Reformation and society in Guernsey : c.1500-c.1640
The maintenance of civil order in Guernsey's pre-Reformation community was regulated by a variety of secular institutions, the most important of which was the Royal Court. Religious beliefs and practices helped to reinforce stability and legitimized traditional authority. Catholic practice, including charity and the activities of numerous fraternities - not hitherto noticed in Guernsey - engendered social cohesion. Any major changes in the island's religious life threatened this traditional polity. When religious alterations loomed in the wake of Henrician and Edwardian changes in England, the Guernsey authorities chose to conceal religious revenues and subvert English intentions. Traditional practices and institutions predominated until the reign of Elizabeth -a finding which contradicts previous studies. In the fifteen-sixties, however, the English Government appointed a series of commissions to seize Catholic dues and close down traditional institutions. The commissioners favoured local Protestants materially, and in 1565 elevated some of them to the Royal Court. The possibilities offered by a Calvinist system of social control appealed to the island's elite group. Calvinist organisation facilitated the enforcement of discipline, Catholic revenues were turned to private and secular purposes, and the elite retained power. The new Church depended on the secular authorities for its survival; it needed magistrates to allow foreign ministers to settle, to educate local ones, and to fend off the threat of an imposed settlement in line with the English settlement of 1559. The Church also repeatedly requested the Court to enact legislation in line with Calvinist principles, which it did. Although the records do not lend themselves to quantitative analysis, it is clear however that the Court often neglected to enforce such legislation. The Church's own remedies frequently were inadequate and ineffective. The secular power responded more positively in other areas. The Church's role in succouring the poor was encouraged, and the elite itself benefited materially as a consequence of Calvinist ideas. But the price paid for the retention of the elite's control and the material advantages it gained was the failure of the Calvinist dream and increased cultural differentiation in the community.