The final episode of a four-part documentary series on the Tudor Court aired tonight on BBC2.
It focussed on William Tyndale, a sixteenth century reformer who translated the Bible into English. What’s so interesting about that, you might ask? Well, at that point in time, the only accepted version of the Bible was the Latin ‘Vulgate’ permitted by the Roman Catholic Church.
Certainly, this was not the first time that the Bible had been translated into the vernacular (or common language), but the religious climate of Europe was changing as a result of the German Reformation; Martin Luther went further than any other reformer had before, and with greater success, effectively establishing the Protestant Church.
Yet, although in this context William Tyndale was a man of his time, he was dangerous because his work was illegal in England, and he was a threat to the dominance of the Church and the State.
His determination to deliver the word of God in the language of his homeland would cost him his life in 1536, and demonstrates the religious conservatism of Henry VIII despite his Break with Rome two years earlier.
More ironically, Henry would approve the publication of an official English Bible just three years later in 1539 – which was based on Tyndale’s own translation!
This series has been a welcome and refreshing insight into some of the more obscure – but nonetheless important – individuals in the reigns of the first two Tudor monarchs.