Louis XIV was rapidly losing control of his European north-western flank, so in desperation he committed valuable troops to the support of King James in Ireland, a decision that weakened his ability to attack the Habsburgs in Germany. James planned to regain England by using Ireland as a springboard, with the ultimate goal being the invasion of the Netherlands and Saxony. But William of Orange, now king of England and Scotland, saw the gambit and moved to cut off James’ support at its roots – in Ireland. However, preoccupied as he was in Ireland, King William was unable to save his small principality of Orange down in southern France – the very region and city from which his title had been derived: the principality he still nominally ruled: the very city that started the Reformation process. Orange had been a center of Gnostic heresies for centuries, and just to add spice to this already pivotal history I also relate in Mary Magdalene, Princess of Orange
If there was ever a pivotal moment in the history of Western civilisation it was 31st October 1517,when a priest named Martin Luther nailed a letter of protest – called
The Ninety-five Theses – to the doors of Wittenberg church in Saxony, central Germany. The main complaints in this long letter concerned the Catholic Church’s sale of
indulgences (the selling of divine forgiveness for cash); simony (the selling of Church positions); and the formal licensing and legalisation of prostitutes.
The complaints Martin Luther made were scholarly and reasoned, but they were considered heretical by Catholic leaders because they challenged the authority and wisdom of a supposedly infallible pope. Martin Luther was not the first to have made these kind of complaints, as there had been many who had previously protested about Church corruption and the abuse of its many powers, but these complaints grew much louder during the 15th century, when the Papacy was controlled by the Borgia family. The Borgias were considered to be especially debauched and corrupt popes, with Alexander VI being variously accused of nepotism, adultery, theft, rape, bribery, incest and even murder during the1490s. Given the low opinion of the Papacy at this time, Martin Luther’s letter, pinned to the doors of
Wittenberg church, happened to be the spark that ignited the Protestant Revolution – a spirited but initially uncoordinated enterprise that hoped to counter or reduce the power of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther’s campaign was greatly helped by the recent invention of the printing press, which spread copies of his letter all over Europe, and so news was able to spread much quicker than before. William Tyndale also used the same printing presses to translate and print the Bible into English; but the Church objected as it meant that common people could at last read the Bible themselves and bypass the rule and interpretations of the priests. As a punishment for the grave heresy of spreading knowledge and truth, Martin Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1521, while William Tyndale was burned at the stake at Vilvoorde near Brussels in 1536. This is the reality of life under a religious tyranny.
Fig 3. A modern romanticised image of Martin Luther nailing his ‘Ninety-five Theses’ to the door of Wittenberg church in Saxony.
The parallel revolution in England
At this very same time, King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, were both Catholics. But Catherine, an ardently Catholic Spanish princess, had not managed to produce a male heir for Henry. Advisors to the king blamed this upon Catherine, who had formerly been the wife of Henry’s late brother, Arthur, a marital union which might have been against Church teachings. Other close royal advisors – like Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer, who had already been influenced by the writings of Luther and Tyndale – were making secret plans behind the king’s back to influence his thinking; and so they brought a beautiful young Protestant aristocratic lady to court in 1522, by the name of Anne Boleyn, who greatly charmed the king. It was reputedly Anne who introduced King Henry to Tyndale’s ‘heretical’ printed pamphlets.
In this era kings of Europe were still nominally subservient to the Roman Catholic Church. The pope had the power to excommunicate entire nations; and while this was essentially a spiritual excommunication it was also a tacit declaration of war, as neighbouring Christian nations were obliged to take up arms against the outcast nation. Nevertheless Protestant reformers like Thomas Cromwell still wanted King Henry to assert Praemunire or Royal Supremacy, and break with Catholic Rome. If these Gnostic religious reformers could boost the power of their king it would simultaneously reduce the power of the Catholic Church, just as Martin Luther had urged five or so years earlier. It is not clear if Henry was a willing participant in this scheme or whether he was being manipulated from behind, but he was happy enough to summon a Parliament in 1529 to rule on the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and likewise on his proposed marriage to Anne Boleyn. However, Pope Clement VII forbade this annulment and so the Protestant reformers again urged the king to use his own powers, under the law of Praemunire facias.
