John FoxeOn this day in 1587, John Foxe, the English historian, reformer and martyrologist, died aged around seventy. He is known for his book Actes and Monuments, commonly known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, an account of Christian martyrs throughout history, with particular emphasis on the Protestant martyrs who died during the reign of Mary I.

Foxe was also a lecturer of logic at Oxford University, and was a tutor to Thomas Lucy’s children and the orphaned children of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey.

He was ordained as a deacon in 1550, but had to go into exile during Mary I’s reign, preaching in Frankfurt and then proofreading in Basel. He wrote his religious drama Christus Triumphans while in exile. Foxe returned to England in Elizabeth I’s reign, began work on Actes and Monuments and was also ordained as a priest. The first edition of Actes and Monuments was published by John Day 20th March 1563, and was around 1800 pages in length. It was hugely popular, and a second edition was published in 1570. Convocation, in 1571, ordered that a copy of it should be placed in every cathedral church, along with the Bishop’s Bible.

Foxe died while working on a Latin commentary of Revelation with his son, Samuel Foxe.

In he recorded Anne Boleyn’s execution and this is what he said of Anne:

“Certain this was, that for the rare and singular gifts of her mind, so well instructed, and given toward God, with such a fervent desire unto the truth and setting forth of sincere religion, joined with like gentleness, modesty, and pity toward all men, there have not many such queens before her borne the crown of England. Principally this one commendation she left behind her, that during her life, the religion of Christ most happily flourished, and had a right prosperous course.

Many things might be written more of the manifold virtues, and the quiet moderation of her mild nature, how lowly she would bear, not only to be admonished, but also of her own accord would require her chaplains plainly and freely to tell whatsoever they saw in her amiss. Also, how bountiful she was to the poor, passing not only the common example of other queens, but also the revenues almost of her estate; insomuch that the alms which she gave in three quarters of a year, in distribution, is summed to the number of fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds; besides the great piece of money which her grace intended to impart into four sundry quarters of the realm, as for a stock there to be employed to the behoof of poor artificers and occupiers. Again, what a zealous defender she was of Christ’s gospel all the world doth know, and her acts do and will declare to the world’s end.”

Notes and Sources

Related Post

8 thoughts on “18 April 1587 – Death of John Foxe, Martyrologist”
  1. It is so nice to read that someone who knew Anne had something possitive and kind to say/write about her for a change. Bless him for that…

  2. “…and her acts do and will declare to the world’s end.” How right he was about this!

    It’s nice to read kind words about Anne. Her image is so tainted by the negative (how she treated Mary, her outbursts, etc.) that to read the words “quiet moderation of her mild nature” certainly gives us insight into another side of Anne that people tend for forget (or may not know).

  3. It would be interesting to know what Elizabeth thought of Foxe’s statements about her mother, especially considering some of the nonsense that she had heard most of her life about Anne.

  4. It is such a pity that people, in general, only know Anne by false stories of disfigurements, witchcraft, and adultery. Especially when contemporary accounts of her (like Foxe’s) are available.

  5. Foxe is a valuable source but he was also a hagiographer and inevitably subject to their failings — for a Boleyn-related example, he manages a long panegyric on Thomas Cromwell (even to justifying the dissolution of the monasteries) which for some reason forgets to mention that he had even the remotest connection with Anne’s downfall. It was also a later edition of the Book of Martyrs which contained the marginal note ascribing blame for George Boleyn’s downfall to his wife; this being about thirty-five years after her death. Well into the twentieth century, fictional portrayals of Anne and her downfall either omitted Cromwell completely or barely mentioned him, and as for Lady Rochford, well, we all know what happened to her!

  6. Foxe did say and write positive things about Anne, he was one of the protestants trying to restore her reputation. But when it came to others who never shared his views like the catholic women, he was prejudiced and mean. He is famous for writing the book of the matrys, where every protestant is a saint and the catholics evil especially Queen Mary.
    He did blast the catholic women who were in power such as Catherine Medici, Mary of Guise and Mary Tudor.
    I do not know if i am wrong but i read that Foxe was one of the people that gave Mary the nick name Bloody Mary, he also called her Jezebel and an evil woman who rejected the truth. And that reign was used by God to teach the English people, the Lord cut her short living her childless. Mary was affliction and Elizabeth redemption.
    What amazes me was that when it came to English monarchies Mary has the nick name bloody but when look at those who were before and after her the all seemed bloody to me, was it because she was a catholic woman? People were persecuted for their beliefs during Henry viii Foxe blamed his evil catholic advisors but when it was Mary it was another story.

  7. The problem was John Foxe exaggerated everything he wrote, much can be disputed and some can be backed by other sources, but he made Anne Boleyn into a Protestant heroine and even a martyr and she wasn’t. His book is a good source but has to be read with caution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *