The proud boast of Bishop John Jewel in Apologia Ecdesiae Anglicanae that ‘we lean unto knowledge, they unto ignorance’ a swift retort from his catholic opponent: ‘Ye lean to the favour of secular princes.’ To which Jewel replied: ‘We flatter our princes, M. Harding, as Nathan flattered King David; as John Baptist flattered Herod; as St Ambrose flattered Theodosius; and as salt flattereth the green sore.’ How much credibility was there in this resounding riposte when it was made in 1567, and how much would survive three more decades of Tudor royal supremacy? Not many Nathans in bishops' clothing were prepared to confront monarchy itself with a bold ‘Thou art the man’, and it was scarcely in the Tudor character to confess with King David: ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nor were the sins of Henry VIII's children of the kind to provide many occasions to play Nathan or John the Baptist. But the integrity of the Church and its faith are always in need of defence, even against misguided Christian princes. Or, to put the case less prejudicially, the possibility of a difference of opinion between Christian princes and Christian bishops can never be excluded. For all such occasions the appropriate model was the third of Jewel's exempla, that notable father of the Church, St Ambrose. In the words of Jewel: ‘We say to the prince as St Ambrose sometime said to the emperor Valentinian: “Noli te gravare, imperator, ut putes te in ea quae divina sunt imperiale aliquodjus habere: Trouble not yourself, my lord, to think that you have any princely power over those things that pertain to God.”’
* I acknowledge the advice and comments of Dr William M. Lamont of the University of Sussex. Dr Lamont has been this way before me in his article ‘The Rise and Fall of Bishop Bilson’, Journal of British Studies, v (1965–6), 22–32.