John Knox and women

(showing the Only surviving portrait of John Knox – on a site dedicated to Mary, Queen of Scots – see also it’s Homepage)

Linked with John Knox – Scottland-England (1505-1572), with The International Reformed Center John Knox IRCJK, and with Découvert un trésor des TPG Genevois, le SNOTPG – le Site NonOfficiel des TPG.

… Although Knox had already been exposed to the growing wave of Protestantism, he became a priest when he left university, as had been decided for him. However, the seed of Knox’s conversion had already been sown, and he was further impressed by the travelling preacher, George Wishart whom he befriended. In 1546, when Wishart was tried for heresy and burnt at the stake by Cardinal David Beaton, Knox went into hiding. Cardinal Beaton was murdered and the Castle of St Andrews besieged by the murderers, and Knox was encouraged to take on the role of preacher too. His fluency, sarcasm and directness earned him popularity, and he set about denouncing the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, using the Scriptures as his source …

… One of the issues dear to Knox concerned the doctrine of transubstantiation. According to Catholics, the bread and wine consecrated during the Mass physically changed into the body and blood of Christ. The reformers did not agree with that, nor with the use of incense, bells, solemn music and colourful vestments during Mass. Latin should be done away with and the word Mass itself should be replaced by Communion or Lord’s Supper. Whether people should kneel or sit while receiving the bread and wine later proved to be an irreconcilable bone of contention between Knox and other fellow Protestants. Knox’s popularity took him to Newcastle in 1551 and to the court of Edward VI after the death of the Duke of Somerset. Refusing the bishopric of Rochester, Knox returned to Newcastle where his sermons became increasingly politicised. He made himself a few powerful enemies by accusing statesmen of undermining the Protestant Church …

… Knox’s misogyny is legendary. Behind this blatant hatred however, lay a more complex persona. His relationship with Elizabeth Bowes has long raised some eyebrows. About ten years older than Knox, Elizabeth was married to Richard Bowes, Captain of Norham Castle, when she was only 16 and bore him numerous children. Although a devout Catholic, she became increasingly troubled and converted to the new faith. She was first introduced to Knox when she went to listen to him in Berwick in 1549. Elizabeth had particular difficulty with the Protestant doctrine of predestination, and sent Knox long and mournful letters requesting his advice. The relationship probably remained that of preacher and parishioner, although the tone of Knox’s letters throws a definite doubt on that. Whatever the case, it seems that Richard Bowes was not overly perturbed by his wife’s friendship with Knox.  …

… Although Calvin echoed Knox’s opinion of women, believing that a female monarch was a punishment from God for the sins of mankind, he fell short of recommending disobedience. Disappointed, Knox continued his tour of the Swiss theologians until he had gathered enough justification for his new line of attack. Back in the French town of Dieppe, he started publishing various anonymous tracts advocating resistance to Mary I, which were smuggled across into England. In late July 1554, Knox returned to Geneva with the intention of studying, but was quickly prompted by Calvin to go to Frankfurt in Germany, where a group of English Protestant exiles had chosen him to be their pastor. He took his duties in the autumn of 1554 at the Church of the White Ladies but only to find himself embroiled in academic disputes over which form the service should take. A huge rift developed between the Protestants who supported the Common Book of Prayer and those who did not. Eventually, Knox gave up and returned to the peace of Geneva, but only a few months later he was called back to Scotland by the Scottish Protestants who needed a leader to secure the Reformation …

… During all these events, Knox had been leading a content and comfortable life with his young bride, who had given him two daughters, Martha in 1565 and Margaret in 1567. Like Marjorie, she was an educated and devoted wife who helped him with his paperwork and entertained his many guests …

… St Giles Cathedral is an impressive Gothic building from which John Knox used to vociferate against the Crown. His statue stands at the entrance. The Cathedral is located in Parliament Square, site of Edinburgh’s old Parliament and now the Court of Session. There used to be a cemetery at the back of the Cathedral and this is where John Knox is buried (although the exact spot is now unknown). In front of it, would have been the Old Tolbooth (prison) and also the site of gallows for public executions. The spot is marked by “The Heart of Midlothian”, an arrangement of cobble stones in the shape of a heart. (full text).

(See also an article on wikipedia: The book was written anonymously from Geneva, Switzerland, against the female sovereigns of his day, particularly Mary I of Scotland and Mary I of England. Knox, a staunch Protestant Reformer, opposed the Roman Catholic queens on religious grounds, and using them as mere examples, went on to argue the following about women, with regard to the specific role of bearing authority (but not about women in all roles or respects) … (full text).

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