Pedro de Ribadeneyra’s 'Ecclesiastical History of the Schism of the Kingdom of England'

A Spanish Jesuit’s History of the English Reformation


In 1588, the Spanish Jesuit Pedro de Ribadeneyra published a history of the English Reformation, which he continued to revise until his death in 1611. Spencer J. Weinreich’s translation is the first English edition of the History, one fully alive to its metamorphoses over two decades. Weinreich’s introduction explores the text’s many dimensions—propaganda for the Spanish Armada, anti-Protestant polemic, Jesuit hagiography, consolation amid tribulation—and assesses Ribadeneyra as a historian. The extensive annotations anchor Ribadeneyra’s narrative in the historical record and reconstruct his sources, methods, and revisions. The History, long derided as mere propaganda, emerges as remarkable evidence of the centrality of historiography to the intellectual, theological, and political battles of early modern Europe.

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Spencer J. Weinreich is a postgraduate student in ecclesiastical history at the University of Oxford, where he is an Ertegun Scholar. His work has appeared in Early Science and Medicine, Names, and the Journal of Ecclesiastical History.
“Weinreich’s handling of Ribadeneyra’s text(s) is exemplary. He provides an accurate, elegant, fluid translation […] a truly remarkable achievement.”
Freddy C. Dominguez, University of Arkansas. In: Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, Vol. 86, No. 171 (2017), pp. 219–221.

“Weinreich’s translation of Ribadeneyra’s hefty work reads easily, and is footnoted throughout in helpful detail. There are several useful documents in the appendices and a biblical as well as a general index. At 110 pages Weinreich’s introductory essay is a short monograph in itself, full of insightful discussion. All in all, the volume represents a remarkable achievement on the part of a very early career scholar, and one hopes that it will be widely consulted and cited.”
Peter Marshall, University of Warwick. In: The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 70, No. 3 (July 2019), pp. 636–637.

“In addition to a clear sense-for-sense translation that renders masterful early modern Spanish rhetorical flourishes into elegant English, Weinreich’s volume features a wide array of valuable critical tools. Its bibliography and set of notes are almost encyclopedic. […]. Weinreich’s volume is an essential resource not only for those wishing to study British Catholicism from a more global, transnational perspective, but also for those examining early modern European ecclesiastical histories.”
Deborah Forteza, Grove City College. In: British Catholic History, Vol. 34, No 1 (May 2018), pp. 175–177.

“The treatment of historical, biographical, and bibliographical context is extremely thorough, in both the introduction and the annotations. Weinreich’s diligence re-introduces an eloquent voice into the debate about late sixteenth-century European politics and religious history.”
Victor Houliston, University of the Witwatersrand. In: The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 104, No. 3 (Summer 2018), pp. 550–551.

“Ribadeneyra could do no better than to be Englished by Weinreich, in a book that promises to transform our understanding of early modern religious history through one of its most learned, prodigious, and impassioned voices.”
Sarah Covington, CUNY. In: Journal of Jesuit Studies, Vol. 5, No. 4 (2018), pp. 689–691.

“Esta traducción se convertirá [...] en un texto de referencia para los estudios sobre la Reforma en el mundo académico anglosajón”.
Javier Burguillo, Universidad de Salamanca. In: Studia Aurea, Vol. 12 (2018), pp. 357–372.


List of Bibliographic Abbreviations

List of Textual Abbreviations

List of Figures

The Life and Times of Pedro de Ribadeneyra
From De origine ac progressu to the Historia
The Politics of History, the Politics of the Historia
The Spanish Armada
The Second Volume of the Historia
A Textual History of the Historia
The Historia and the Society of Jesus
“O ladies, no ladies at all”: Gender and Power in the Historia
A Modern Historian?
La cisma de Inglaterra and the reception of the Historia
Assessing the Historia
Notes on the Translation

The Ecclesiastical History of the Schism of the Kingdom of England
To our lord, Prince Don Philip
The author, to the pious Christian reader
The argument of the present history, and the origins of the lamentable schism in England

