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John Aylmer (English constitutionalist)
He was born at Aylmer Hall, Tivetshall St Mary, Norfolk. While still a boy, his precocity was noticed by Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset, later 1st Duke of Suffolk, who sent him to Cambridge, where he seems to have become a fellow of Queens' College. About 1541 he was made chaplain to the duke, and tutor of Greek 2 to his daughter, Lady Jane Grey.
His first preferment was to the archdeaconry of Stow, in the diocese of Lincoln, but his opposition in convocation to the doctrine of transubstantiation led to his deprivation and to his flight into Switzerland. While there he wrote a reply to John Knox's famous Blast against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, under the title of An Harborowe for Faithfull and Trewe Subjects, etc., and assisted John Foxe in translating the Acts of the Martyrs into Latin. On the accession of Elizabeth he returned to England. In 1559 he resumed the Stow archdeaconry, and in 1562 he obtained that of Lincoln. He was a member of the famous convocation of 1562, which reformed and settled the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.
In 1576 he was consecrated Bishop of London, and while in that position made himself notorious by his harsh treatment of all who differed from him on ecclesiastical questions, whether Puritan or Papist. Various efforts were made to remove him to another see. He is frequently assailed in the famous Mar prelate Tracts, and is characterized as "Morrell," the bad shepherd, in Spenser's Shepheard's Calendar (July). His reputation as a scholar hardly balances his inadequacy as a bishop in the transition time in which he lived. He died in June 1594. His Life was written by John Strype (1701).
"Alymer, like John Ponet and Stephen Gardiner before him, is an important figure in the story of the reception of classical mixed government in Tudor England." 3 John Aylmer wrote his work An harborowe for faithfull and trewe subiectes (1559), to familiarize his fellow countrymen with the "strange and alluring vocabulary of politics", introducing them to the classical forms and terminology.
John Aylmer described England as not "a mere monarchy, as some for lack of consideration think, nor a mere oligarchy, nor democracy, but a rule mixed of all these." 1 He goes on to say that in the mixed state, "each one of these have or should have like authority." He argued that in Parliament was not the "image" of a mixed state "but the thing in deed." It was in Parliament that one finds the three estates: "the king or queen, which representeth the monarchy; the noble men which be the aristocracy; and the burgesses and knights the democracy." As a philodorian, he compared the mixed government of Tudor England with the Spartan republic and wishes England into the Spartan mold. As he says, "In like manner, if the Parliament use their priveledges: the king can ordain nothing without them." 1
His work was to be quoted by many future English constitutionalists.
- Dangerous Positions; Mixed Government, the Estates of the Realm, and the Making of the "Answer to the xix propositions", Michael Mendle, University of Alabama Press, 1985. pg 49.
- Dangerous Positions, Mendle. pg 61.
- Dangerous Positions, Mendle. pg 50.
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