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An Elizabethan Mystery

“An Elizabethan Mystery: The Lever Canon Law Manuscript at Inner Temple”


Norman Doe, DCL, LLD, FRHistS

Professor of Law Cardiff University

Academic Bencher, Inner Temple

Chancellor of the Diocese of Bangor

Lecture at the Temple Church, 6.00 pm Tuesday, 28th February 2023, followed by drinks in the Round

Among the many ecclesiastical law items at the Inner Temple is a manuscript of a tract by the Ralph Lever (c.1530-85). The tract deals with various hot-topics in Elizabeth I’s reign – such as the place of ‘the pope’s law’ in the law of the Church of England, Roman Catholics in England, allegiance to the royal supremacy, the rule of law, the Court of Delegates, and excommunication.  There are several mysteries surrounding the tract, including the date it was written, the purpose for which it was written, and whether it was reformist in character.  The Temple Church witnessed in the 1580s the ‘battle of the pulpits’ between Richard Hooker (Master of the Temple) and Walter Travers (Reader of the Temple) – between Anglican Canterbury and Calvinist Geneva. What little scholarship exists on the Lever tract understands it as the work of a Protestant Reformer more like Travers than Hooker.  The lecture will question that understanding, by exploring the life of Lever, the text and its context, and presenting the value of studying the historic ecclesiastical treasures at Inner Temple.

The manuscript – MS Petyt 538/47, fos. 344-5, ‘The Assertions of Ralph Lever touching the canon law’ – will be displayed at the lecture courtesy of Inner Temple Library.

It is hoped that this will be the first of a series of events to showcase the ecclesiastical law treasures of the Inner Temple.

We do hope you will be able to join us for the Lecture followed by drinks in the Round.


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