Book 1
Chapter 1: Of the marriage of the Princess Doña Catherine to Arthur, prince of England, and of the marriage she contracted after his death with his brother, Henry.
Chapter 2: How King Henry VIII married the Princess Doña Catherine, and of the children born to them.
Chapter 3a: The title of Defender of the Faith given King Henry by the Apostolic See, and the reason for this.
Chapter 3: Of the dissimilar habits of the queen and the king.
Chapter 4: Of the cardinal of York’s ambition, and of the advice he gave the king concerning his marriage.
Chapter 5: Of the king’s actions concerning his marriage to the queen, and what the French ambassador proposed to dissolve it.
Chapter 6: Of the other means Wolsey used to achieve his end, and of his journey to France.
Chapter 7: Of Anne Boleyn, her disposition and abilities.
Chapter 8: What Thomas Boleyn and the councilors said to the king concerning Anne Boleyn, and how he responded.
Chapter 9: What Wolsey negotiated in France, and his return to England.
Chapter 10: Of the other actions the king took, the troubles of his heart, and those of Wolsey’s.
Chapter 11: Of the ambassadors the king sent to the pope, and of His Holiness’s decision in the matter of the divorce.
Chapter 12: What the queen wrote to the pope, what His Holiness decreed, and certain private matters that came to pass in this affair.
Chapter 13: How the matter of the divorce began to be legally considered, and of the appeal lodged by the queen.
Chapter 14: What Rochester and other worthy persons said in the queen’s favor, and what Campeggio answered concerning the sentence.
Chapter 15: The king pressures the legate, the pope remands the case to himself, and Wolsey is arrested.
Chapter 16: Of the other methods the king used to give color to his wickedness, and of the results.
Chapter 17: Of the threats the king made against the pope, and of the death of Wolsey.
Chapter 18: How the king named Cranmer as archbishop of Canterbury, of his sinful life, and of how he deceived the pope.
Chapter 19: The conference between the kings of England and France, and what they discussed.
Chapter 20: The king’s first attack on the clergy of England.
Chapter 21: How the king, against the pope’s mandate, secretly married Anne Boleyn.
Chapter 22: Of Thomas Cromwell, and of the heretics who flooded the king’s court, and what they proposed against the churchmen.
Chapter 23: What parliament decreed concerning the clergy, and the judgment Cranmer gave in the king’s favor.
Chapter 24: What Christendom thought of the king’s marriage, and Pope Clement’s sentence against him.
Chapter 25: What Henry did when he learned of the pope’s sentence.
Chapter 26: Of the parliament convened to approve the king’s marriage and to destroy religion.
Chapter 27: Of the inhuman persecution the king initiated against all religious.
Chapter 28: Of the illustrious men Thomas More and John of Rochester, and of the latter’s martyrdom.
Chapter 29: The martyrdom of Thomas More.
Chapter 30a: Other details of the life and death of Thomas More.
Chapter 30: The sentence of Pope Paul III against King Henry.
Chapter 31: Henry despoils the monasteries, and impoverishes himself with their wealth.
Chapter 32: What the queen wrote to her confessor, encouraging him in the face of death, and how he answered her.
Chapter 33: The death of Queen Doña Catherine and the letter she wrote to the king.
Chapter 34: The king sentences Anne Boleyn to a public death, and the reason for this.
Chapter 35: The king’s marriage to Jane Seymour, the sessions of parliament, the disturbances that arose in the realm, and the birth of Edward.
Chapter 36: Cardinal Pole’s arrival in Flanders, and the results thereof.
Chapter 37: The king’s cruelty against the Franciscans, and the death of Father Brother John Forest.
Chapter 38: Of Henry’s sacrilege against the tombs, relics, and images of the saints, and the pope’s judgment against him.
Chapter 39: The assault on the monasteries of England, and the tyranny with which it was done.
Chapter 40: The death of Whiting, abbot of Glastonbury; the end of the religious orders in England; and the beginnings of the Society of Jesus.
Chapter 41: Henry marries Anne of Cleves, exalts Cromwell, and imposes new burdens on his kingdom.
Chapter 42: The king tires of and divorces his wife, after having Cromwell put to death.
Chapter 43: Of Catherine Howard, Henry’s fifth wife, and how, after ordering her put to death, he married Katherine Parr.
Chapter 44: How Henry declared himself king of Ireland, and the right the kings of England had to call themselves its lords.
Chapter 45: The poverty Henry found himself in after despoiling the churches, and the taxes he imposed on his kingdom.
Chapter 46: The king’s cruelty, and how the Lord punished his ministers for their sins.
Chapter 47: The king’s last illness and death, and the provisions of his will.
Chapter 48: Of Henry’s natural gifts and character.
Chapter 49: How God punished King Henry through his own sins.