Fig 4. King Henry VIII, one of England’s greatest monarchs.
Wittingly or unwittingly, it was Henry’s complex marital relations that inspired England to break away from the Roman Catholic Church.
Henry did just that and in 1531 he demanded royal authority over the Catholic Church in England. This was swiftly followed by many laws and edicts that changed the face of the Church in England, so that it was no longer Catholic. This was the beginnings of what became known as the Church of England –a new, simpler and less authoritarian Christian Church which was ultimately governed by the English monarch, rather than the papal ’emperors’ of Rome. This culminated in the dissolution of the monasteries. These religious enclaves were not only bastions of traditional Catholic thinking they were also rather rich, and King Henry was persuaded that they should be closed down and their assets seized. Thus in 1536, on the pretext of the discovery of immoral goings-on between monks and nuns, the great monasteries of England were abandoned and their great wealth and power was transferred to the king himself. But such a seismic political change and such a blatant challenge to papal authority was not without great risks, and the Catholic Church in Rome did indeed declare war on England, which is one reason why the great Spanish Armada sailed to invade England in 1588. But more on that later………..
After Henry VIII’s death in 1547, the continuation of these Protestant reforms in England was by no means certain, for the succession went to a Catholic – Bloody Mary. Thankfully, the deranged and despotic Mary was soon succeeded by Elizabeth I, Henry’s younger daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn – the lady who had been pivotal in starting the English Protestant Reformation back in 1531 by spreading William Tyndale’s printed pamphlets. Being a daughter of Boleyn, Elizabeth was staunchly Protestant and immediately set out to undo the damage and divisions caused by Mary’s bloody Catholic reign. Elizabeth’s religio-political reforms culminated in 1559 with the Act of Supremacy, which reestablished the English monarch as the head of the English Church of England, and the utter rejection of rule from Rome. These may seem like peripheral issues, but under these new enlightened social reforms, the 44-year reign of Elizabeth’s blossomed into a glorious era of peace and prosperity for Merry England. If there was a great deity in the starry skies above, it seemed to everyone that it was most certainly a Protestant deity, for even the Catholic Church’s great Spanish Armada was swept to its doom by the fickle fingers of Nature, and Merry England remained safe and prosperous.
Fig 5. Good Queen Bess – Queen Elizabeth I of England, who ruled Merry England for forty-five glorious years.
The English Religious War
(Sometimes called the English Civil War)
But dark, oppressive clouds were brewing on the horizon once more. Elizabeth had no children and upon her death in 1603 the Scottish King James VI was invited to become monarch of a united England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales; and so he was renamed as King James I of Britain and took up residence in St James’ Palace in London. King James was nominally Protestant and continued the reforms of Queen Elizabeth and the nation prospered accordingly. But upon the accession of his son, King Charles I in 1625, the situation deteriorated rapidly. Charles I took a French wife, a Catholic Bourbon princess named Henrietta, and this raised the prospect of his children becoming Catholics at a time when the horrors of Bloody Mary’s reign still loomed large in people’s memories. Charles then demanded money for various military expeditions and this caused constant disputes with Parliament ; and the combination of these many problems caused the English Religious War to erupt. The factions split along essentially religious lines, with the royalists being predominantly Catholic and the Protestants uniting under the command of Thomas Fairfax and Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was eventually victorious and King Charles I was beheaded for treason in 1649.
Fig 6. Oliver Cromwell, ‘warts and all’, the Protestant Parliamentarian leader who defeated the Catholic Royalists.
