John Knox and the Role of the Commanality

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Since his death in 1572, the works of Scottish reformer John Knox have been analyzed unceasingly by historians. Historiography has deemed Knox an inflammatory, tactless preacher who is best remembered for his work The First Blast Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558), in which women are characterized as unfit to rule.1 To concentrate on the gender issue alone in his First Blast, however, is merely to skim the surface of Knox’s true intentions. His ideas regarding gender were neither new nor radical; in fact, even his enemies agreed with him.What was unique was Knox’s solution to the problem of ungodly, Catholic monarchs. Instead of depending passively on the will of God, he believed that the nobility and commonalty had a responsibility to depose of such rulers.Although he was not alone in his political theories to strip power away from the monarchs, Knox’s theory is by far the most radical in its insistence that the commonalty of a nation is to assist the nobility in determining its political and religious proceedings. In examining the works of Knox in the context of his contemporaries’, as well as its immediate effects on the Scottish Reformation of 1559-1560, it will become evident that Knox’s proposed involvement of the commonalty was unheard of at the time, provoking a visibly reduced role of the monarch and new ideas regarding egalitarianism.

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Fall 2007
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