Book 2
Chapter 1: How King Henry’s testament was disregarded, and how the earl of Hertford became protector of the realm.
Chapter 2: The means the protector employed to pervert the faith of the boy king and that of the kingdom.
Chapter 3: What parliament enacted against our sacred religion.
Chapter 4: The Catholics’ sentiments, and the weakness they showed.
Chapter 5: The Princess Doña Mary’s constancy in the Catholic faith, and the methods the heretics employed to separate her from it.
Chapter 6: How the regents attempted to uproot the Catholic faith.
Chapter 7: The things that happened to check the heretics.
Chapter 8: How the protector killed his brother, and how he was overthrown and slain by the earl of Warwick.
Chapter 9: The ambition of the earl of Warwick, who named himself duke of Northumberland; the death of King Edward and the succession of Queen Mary.
Chapter 10: How the dukes of Northumberland and Suffolk proclaimed Jane queen of England, and what befell them.
Chapter 11: What Queen Mary did on taking possession of the kingdom.
Chapter 12: How the pope, at the queen’s entreaty, sent Cardinal Pole to England as his legate.
Chapter 13: How the queen negotiated a marriage with the prince of Spain, and of the disturbances this provoked in the kingdom, and how they were quelled.
Chapter 14: Of the devilish trick utilized by the heretics to interfere with the queen’s marriage to the prince of Spain.
Chapter 15: How the queen’s marriage to King Don Philip took place, and with it the reconciliation of the realm with the Apostolic See.
Chapter 16: The impediments to this reconciliation, and how they were resolved.
Chapter 17: How the false bishops were punished, and Cranmer, primate of England, was burned.
Chapter 18: How the universities were reformed, and our sacred religion flourished.
Chapter 19: The death of Queen Mary.
Chapter 20: Of the virtues of Queen Doña Mary.
Chapter 21: How Queen Elizabeth’s reign began, and how the king of France considered her unfit to rule.
Chapter 22: How the queen subsequently revealed herself as an enemy of Catholicism, and what she did to destroy it.
Chapter 23: The parliament convened by the queen, and how she made it decide as she desired.
Chapter 24: How the queen named herself supreme governor of the Church, and of the laws enacted about this.
Chapter 25: The persecution initiated against the Catholics for refusing to recognize the queen as head of the Church.
Chapter 26: The form the queen provided for church governance.
Chapter 27: The means the pope and other Christian monarchs took to recall the queen, and the sentence Pope Pius V rendered against her.
Chapter 28: What ensued from the bull’s publication in England.
Chapter 29: The establishment of the English seminaries in Rheims and Rome, and their fruits.
Chapter 30: The entry of the fathers of the Society of Jesus into England.
Chapter 31: The harsh laws the queen enacted against the fathers of the Society of Jesus and the other Catholic priests.
Chapter 32: Of the life, imprisonment, and martyrdom of Father Edmund Campion of the Society of Jesus.
Chapter 33: Of the other martyrs and persecuted Catholics.
Chapter 34: How the queen and her ministers claimed that the holy martyrs did not die for the sake of religion, but rather for other crimes.
Chapter 35: The means the heretics employed to spin out their lies and make them seem like truth.
Chapter 36: Various marvels that God has worked for the glory of the martyrs of England.
Chapter 37: The martyrologies and calendars the heretics produced in England.
Chapter 38: The false mercy the queen showed certain priests in banishing them from the kingdom.
Chapter 39: The methods the queen has used to unsettle neighboring countries.
Chapter 40: The imprisonment and death of Queen Mary of Scotland.
Chapter 41: The happiness that the English heretics preach concerning their kingdom.

