The Legacy of Matthew Parker

I have always enjoyed history, admittedly much of it is gruesome; but history is history and the past can’t be changed – but what an incredible effect it has on our future . .which of course can be changed.
When I stay in England I live in a small village called Landbeach. Landbeach and Waterbeach are a pair of villages in East Anglia that have a history going back to pre Roman times, Long before the Fens were drained. In summer the livestock (mostly sheep) were grazed in the fields around Waterbeach, but in winter the river that passes though Waterbeach used to flood – hence the name, and the livestock were driven across to Landbeach which was higher ground and stayed relatively dry.
Sadly in this day and age there is nothing to commend the village of Landbeach, which grows worse and worse as the years pass. The two pubs, the general store, and the post office have all closed down in the past thirty years – only it’s Norman/Saxon Church and a few thatched cottages are worth slowing your car as you pass through.
However there are some interesting things to note about Landbeach if you shuffle through its thousand plus years of history. The scholar Erasmus(1466 – 1536) stayed there for a time and it is reported that he kept his horses in a field there and rode to Cambridge from there during the time he taught Greek and Latin at the University, this was in the 1500’s – Erasmus remained committed to reforming the Church. It is interesting to note that although he was very much involved in the area of Cambridge and surrounding villages – he never spoke English – he communicated in Latin. . Most people at that time understood Latin or French the official legal language in England at the time.
The second famous person in the village was in fact Matthew Parker (1504 – 1575 ) who held similar religious views to Erasmus. During this time of the reformation Matthew Parker was the resident cleric at “All Saints Church” in Landbeach as he was favoured by the Bishop of Ely and also the clergy of Cambridge University – ( just five miles down the road) He was also appointed as spiritual adviser to the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who became Elizabeth I
Because her father Henry VIII had cause an uproar with the Pope, denouncing Catholicism and establishing the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth I appointed Matthew Parker Archbishop of Canterbury and commissioned him to rewrite the English Prayer Book , in such a way to not offend either religion – she did this because she knew he had very liberal views and he would be the best man to help heal the wounds left by the breakup of the church by her father. Under Queen Elizabeth 1st. Britain developed its shipping fleet and expanded its territories. The defeat of the Spanish Armada by the British Fleet was without doubt her greatest accomplishment – the Spanish were regarded as the most powerful nation in the world at that time. By the end of her Reign, and thanks partly to Matthew Parker, she had establish religion in English throughout the countryside, having done away with the church using Latin and having the Bible and Prayer Books printed in English. This had a great effect on the use of English as the official language by people at large.
In 1578 under Queen Elizabeth I, Employer Humphrey Gilbert established what was called the “First British Empire.” (Setting up British colonies in Newfoundland, Canada, the West Indies and North America.) Thereby establishing the English language firmly in the Western hemisphere terrorises.
Under Queen Victoria, the “Second British Empire” was established to the East. Implanting British sovereignty and the English Language in India, Africa, Australia, Hong-Kong, New Zealand, Burma, Nepal, ( plus numerous other far flung destinations where British holdings and influence, and more importantly the English language have spread.
When Queen Elizabeth I set out to establish English in the Churches of Britain replacing the Latin services set by Rome and the Catholic Church, and she summoned Mathew Parker to head her reform – Parker in his wildest dreams could not have visualized that the seed that he planted would still be growing around the world five hundred years later.
Would the London, Hong Kong and New York stock markets run the worlds business without the acceptance of the English language?
Would New Zealand, Australia and Canada had a common bond if not for English
Would India be racing from old traditional rural village crafts to become a major force in Hi-tech industry and manufacturing if they hadn’t mastered English and gain a window on the world through the internet.
Would Africa be flexing its muscles and emerging on the world stage without the help of English. And now English is even beginning to challenge Chinese script as the commercial language of China, in the same way that English replace Latin in Europe so many years ago.
There was once a time when British territories were coloured pink on maps of the world and it was proclaimed that the sun never set on the British Empire – Yet long after the British Empire is just a memory – The English language is still spreading across the world ensuring that the sun will never set on the Legacy left by Matthew Parker of Landbeach.

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