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Journal > Volumes > 34 (2003) / 4 (Winter)
Stephen Gardiner and the Making of a Protestant Villain
Michael Riordan, University of Birmingham
Alec Ryrie, St. John's College, Oxford

Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester 1531-55, is familiar as "Wily Winchester," the villain of Foxe's Actes and Monuments. Foxe, however, was building on a long evangelical tradition which cast Gardiner as Antichrist's chief agent in England. This reputation was grounded less on Gardiner's own conduct than on the reformers' need for a scapegoat to explain the failure of their early hopes and to exonerate Henry VIII. Beginning in the late 1530s, the vilification of Gardiner was confirmed by his role in the execution of Robert Barnes, which was perceived as treacherous and underhanded as well as bloodthirsty. Gardiner's effectiveness as a polemicist also attracted attack. After his public return to Roman allegiance in 1553, the charge of inconstancy became central, and he was both ridiculed and feared. The development of his reputation reflects evangelicals' shifting needs and perspectives as well as Gardiner's attempts to control his own image.

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