The First Blast of the Trumpet
against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.

 ” To promote a
woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion . or empire,
above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature,
contumely to God, a thing most contrarious to his revealed
will and approved ordinance, and finally  it is a
subversion of all equity and justice

 The babblers of political
correctness would have had a field day with John Knox `s
First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous
Regiment of Women
which was a vehement attack on the
`practice of admitting females to the government of
nations`  Yet again though, it has to be
viewed in the light of the times in which the woman`s role
was in the home and  raising children. In the mid
sixteenth century there was intense philosophical debate about the
role of women and Knox had discussed with Swiss Divines
the biblical origins for their role.  Moreover, their
was ample earlier evidence on the issue eg Tacitus had
expressed contempt of those submitting to female rule; in
France women were excluded from the succession ( the
misquoted Salic Law which applied to land ownership) 
and even Edward  VI of England had discussed it with
the Privy Council  but was prevented from
implementing it in England by the ambitious
closet-catholic and Regent, the Duke of Northumberland,

In essence the First Blast
published in 1558 was prompted by the murderous activities of
Mary Tudor, a zealous Catholic and revengeful
for many years isolation, who succeeded to the throne of
England ( r 1553-8). She was responsible for the
of over 300 Protestants as part of her violent campaign to revert England
to the rule of the Pope.. She died soon after its
publication and it came to be regarded as an attack also
on Elizabeth I as well as  Mary of Guise, the Queen
Regent of Scotland (died 1560), and then Mary Queen of
Scots.  It was no more than a statement that the
divine law  had expressly assigned to man the
dominion over women and commanded her to be subject to
him; that female government was not allowed under the
Jews; that it was contrary to apostolical 
injunctions; and led to perversion of government. There
were several leading figures who subscribed to this view
including James Kennedy, Archbishop of St Andrews, and Sir
David Lyndsay.

A staunch supporter was Knox`s
co preacher in Geneva, Christopher Goodman, who published
his own  “Obedience to Superior Powers”. The
son of Adam Goodman, merchant, and Selay Linge of Chester,
Christopher lectured on Divinity at Oxford during Edward
VI`s reign. When Mary came to the throne he went first to
Strasbourg and then Frankfort. The congregation at
Frankfort desired changes to the English service and he,
with some of like minded persons went to Geneva where he
was chosen joint minister with Knox. In 1558 he published
How superior powers ought to be obeyed: of their
subjects, and wherein they may lawfully by God`s word be
disobeyed and resisted. Wherein is also declared  the
cause of all this  present miserie in England, and
the onely way to remedy the same
.” In this he
subscribed to the opinions expressed by Knox. He
maintained that the power of kings and magistrates was
limited, and that they might lawfully be resisted,
deposed, and punished by their subjects , if they became
tyrannical and wicked. Goodman was not the only critic
within the English Church – Dr John Poent, bishop of
Rochester and later Winchester under Edward VI, wrote a
treatise  ” A Short Treatise of Politique Pouuer,
and of the True Obedience which Subjectes owe to Kynges”
in which he discussed  the origin of political
authority, , its absolute  or limited nature, 
the limits of obedience and the deposition and punishment
of tyrants. Interestingly this book was reprinted in 1642
during the reign of Charles I – the first ruling king
executed by his subjects in 1649.

  McCrie in Life of Knox
observes that the publication of these works and debate
about them coincidentally took place as the new Queen
Elizabeth I took her throne. In a letter of October 1559
Sir William Cecill writing from the Court , said, “Of all
others, Knoxees name, if it be not Goodman`s, is most
odious here” The sale of both publications was prohibited
and prompted a reply to the First Blast by John
Aylmer ( later Bishop) , a refugee on the continent who
had been archdeacon of Stowe, and tutor to Lady Jane Grey,
entitled “An Harborow for Faithful Subjects”. It
was written “the better to obtain the favour of the new
queen, and take off any jealousy she might conceive of
them, and of the religion they professed.”

Knox`s mistake, if indeed
there was one,  was to allow the principals to be
applied generally rather than to confine it to Mary Tudor 
whose rule was recognised  by  Aylmer as ”
Unnatural, unreasonable, unjust  and unlawful` and
would not have been out of place” had he confined himself
to criticising the actions of Queen Mary he could have
said nothing too much, nor in such wise as to have
offended  any indifferent man.”  Aylmer varied
somewhat in his defence and softened views that pleased
the queen, yet even so, his language was stronger than Knox`s at times. He wrote “Some women be wise, better
learned, discreater. constanter, than a number of men; ”
but others he describes as  “fond, foolish, wanton,
flibbergibs, tatlers, trifling, wavering,witles,
withoutcounsel, feable, carles,rashe, proud, daintie, nise,
tale-bearers, evesdroppers, rumour-raisers, evil tongued,
worse-minded, and, in everywise, doltified with the
dregges of the devil`s doungehill.”

John Foxe, author of his Book
of Martyrs, gently chastised Knox for his impropriety 
and the savagery of its language. But Knox in his reply
made no excuses and reaffirmed  “he was still
persuaded of the principal proposition which he had
maintained.”  His original intention was to blow his
trumpet three times and to disclose himself as author in
the final part to prevent odium falling on anybody else.
However, he wanted to support Elizabeth I rather than
weaken her position, and did not make further blasts.

Subsequently both Goodman and
Knox were prevailed upon to humble themselves for their
outspokeness.  Goodman twice recanted but gained no
favours from Queen Elizabeth and Knox did write, in a
stumbling way, to the Queen. But it is very likely she
never saw it as her Secretary, Sir William Cecil,
routinely kept distressing correspondence from her.