He left Geneva to head the English refugee church in Frankfurt but he was forced to leave over differences concerning the liturgy , thus ending his association with the Church of England. The movement may be seen as a revolution, since it led to the ousting of Mary of Guise, who governed the country in the name of her young daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox helped write the new confession of faith and the ecclesiastical order for the newly created reformed church, the Kirk.
He continued to serve as the religious leader of the Protestants throughout Mary's reign. In several interviews with the Queen, Knox admonished her for supporting Catholic practices. When she was imprisoned for her alleged role in the murder of her husband Lord Darnley and King James VI was enthroned in her stead, Knox openly called for her execution. He continued to preach until his final days. John Knox was born sometime between and  in or near Haddington , the county town of East Lothian.
Knox was probably educated at the grammar school in Haddington. In this time, the priesthood was the only path for those whose inclinations were academic rather than mercantile or agricultural. He studied under John Major , one of the greatest scholars of the time. Knox first appears in public records as a priest and a notary in He was still serving in these capacities as late as when he described himself as a "minister of the sacred altar in the diocese of St.
Andrews, notary by apostolic authority" in a notarial deed dated 27 March. He also taught the son of John Cockburn of Ormiston. Both of these lairds had embraced the new religious ideas of the Reformation. Knox did not record when or how he was converted to the Protestant faith,  but perhaps the key formative influences on Knox were Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart. He first moved to England, where in Bristol he preached against the veneration of the Virgin Mary. He was forced to make a public recantation and was burned in effigy at the Church of St Nicholas as a sign of his abjuration.
He then took refuge in Germany and Switzerland. Knox acted as his bodyguard, bearing a two-handed sword in order to defend him.
One is sufficient for a sacrifice. On 1 March , he was burnt at the stake in the presence of Beaton. Knox had avoided being arrested by Lord Bothwell through Wishart's advice to return to tutoring. He took shelter with Douglas in Longniddry. He toyed with the idea of fleeing to Germany and taking his pupils with him. While Knox remained a fugitive, Beaton was murdered on 29 May , within his residence, the Castle of St Andrews, by a gang of five persons in revenge for Wishart's execution.
The assassins seized the castle and eventually their families and friends took refuge with them, about a hundred and fifty men in all. Among their friends was Henry Balnaves , a former secretary of state in the government, who negotiated with England for the financial support of the rebels.
Knox's powers as a preacher came to the attention of the chaplain of the garrison, John Rough. While Rough was preaching in the parish church on the Protestant principle of the popular election of a pastor, he proposed Knox to the congregation for that office. Knox did not relish the idea. According to his own account, he burst into tears and fled to his room.
Within a week, however, he was giving his first sermon to a congregation that included his old teacher, John Major. His sermon was marked by his consideration of the Bible as his sole authority and the doctrine of justification by faith alone , two elements that would remain in his thoughts throughout the rest of his life.
A few days later, a debate was staged that allowed him to lay down additional theses including the rejection of the Mass , Purgatory , and prayers for the dead. John Knox's chaplaincy of the castle garrison was not to last long. While Hamilton was willing to negotiate with England to stop their support of the rebels and bring the castle back under his control, Mary of Guise decided that it could be taken only by force and requested the king of France, Henry II to intervene.
The French besieged the castle and forced the surrender of the garrison on 31 July. The Protestant nobles and others, including Knox, were taken prisoner and forced to row in the French galleys. The nobles, some of whom would have an impact later in Knox's life such as William Kirkcaldy and Henry Balnaves, were sent to various castle-prisons in France.
They were threatened with torture if they did not give proper signs of reverence when mass was performed on the ship. Knox recounted an incident in which one Scot—possibly himself, as he tended to narrate personal anecdotes in the third person—was required to show devotion to a picture of the Virgin Mary. The prisoner was told to give it a kiss of veneration.
He refused and when the picture was pushed up to his face, the prisoner seized the picture and threw it into the sea, saying, "Let our Lady now save herself: she is light enough: let her learn to swim. In summer , the galleys returned to Scotland to scout for English ships.
Knox's health was now at its lowest point due to the severity of his confinement. He was ill with a fever and others on the ship were afraid for his life. Even in this state, Knox recalled, his mind remained sharp and he comforted his fellow prisoners with hopes of release.
