- According to the Arthur legends, King Arthur was a faithful Christian whose battles against the pagan Anglo-Saxons were interpreted on a higher plane. This was encouraged by the myth of the Holy Grail, a cup containing the blood and Christ and brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, not long after the crucifixion. This enabled the English to claim that there was a strand of Christianity present in Britain stretching back to the apostolic period. The English Reformers were able to draw on this myth in order to answer the Catholic question, "Where was your church before Luther?" Apparently, it was the Synod of Whitby (663-664) that had eradicated the true faith that had been preserved by these Celtic Christians. The Celtic church became an early medieval Protestant institution, characterized by evangelical purity and wholly independent of Rome.
- This was picked up by William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536), John Bale (1495-1563) and the martyrologist John Foxe (1516-1587). Foxe's book gave the impression that God is concerned in some particular way with England. The message throughout is that God as always had his Englishmen who will stand for the truth and that Protestantism is to be identified closely with Englishness. Queen Elizabeth was hailed as a second Emperor Constantine in her battle against the Antichrist, identified with the Pope and thus foreign powers (mainly Spain). According to Pearse, Foxe's religious nationalism informed English people's understanding of the ongoing conflict with Spain and of the thread posted by remaining Catholics in England.
- Finally, there is the odd British Israel theory, first popularized by the Richard Brothers (1757-1824). Drawing on the Arthurian legends and the idea of English Protestant specialness, the theory holds that the British were and are the lost tribes of Israel. Their connection with biblical history therefore pre-dates Christ. This theory was widely credited in the 19th C. In World War I, Admiral Sir John Fisher,First Sea Lord of the British Navy advocated
"a great Commonwealth - yes a great Federation - of all those speaking the same tongue [English]. ... And I suppose now we have got [sic] Palestine that this Federal House of Commons of the future will meet at Jerusalem, the capital of the lost Ten Tribes of Israel, whom we are without a doubt, for how otherwise could ever we have so prospered when we have had such idiots to guide us and rule us?" (105)
Thanks to Halden for the image.