Edward III ( r 1327-1377 ) and Thomas Bradwardine
(ca 1295-1349).

Rumblings of
discontent against the Church of Rome and its interventions in secular
matters had been developing a momentum since King John (1199-1216) bent
his knee to the Pope and the barons retaliated with Magna Carta. Within
the Church there was strong advice to the Pope to temper both words and
conduct by Sewall de Bovill, Archbishop of York
(1256-7); and even resistance by the likes of Robert Grostete, Bishop of
Lincoln,  to the abuses .The arrogance of the papacy had no bounds at
this time ,but there was a new found unity in the people and an emerging
nationalism that was ready to turn against Rome.

The reign of Edward III saw the
emergence of a king responding to the people – determined to restore
England to her greatness and to recover the lands that had been lost in
France. In January 1340 Edward made his claim to the throne of France. At
Crecy  ion 26 August 1346 he led an army of 34,000 men against a
French army of 100,000 and won a glorious victory; he followed up with the
siege of Calais which surrendered in August 1347. In the North of England
an English army defeated the opportunist Scots under David I at Neville`s
Cross, near Durham.  These victories were celebrated  and
Bradwardine delivered  an address, Sermo epinicius, in the
presence of Edward. But the young king was equally determined in his
policy to recover the power of the royal authority. His reign saw a period
in which the attacks under the law against the incursions of papacy
reached a new height. Significantly Edward listened to his advisers, both
nobles, clerics and the people at large; and it was the common law in
relation to the practice of Mortmain, Praemunire
and Provisors
that he used in repulsing the papal claims.

At his side Edward had the benefit of
the advice from Thomas Bradwardine, his chaplain. Bradwardine was a
phenomenon of his age and although wearing clerical robes, he was an
outstanding mathematician who examined Aristotle`s theories of dynamics
and  influenced the laws of mechanics for over a hundred years. He
produced several papers on logical issues, on speculative geometry,
speculative arithmetic, and the basic theory on atoms – the atomic theory.
This training gave him a clear and structured thought process as well as a
capacity for lateral thinking, that would have helped him analyse the
theological issues arising from Rome, and to address the manner in which
to deal with them.

Born, it is thought, about 1295 in or
around Chichester in Sussex (Foxe says Hartfield, Sussex), he appears at  Oxford until about 1333,
having degrees of Master of Arts  in 1323 and Bachelor of Theology 
before 1333. It was here that he did much of his mathematical work. In
1333 he became a canon of Lincoln ; in 1335 he joined the supporters of
the Bishop of Durham. He then went to London where he became chancellor of
St Paul`s Cathedral on 19 September 1337. It was about this time that he
became chaplain to Edward III. This steady progress up the hierarchy of
the church reflected not only his status as mathematician but a clear
thinking, logical Christian – he was known as “the profound doctor”. As a
cleric he was  greatly saddened by the state of the nation and the
church, which he saw as drowning in Pelagianism – the doctrine of free
will and shallow beliefs without true, heartfelt, commitment. He wrote at
least two major theological works “On future contingents”  and 
In defence of God against the Pelagians and on the power of causes”
which would have had a bearing on the way to deal with Rome.

Edward III returned to England in
October 1347 in which year Bradwardine had been elected to be Archbishop
of Canterbury. However, at the time he was confessor to Edward III on his
campaign in France and Edward was too fond of him to release him. But the following year Bradwardine was
nominated and elected
again. Foxe gives a date of a Papal Bull having been issued on 19 July
1349; although it appears that Bradwardine was consecrated in Avignon on 10 July 1349.
Unfortunately the Continent was rife with plague – the Black Death soon
to run through Britain, – which he contracted and died from in London 26
August 1349.

Bradwardine`s untimely death was very
shortly followed by Pope Clement VI demanding the appointment of two
cardinals to the next vacancies for bishops that arose in England. This
led to Edward with the consent of  Parliament,  to issue a
Statute of Provisors which made void every ecclesiastical appointment 
contrary to the rights of the king, the chapters and the patrons. Thus the
independence of the English crown was re asserted and the rights and
liberty of English Catholics preserved against the influx of foreigners.
Subsequently other enactments and the application of Praemunire reinforced
the rights of the sovereign. The historian Fuller said

” If the statute of
mortmain  put the pope in a sweat, this of praemunire  gave him
a fit of fever.”

The question of sovereignty
continued in dispute when Urban V (William Grimoard, a Frenchman) came to
the papacy in 1362. Whether sheer arrogance or seeking revenge for
Edward`s past military success in France, he demanded the tribute given by
King John of  a thousand marks, or in default required Edward to
appear before him in Rome. The tribute had  not been mentioned by
successive popes for thirty three years and Edward was not amused by the
insolence of Urban. He did not appear before him in Rome, Instead the
matter evoked the ire of John Wyckcliffe
whose comment ” the canon law has no force when it is opposed to the word
of God.” settled the matter. No claim of Papal sovereignty has been made