High above the fenland landscape of the Daughter University may be descried a weathercock bearing the letters AP. It was placed there by the Master of Peterhouse for thirty five years, Andrew Perne. Wags - for there are such things in Cambridge - opined that it stood for "A Papist, A Protestant [which at that time meant an Anglican], A Puritan". In other words, A Perne was seen as a man who shifted with the various and shifting winds of the Tudor Regimes.
It is easy to see Perne as a Vicar of Bray, because his successful career at Cambridge began in the reign of Henry 'Gestapo' VIII; continued through even the most overtly Zwinglian phase of Cranmer's ascendancy under the Sickly Boy King; gathered impetus and benefices under Good Queen Mary; and continued triumphantly well into the reign of Bloody Bess. But the notion that Perne had any overt or covert sympathy for Puritanism is ... as the essays in this book demonstrate ... a calumny!
Which book? Perne is in my mind because a most kind friend, whom I ask to accept this as a warm thank-you, has had sent to me a thoroughly diverting volume (Cambridge Bibliographical Society Monograph No. 11 Andrew Perne Quatercentenary Studies CUP 1991; posted to me from Bennett and Kerr Books). It has set me thinking about a number of things.
Weathercock or not, Perne was a man of greater courage ... Parrhesia, indeed ... than he has normally been credited with having. In the first Convocation of Queen Mary, he "spoke against transubstantiation, and with exceptional boldness". But he soon conformed and was commended by Stephen Gardiner for the Mastership. And he served on the Commission to put down heresy in Cambridge ... a Commission which seemed loath to set alight many of what Eamonn Duffy has called the Fires of Faith (much more satisfactory blazes were lit and fanned here in Oxford).
But when it came to the Reformer Martin Bucer, the treatment dished out by Perne was gruesome in the extreme ... you would never guess what he did so I will have to tell you tomorrow ... get ready to hold your noses ...
To be continued.