While the ships were lying offshore between St Andrews and Dundee , the spires of the parish church where he preached appeared in view. James Balfour , a fellow prisoner, asked Knox whether he recognised the landmark. He replied that he knew it well, recognising the steeple of the place where he first preached and he declared that he would not die until he had preached there again. In February , after spending a total of 19 months in the galley-prison, Knox was released. It is uncertain how he obtained his liberty.
On his release, Knox took refuge in England. The Reformation in England was a less radical movement than its Continental counterparts, but there was a definite breach with Rome. However, much work remained to bring reformed ideas to the clergy and to the people. His first commission was in Berwick-upon-Tweed. He was obliged to use the recently released Book of Common Prayer , which maintained the structure of the Sarum Rite while adapting the content to the doctrine of the reformed Church of England.
Knox, however, modified its use to accord with the doctrinal emphases of the Continental reformers.
In the pulpit he preached Protestant doctrines with great effect as his congregation grew. In England, Knox met his wife, Margery Bowes died c. Her father, Richard Bowes died , was a descendant of an old Durham family and her mother, Elizabeth Aske, was an heiress of a Yorkshire family, the Askes of Richmondshire. Several letters reveal a close friendship between them. The following year he was appointed one of the six royal chaplains serving the King. When Dudley visited Newcastle and listened to his preaching in June , he had mixed feelings about the fire-brand preacher, but he saw Knox as a potential asset.
Knox was asked to come to London to preach before the Court. In his first sermon, he advocated a change for the second edition of the Book of Common Prayer. The liturgy required worshippers to kneel during communion. Knox and the other chaplains considered this to be idolatry.
It triggered a debate where Archbishop Cranmer was called upon to defend the practice. The end result was a compromise in which the famous Black Rubric , which declared that no adoration is intended while kneeling, was included in the second edition. Soon afterwards, Dudley, who saw Knox as a useful political tool, offered him the bishopric of Rochester.
Knox refused, and he returned to Newcastle. Knox returned to London in order to deliver a sermon before the King and the Court during Lent and he again refused to take the assigned post. Knox was then told to preach in Buckinghamshire and he remained there until Edward's death on 6 July. With the country no longer safe for Protestant preachers, Knox left for the Continent in January on the advice of friends. Sometime I have thought that impossible it had been, so to have removed my affection from the realm of Scotland, that any realm or nation could have been equal dear to me.
But God I take to record in my conscience, that the troubles present and appearing to be in the realm of England are double more dolorous unto my heart than ever were the troubles of Scotland. Knox disembarked in Dieppe , France, and continued to Geneva , where John Calvin had established his authority.
When Knox arrived Calvin was in a difficult position. He had recently prosecuted the execution of the scholar Michael Servetus for heresy.
Knox asked Calvin four difficult political questions: whether a minor could rule by divine right, whether a female could rule and transfer sovereignty to her husband, whether people should obey ungodly or idolatrous rulers, and what party godly persons should follow if they resisted an idolatrous ruler. Bullinger's responses were equally cautious; but Knox had already made up his mind. On 20 July , he published a pamphlet attacking Mary Tudor and the bishops who had brought her to the throne.
In a letter dated 24 September , Knox received an invitation from a congregation of English exiles in Frankfurt to become one of their ministers. He accepted the call with Calvin's blessing.
But no sooner had he arrived than he found himself in a conflict. The first set of refugees to arrive in Frankfurt had subscribed to a reformed liturgy and used a modified version of the Book of Common Prayer.
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More recently arrived refugees, however, including Edmund Grindal , the future Archbishop of Canterbury, favoured a stricter application of the book. When Knox and a supporting colleague, William Whittingham , wrote to Calvin for advice, they were told to avoid contention. Knox therefore agreed on a temporary order of service based on a compromise between the two sides.
This delicate balance was disturbed when a new batch of refugees arrived that included Richard Cox , one of the principal authors of the Book of Common Prayer. Cox brought Knox's pamphlet attacking the emperor to the attention of the Frankfurt authorities, who advised that Knox leave. His departure from Frankfurt on 26 March marked his final breach with the Church of England.
After his return to Geneva, Knox was chosen to be the minister at a new place of worship petitioned from Calvin. In the meantime, Elizabeth Bowes wrote to Knox, asking him to return to Margery in Scotland, which he did at the end of August. When he toured various parts of Scotland preaching the reformed doctrines and liturgy, he was welcomed by many of the nobility including two future regents of Scotland, the Earl of Moray and the Earl of Mar.