came with it. Opposition from King George III prevented full emancipation occurring at the time but Irish lawyer Daniel O'Connell founded the Catholic Association in 1823 and used his membership of thousands to pressurise the Government. The threat of unrest compelled the British Prime Minister to act and in 1829 the Emancipation Act finally allowed Roman Catholics to hold a seat in Parliament.

Mines and railways attracted migrant workers and many came from Ireland, swelling the Catholic population in the early C19th. The first Catholic Churches were built in Falmouth, Penzance and Bodmin and there are now over 30 Catholic Churches in Cornwall.

In Cornwall, known rescusants within the gentry included:

+ the Arundell family. After the death of John Arundell, John Cornelius, chaplain to the Arundell family was discovered and executed in 1594.

+ the Tregian family. In 1577, the Sherriff of Cornwall, Richard Grenville, searched the home of Francis Tregian near Probus and discovered Cuthbert Mayne, a Catholic priest who had been ministering to locals. After trial, Mayne was declared guilty of treason and hanged, drawn and quartered at Launceston. Tregian spent years in prison and lost his estates.

+ Nicholas Roscarrock who was put on the rack and imprisoned in the Tower of London for harbouring a Catholic priest. He went to prison several times for not attending church and after a final sentence in the Tower he settled in Cumberland and compiled 'A briefe regester or alphabeticall catologue' of the Saints of the British Isles.