It was Coverdale who made the only known English Augustinian converts to his creed, which in 1528 was Luther-inspired and an amalgam of Lollard elements, garnished with Erasmus's destructive lampooning of the religious life of friars. Four friars of Clare Priory, Suffolk, in East Anglia, succumbed to the influence of Coverdale. They were the Topley brothers, Robert and Thomas, William Gardiner, and John Wygge.
These four were charged in particular with holding that the Eucharist was only bread and wine, that bishops and priests should be free to marry, that sacramental confession was useless, that a layman could administer the sacraments as validly as any ordained priest, that fasting was no use as a penance, and that sea water was as good as holy water, and so forth.
All four friars were denounced for heresy to the Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, before whom, on 11th May 1528, Thomas Topley, William Gardiner, and John Wygge recanted. Thomas's brother, Robert Topley, at first managed to avoid detection, but in 1532 he was arrested and then recanted. He was compelled to do penance in the priory prison at Clare for his errors and for having taken a wife, but he managed to escape and rejoined his wife.
There may have been other Protestant-minded Austin Friars at Clare Priory, but, if so, they kept their thoughts and ideas to themselves. As far as extant records go, it would seem that the tide of Lutheranism did not inundate the English Province, and perhaps for good reason. From 1520, and down to the death of Henry VIII in 1547, anyone who valued his liberty and life would have taken good care not to be apprehended in possession of Lutheran writings.
Except for Saint John Stone O.S.A. and a very few others, the English members of the Order accepted the will of King Henry VIII
Of the church at Clare Priory in pre-Reformation times, the ruins of one wall is all that remains standing today.
This had been the church of Joan of Acre, daughter of King Edward I, and buried there was Lionel Duke of Clarence (the third son of King Edward I), whose body was brought from Pavia in Italy to be buried beside his wife, Elizabeth de Burgh.
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