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October 2017
Articles > Historical

Lutheran literature begins to be smuggled into England

By 1520, Lutheran literature was being smuggled into the country. There were important commercial links between England and the north German ports and, under cover of lawful trade, ‘heretical’ books were coming in. These teachings were being discussed in London, and also among students at Oxford and Cambridge. At Cambridge, unofficial meetings in the White Horse Inn were significant enough for the inn to be nicknamed ‘Little Germany’. John Foxe, who reported these unofficial meetings, is rather vague as to dates, but certainly there was a holocaust of Lutheran literature at Cambridge at the end of 1520, and an even greater one during May 1521 in London presided over by Cardinal Wolsey. The situation was becoming serious enough to involve the king himself. He produced an anti-Lutheran book in defence of the Roman teaching on the seven sacraments. This was published in English, German and Latin. His effort gained the king the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ from Pope Leo X, a title still acknowledged by the initials ‘FD’ (Fidei Defensor) on United Kingdom coinage.

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