Cromwell did away with the monarchy and ruled the nation via Parliament, which held both legislative and executive powers. However, the defeated Catholic forces of Charles had regrouped in Catholic Ireland and so Cromwell immediately led an expedition to defeat them. This was one of many forays into Ireland which were caused by Ireland harbouring forces that were intent on destabilising or invading England or Scotland. At home Cromwell set about healing a divided nation and its shattered economy. This included the right of Jews to return to England, after previous Catholic persecutions, a move that was partly influenced by the Jews being at the forefront of the successful monetary reforms in Holland; and under Cromwell’s guidance Britain did indeed begin to heal and prosper. However, upon Cromwell’s death in 1658, it was to be all-change once again in this era of religious divisions. Weary of wars and political instability, public sentiment was for a restoration of the monarchy; and so King Charles II, the son of Charles I, eventually became king of Britain in 1660.
Both King Charles II and his brother, who eventually became King James II, were again nominally Protestant and so James’s daughter Mary married Prince William of Orange, the Protestant prince of the Netherlands mentioned previously. But the Protestant leanings of James II had only been a sham. He refused to give an anti-Catholic oath and on becoming king in 1685 his policies were overtly Catholic, and it was for this reason that the compulsory Protestant oath for British monarchs was initiated – to ensure that no future Catholic monarchs tried to place the nation back under the oppressive shackles of Rome. And this is hardly ancient history, for this very same law is being debated at this very moment in the British Parliament, with libertarians demanding the rights of Catholics to rule Britain. If only they read a little more history, they would perhaps see their folly, for millions of people lost their lives to wrench Britain away from tyrannical Catholic rule, as we shall see shortly. Should we be so quick to desecrate the legacy and memory of millions of lives cut short, in the name of inclusivity – the millions of people who gave their lives for our freedom? So yes, the mid 17th century was indeed a troubling time. The Protestant aristocracy of England was worried, as yet another damaging civil war was in prospect. But they did not necessarily wish another dictator like Oliver Cromwell to surface; and so to prosecute this new rebellion and to keep the Protestant revolution alive, some leading Luminaries** in London appealed for the assistance of William of Orange, the Dutch prince. William’s wife was the daughter of King James II, and since there were those who considered that royal inheritance ran through the female line, in traditional Judaic fashion, the offspring of Prince William of Orange would be true British monarchs. And it was in these convoluted and confusing circumstances Prince William landed in England in 1688. His Dutch army numbered only 14,000, but wave after wave of Protestant officers defected to the Dutch prince, and James II was virtually abandoned. James fled the country, almost without a fight, and Prince William of Orange was crowned King William III of England in February 1689. William was not one to squander time and in March of the same year he was out in Ireland in hot pursuit of James; and an historic battle was about to be fought – on Irish soil.
Reformation Revolution in Europe
This was the domestic picture in Britain but there was a wider political environment within which these skirmishes were being fought. The problem in Europe was again religious, with the bitter dispute between the Protestant north and the Catholic south still raging, even after all this time. In Protestant northern Europe the League of Augsburg
comprised the Habsburg Empire of Eastern Europe, together with the princes of Netherlands, Saxony and Sweden, under the nominal command of William of Orange. Ranged against them in this dispute were the Catholic Bourbons, led by Louis XIV of France and a mixed bag of southern Catholic principalities. But the Habsburgs also had an eastern border dispute with the Muslim Turks which was keeping them very preoccupied as the Muslims had already reached the Gates of Vienna. So, and with absolutely no consideration to the wider security of Europe in general, Louis XIV of France thought that the Catholic James II of England could keep Protestant states in the Netherlands busy, while he marched his army into Germany to confront the Habsburgs – placing the Habsburgs Protestants in the center of a Muslim-Catholic sandwich. TheProtestant Reformation would soon be extinguished, and the Catholic Bourbon dynasty would soon be the masters of Europe (if their Muslim allies did not wipe them out first). Had Louis succeeded, all thesacrifices of the Protestant Revolution and the many hundreds of thousands who had already died in these many wars, both civil and national, would have been in vain. But the revolution prevailed and survived, just. As we have just seen, King James II lost the support ofthe population of England and Prince William of Orange was invited to become the new British monarch, and so James had to flee to Catholic Ireland.
that the city may have been founded by Mary Magdalene back in the 1st century AD, which is why Mary is always depicted in Renaissance imagery as having orange robes and hair. However, what is more certain is that Orange’s influential 8th century prince defeated the Muslim invasions, while its universities may well have inspired the Protestant ideals that eventually flourished in northern Europe. But now, in a fit of frustrated pique, Louis XIV destroyed Orange and all of its Protestant and Huguenot citizens were forced to flee, with many arriving in Britain. And this migration to England was hardly surprising, for England’s King William III was not only the Prince of Orange (the prince of this very city) he was also a Huguenot himself through his great grandmother, Louise de Coligni, the fourth wife of Prince William the Silent of Orange.
