The Vestiarian Controversy of 1564–6, during which Archbishop Matthew Parker pressed for full conformity to the provisions of the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, is generally taken to mark a watershed in the fortunes of the English Protestant tradition. This study seeks to show that the realities of Elizabethan churchmanship in the 1560s and 1570s were rather more complex. By reference to the career of Thomas Cole, former ‘freewiller’ and returned Marian exile, who was appointed archdeacon of Essex by Edmund Grindal and was Parker's own commissary in Essex and Suffolk as dean of Bocking, it hopes to demonstrate that Parker's efforts at a national campaign for uniformity were inevitably doomed to failure because of pressures both political and jurisdictional. Cole and his allies did not consider the battle lost in 1566; it was the Presbyterian campaign of the 1570s and 1580s, which Parker's efforts helped to provoke, that marked the real turning point in the government's relations with senior churchmen who wished to see the Elizabethan Settlement advanced by means of further parliamentary legislation.
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