January 28

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1970 Gerard Sweetman (61), Fine Gael politician and Minister for Finance (1954–7), was killed in a car crash in County Kildare.
  • 1939 W. B. Yeats, poet, died at Roquebrune, France.
  • 1918 Lt.-Col. John McCrae (45), Canadian surgeon and poet, who composed In Flanders Field (05/1915), died of pneumonia in Boulogne.
  • Above: Henry VIII c. 1540.

    1547 King Henry VIII (55) died. Popularly remembered for his six marriages and his despotism (it’s estimated that he judicially murdered some 1,500 of his subjects, from humble servants to queens), it was Henry, of course, who introduced the Reformation to these islands. In 1534, when Pope Clement VII refused him an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn, he broke with Rome and declared himself head of the church. Two years later, his ‘Act of Supremacy’—not a doctrinally focused initiative but rather a revolutionary change in ecclesiastical management—was passed by a very reluctant ‘Reformation Parliament’ in Dublin, and the clergy were exhorted by the appointed enforcer, Archbishop Browne, to ‘deface the said Bishop of Rome in all your books and have no trust in him, nor in his bulls or pardons’. More disconcerting still was a recommendation by a royal commission that religious houses be stripped of their property, so as ‘to protect the Irish people from the monks and nuns with their superstitious ceremonies, worship of idols and pestiferous doctrines’. Beginning with an Augustinian religious house in Graney, Co. Kildare, over 30 were suppressed in a single year, including the Augustinian house of All Hollows in the capital, which decades later would provide the site for Trinity College. As for the destruction of religious images, the most notorious was the burning in August 1538 of religious objects of considerable antiquity in Dublin’s Christ Church Place, including the treasured Bacall Íosa (Staff of Jesus), a crozier that had been housed in Christ Church Cathedral since the late twelfth century. The process of introducing radical Protestantism as we know it began during the reign of his successor, Edward VI.

  • 1874 Kathleen Lynn, doctor, suffragist and humanitarian, born in Cong, Co. Mayo, the daughter of a Church of Ireland rector.

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