The pivotal Battle on the Boyne
Thus the looming battle in Ireland had nothing to do with Ireland itself, it was a minor skirmish in a much larger struggle for religious and political control over the people of Europe. This was a stark choice between the old tyranny and oppression of Roman Catholicism, versus the relative intellectual freedom of the new Protestant creed. It was a political squabble that saw, even at the domestic level, James II fighting against his son-in-law William and his own daughter Mary. The situation came to a climax on the river Boyne, north of Dublin, in 1690. Arranged in this most European of battles was James II on the south bank of the Boyne, with 7,000 regular French troops and14,000 Irish. On the other side of the river was William of Orange, who had some 35,000 regulars at his disposal. Underlining the true international nature of this dispute, William’s forces comprised the Dutch Blue Guard, two divisions of French Huguenots, many English and Scottish regiments, the Danish and Prussian infantry and, bringing up the rear, a smattering of Finns and Swiss.
Fig 8. King Billy, the Protestant William III of Orange on his white charger, defeats the Catholic forcesof James II at the Battle of the Boyne River in Ireland. It was this final battle in the century-long Wars of Religion, that ushered in the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.
This battle has been commemorated for centuries in Irish history as being the English oppressing the poor Irish once more, and yet it was anything but. This was a battle for the future of the Protestant Reformation, the bold move by the Gnostic intellectual elite of northern Europe to prise freedom of speech, expression and thought from the vice-like grip of the old Catholic hierarchy. It was a bitter , century-long struggle to open the soul of the European peoples, a struggle that saw many hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of casualties throughout Britain and mainland Europe. Indeed, it is said that a third of the population of Germany died during this long struggle for enlightenment and freedom. But it was most definitely a cause worth fighting for, as this religious crusade heralded the modern era.
It is of no coincidence that as soon as the Protestant Enlightenment became established in England the Royal Society, Britain’s premiere scientific institution, was officially established – while previous incarnations of the Royal Society had been known as the Occult College (the Invisible College) and met in secrecy. This new Gnostic Royal Society was now free to push the boundaries of knowledge and technology, something that would have been unthinkable only 50 years previously. It was founded by famous figures like Robert Moray, Robert Hooke, Christopher Wren, William Petty, and Robert Boyle; and its scientific methodology was largely based upon the radical ideas of the English philosopher, Francis Bacon. It cannot be overstressed that the Catholic Church would have regarded Bacon’s ideas and the goals of the Royal Society as being deeply heretical. Science was trying to research and understand the workings of the Universe, the supposed designs and creations of the great god himself. This simply would not have been allowed under an oppressive Catholic regime, and these ‘heretical’ scientists would have been imprisoned or murdered – all in the name of peace, love and forgiveness. But the scientific revolution that was ushered in by the Royal Society and Grand Lodge could not have happened, were it not for the great sacrifice of the many millions of men and women who laid down their lives during the Protestant Reformation – for the greater goal of intellectual freedom. Yet this glorious revolution was not prosecuted just so that a few dozen philosophers could ruminate on the workings of nature – it also ushered in a complete new civilisation, a new way of life, and a vastly improved standard of living. This was the bold, new Age of Reason, and this new freedom of thought brought in new methodologies, new techniques, new understandings and new technologies. In short, it ushered in the Industrial Revolution. Just about everything we use in the Western world today, every piece of technology and machinery, has been brought about because a few philosophers were at last allowed to dream dreams of the impossible.
Ralph Ellis Extracted from his article ‘The Reformation. Will it be relinquished without a fight?