Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther by Rembrandt

On this day in history, 2nd April 1536, Anne Boleyn’s almoner, John Skip, preached a rather controversial sermon in front of the King. Skip’s theme was “Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato?” or “Which of you can convict me of sin?”.

Skip spoke “defending the clergy from their defamers and from the immoderate zeal of men in holding up to public reprobation the faults of any single clergyman as if it were the fault of all.” He also used the example of the Old Testament story of King Ahasuerus “who was moved by a wicked minister to destroy the Jews” but Queen Esther stepped in with different advice and saved the Jews. In Skip’s sermon, Henry VIII was Ahasuerus, Anne Boleyn was Queen Esther and Thomas Cromwell, who had just introduced the Act of Suppression of the Lesser Monasteries into Parliament, was Haman, the “wicked minister”.

Anne Boleyn, who must have been behind this sermon, believed in reform and tackling abuse and corruption, but felt that reform should only be carried out where necessary and that the money from dissolved monasteries should be spent on poor relief and education, rather than going to the Crown. She did not agree with what was going on and the advice the King was receiving. The sermon was an attack on what had been debated in Parliament and it was a statement on Anne’s stance and her beliefs.

Skip got into a spot of bother with his sermon and was interrogated – whoops!

Also on this day in history…

Notes and Sources

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10 – January-June 1536, note 615

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8 thoughts on “2 April 1536 – John Skip’s Passion Sunday Sermon”
  1. Even though living in Lincolnshire where there are the remains of many examples of Henry’s handiwork, I’m ashamed to say I know very little about Anne Boleyn’s attitude towards the aftermath of the dissolution. It would make an interesting piece of research to find out the feelings of Anne, and other high-profile courtiers, as to how the proceeds from the plunder should have been best used. Has this been done already? I wouldn’t think there will be much on record, as people would be too afraid to articulate their feelings.

  2. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story from the fascinating life of Anne Boleyn!
    You and several others have done such a great deal in rehabilitating the reputation of this dynamic Tudor queen.
    This episode reminds me of several other pulpit-to-monarch confrontations in Elizabeth I’s own life.

    -Ashlie of “BeingBess”

  3. What a lot of people often forget about Anne in light of subsequent events was that she was a moderate reformist. Her beliefs had been strongly influenced by the French theologians who were less radical than their German conterparts. Anne is on record as rejecting a book because it denied the miracle of transubstantiation. I am not sure about the Haman being Cromwell however as he had tried to pass a bill less than a year before that would have greatly helped the poor and unemployed in England.

    1. I agree with you about Cromwell also being concerned about poor relief, with regards to his previous efforts, but looking at Skip’s sermon in light of what had happened recently in Parliament I can’t see Haman not being Cromwell. Yes, I’ve done loads of research on the Boleyns and religion and Anne was definitely influenced by the French Reformers who wanted reform within the Church, as did Marguerite of Angoulême, rather than wanting to break away from the Church. She certainly was not Lutheran, whatever Chapuys said of her family, and Skip’s sermon was not rejecting the rituals of the Catholic Church, it was condemning the superstition related to them and the abuses of the Church. It is hard to infer Anne’s beliefs from her rejection of Revell’s text as it was presented to her at a time when she was vulnerable (1536) and would not have wanted to be linked to what could be seen as quite a radical text. It is impossible to know what she would have done a year earlier.

  4. That’s a good point. Despite the split from Rome having reformist sympathies that didn’t fit in with Henry’s ‘middle way’ could be very dangerous. Many members of the court had to hide the true extent of their religious beliefs. If Anne did reject the text as being too dangerous to be associated with do you think it might be possible that Skip’s sermon served a similiar purpose ? Anne was a very astute woman who was aware of the situation she was in and it would have been a clever move on her part to have such a sermon preached. A sermon in which she distanced herself from the unpopular dissolution whilst praising Henry as a wise King. Anne’s tactic seems to fit in with a tradition in English history which is when wanting a monarch to change policy instead of being critical of the Monarch pledge loyalty to him which you show by saving him from his bad advisors. On the subject on the events of parliment what do you think of George Wyatt’s story concerning this ?

  5. I have just thought of something that I would like your opinion on as well. The major theme of Skip’s sermon was King Solomon’ s moral decline after he had taken many wives. When Skip was brought to task it was on this point that he was questioned on the most and the ‘Haman’ refence was not touched on at all. Why do you think this was ?

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