The conclusion to this work.

The third book of the ecclesiastical history of the schism of England

To our lord the prince, Don Philip.

To the benign and pious reader.
Chapter 1: The edict passed against the Catholics by the advice of the earl of Leicester, and of his death, and that of several servants of God.
Chapter 2: The falls of two Catholics, and what the Lord worked through them.
Chapter 3: The martyrdom in Oxford of two priests and two Catholic laymen.
Chapter 4: Further martyrs who died in London.
Chapter 5: The death of Francis Walsingham, the queen’s secretary.
Chapter 6: Of the crosses that appeared in England.
Chapter 7: The arrival in England of several priests from the English seminary at Valladolid, and what came of this.
Chapter 8: Of three false Puritan prophets who appeared in England.
Chapter 9: The death of Christopher Hatton, chancellor of the realm.
Chapter 10: The edict the queen proclaimed against priests and Catholics, and their deaths.
Chapter 11: Of several prominent women who lost their wealth, honors, and lives for the Catholic faith.
Chapter 12: The heretics seize four young brothers for their faith, and are left humiliated.
Chapter 13: How the English heretics accuse the Catholics of being sorcerers.
Chapter 14: The benefit the Catholics have derived from this persecution.
Chapter 15: Why the Catholics of England refuse to attend the heretics’ synagogues or to recognize the queen as head of its church.
Chapter 16a: The edict the queen promulgated against our sacred religion, and against the pope, and the Catholic King, who defend it.
Chapter 16b: What is contained in the edict the queen promulgated against our sacred religion.
Chapter 17: That this edict is sacrilegious and blasphemous against God.
Chapter 18: The war in France, which the edict calls utterly unjust.
Chapter 19: Of the English seminaries that have been established for the benefit of the kingdom of England.
Chapter 20: How the heretics of England criticize the pope for the English seminaries he supports, while the new Christians of Japan thank him for having done the same in their land.
Chapter 21: The qualities those entering the seminaries are to have, and the oath they take, and the things they do while there.
Chapter 22: The spirit and manner in which these young men return to England.
Chapter 23: How the seminarians return to England, and what they do there.
Chapter 24: The edict’s cruelty against the seminarians and the Jesuits.
Chapter 25: How false it is that none die in England for the sake of religion, as the edict claims.
Chapter 26: The edict’s proofs that no one dies in England for reasons of religion.
Chapter 27: That this edict is oppressive and intolerable to the entire kingdom of England.
Chapter 28: Why they publish such false and damaging edicts.
Chapter 29: What the instigators of this persecution ought to consider.
Chapter 30: What ought to inspire the seminary priests and the other Catholics in this conquest.
Chapter 31: A continuation of the preceding chapter, and an exposition of three particular reasons that may further inspire the martyrs.
Chapter 32: Why God allows the English Catholics to be so persecuted.

To the pious reader.

A brief account of the martyrs who have departed the English colleges and seminaries at Rome and Rheims in France, and suffered in England in defense of the Catholic faith.

Appendix I: The exhortation to the Armada
A. Ribadeneyra’s letter to Doña Ana Félix de Guzmán, countess of Ricla and marchioness of Camarasa, c. May 1588.
B. An exhortation to the soldiers and officers who embark upon this expedition to England, in the name of their captain-general.

Appendix II: Ribadeneyra’s letter- memorial on the causes of the Armada’s failure (probably to Juan de Idiáquez y Olazábal).

Appendix III: Luis de Granada on the Historia.

Appendix IV: John Cecil’s letter to Joseph Cresswell, September 20, 1591.

Appendix V: Manzano’s Breve catalogo.


Scholars of early modern Spain and England, continental views of the English Reformation, the Society of Jesus, religious polemic and martyrdom in a (Counter-)Reformation context, and the history of historiography.