The most dangerous man in Tudor England…?

It is Retyndale1commend A Documentary-time! In the documentary “The most dangerous man in Tudor England” BBC have truly peeked into the most dusty corners of the 16th century book shelves and let some light in on one of perhaps the most interesting people during Tudor times. The problem is that noone knows of him today.

He was a mortal enemy of not only Henry VIII but also the pope in Rome. He was insanely passionate about language and theology. He is also the one we have to thank for famous idioms like “ask and it shall be given you”, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” and “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”.

We are talking about William Tyndale (1494–1536), an English scholar who became a leading figure in Protestant reform.

The documentary is led by the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg and leads us into the complicated religious reality of the 16th century Europe. A Europe which is slowly reacting more and more on papal authority. The fact that Henry VIII, famous for bringing a English version of Protestantism to England, declared a lifelong war against Tyndale only shows the complicated relations & development of Protestantism.


Henry VIII

Tyndale started thinking about alternate translations of the bible as early as 1509, when he was translating the bible from its original language old Greek. In the middle of this massive endeavor Tyndale got convinced that the only way of actually understanding the bible, the words of God, was to read yourself. That the ancient & unchallenged papal power and approach of the bible in Latin in fact corrupted the meaning of it. Tyndale set his mind on translating the bible into English, a bible that everyone could read – high aswell as low.


The only surviving copy of the first edition of Tynsdales bible, printed 1526 (Library of St Pauls)

This was off course an extremely unpopular idea in most of Europe. Rulers all over, the pope aswell as Henry VIII, wanted to keep the power over the bible by keeping it in Latin – a language only the highly educated could read. Tyndale was soon an enemy of the English state and had to flee to Germany. In Stuttgart in 1526, Tyndale finally printed the very first edition of his translated bible. And this made him an enemy not only of England, but also the entire papal powerhouse.

Don’t miss this fascinating documentary! It is available on BBC iplayer right now, and perhaps one other sites of the internet aswell.


Suggested reading: “Tudor dining: a guide to food and status in the 16th century”



A interesting little article about eating habits in the 16th century England, that might interest – it covers dining, social structures around food, cutlery used, popular food, and off course the social rules around dining:
In Tudor England, maintaining the difference between ranks was so important to the concept of a well-ordered society that efforts were made to enshrine the distinctions between the classes in ‘sumptuary’ laws. These laws tried to control what you ate and wore, according to your position in the God-given hierarchy, which stretched from the king at the top, down through the numerous grades of nobility and clergy, to the gentry, yeomen and finally the labourers at the bottom of the heap.

To read this charming tidbit, click on this link: