|Bishop of Winchester|
|Church||Church of England|
|Diocese||Diocese of Winchester|
|Elected||8 March 1551|
|Reign ended||1553 (Counter-Reformation)|
|Other posts||Bishop of Rochester (1550–1551)|
|Ordination||10 June 1536 (priest)|
|Consecration||29 June 1550|
|Alma mater||Queens' College, Cambridge|
In his day, Ponet was an influential Protestant theologian. However, despite addressing many of the most controversial issues of the mid sixteenth century, he is today best remembered for his sustained attack on the divine right of kings.
Ponet graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1533, was elected a fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge in the same year: and proceeded to obtain a Masters of Arts in 1535. He was a pupil of Thomas Smith, who claimed that the new pronunciation of Ancient Greek had been introduced by himself, Ponet, and John Cheke.
Ponet was ordained a priest at Lincoln on 10 June 1536. By 1545, he was chaplain to Thomas Cranmer.
By November 1548, Ponet had married even though the Parliament of England had not yet removed the ban on clerical marriage. The following year he dedicated a work defending clerical marriage to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset. This work, A Defense for marriage of priests by scripture and auncient writers proved, was one of the most comprehensive works on the subject written in the English reformation. It used examples of scriptural allowance of marriage, scriptural figures who married and early Church figures who married or permitted it to priests to argue priests should be able to marry.
In 1549, Ponet published A Trageodie, or, Dialogue of the Unjust Usurper Primacy of the Bishop of Rome, a translation of a work by Bernardino Ochino.
Following Somerset's fall from political power, Ponet was arrested in November 1549. However, by Lent 1550 he had been sufficiently rehabilitated to preach before the court and Edward VI. In March 1550, he was nominated to the see of Rochester, and was consecrated at Lambeth on 29 June. In January 1551, he was appointed to a commission to investigate anabaptists in Kent. On 8 March 1551 he was appointed to the see of Winchester, relacing Stephen Gardiner. During this same time Ponet married twice. In July 1551, his first wife was found by a consistory court at St Paul's Cathedral to have a legal pre-contract marriage to a butcher and he was forced to divorce her and compensate him. He married his second wife, Maria Hayman, on 25 October of the same year; she was the daughter of one of the Archbishop's Thomas Cranmer's financial officers.
In 1553, the Roman Catholic Mary I succeeded to the English throne. Along with 800 other Protestants, Ponet and his wife fled abroad. Ponet was the highest-ranking ecclesiastic among the Marian exiles.
While Ponet was in exile, Mary set about trying to restore Roman Catholicism by making sure that: Edward's religious laws were abolished in the Statute of Repeal Act (1553); the Protestant religious laws passed in the time of Henry VIII were repealed; and the Revival of the Heresy Acts were passed in 1554. The Marian Persecutions begun soon afterwards. During Wyatt's rebellion in early 1554 Ponet returned to England to participate in the uprising. He escaped to Strasbourg after the rebellion's defeat and was reunited with his wife. A child was born to them in later in 1554, and they were granted citizenship in February 1555.
In 1556, Ponet published An Apologie Fully Answeringe ... a Blasphemous Book - another work on clerical marriage, as well as what came to be his most influential work, A Shorte Treatise of Politike Power, in which he put forward a theory of justified opposition to secular rulers. The United States President, John Adams, noted that Ponet's Treatise was the seminal volume that later political philosophers such as John Locke expanded upon.
Ponet died at Strasbourg in August 1556.
Intellectual foundations of the Royal Supremacy 
Ponet's experience of Mary I's tyranny—as he perceived it—led him to question the intellectual foundations of the Supremacy, and to reject outright the idea that the King was ordained by God to rule his Church on Earth; on the Treatise's title page with the motto taken from Psalm 118, Ponet asserts: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in princes." This meant that kings, far from being god-like creatures, were human at best and sub-human at their all-too-frequent worst, and this meant in turn that kings were human creations and had to be subject to human control. "If, therefore a king or queen broke human or divine law, they should be reproved or even deposed. And if, like Mary, they were a cruel and persecuting idolater then it was a virtuous act to assassinate them as a tyrant."
- Bowman Thompson, Glen (2003). To the Perfection of God's Service: John Ponet's Reformation Vision for the Clergy. Anglican and Episcopal History. "...one of the leading Protestant theologians during the Edwardian phase of the English Reformation. His writings offer compelling opinions on some of the most contentious doctrinal issues of the time. Unfortunately, one could not find this out by reading current scholarship on the man or, for that matter, on the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I. In fact, research on Ponet has without exception emphasized his ideas on political resistance."
- Venn, J.; Venn, J. A., eds. (1922–1958). "Poynet, John". Alumni Cantabrigienses (10 vols) (online ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Glen Bowman, "To The Perfection of God's Service: John Ponet's Reformation Vision for the Clergy," Anglican and Episcopal History Vol. 72, no. 1 (2003) p. 84-88
- Bowman, "To the Perfections of God's Service", p. 94
- Dickens, A.G. (1978). 'The English Reformation'. London & Glasgow: Fontana/Collins. p. 391.;
- Dickens, A.G. (1978). 'The English Reformation'. London & Glasgow: Fontana/Collins. p. 358.;
Primary sources 
- John Ponet, A shorte treatise of politike power, facsimile in Winthrop S. Hudson, John Ponet (1516?–1556): advocate of limited monarchy (1942)
Secondary sources 
- Beer, B.L., ‘John Ponet’s Shorte Treatise of Politike Power reassessed’, Sixteenth Century Journal, 21 (1990), pp. 373–83.
- Bowman, G., ‘To the Perfection of God's Service: John Ponet's Reformation Vision for the Clergy’, Anglican and Episcopal History (1 March 2003).
- Burgess, G. and Festenstein, M. (eds), ‘English Radicalism, 1550-1850’.
- Dawson, Jane E.A., ‘Revolutionary conclusions: the case of the Marian exiles’, History of Political Thought, 11 (1990), pp. 257–72.
- Hudson, W.S., John Ponet (1516?–1556): advocate of limited monarchy (1942).
- Peardon, B., ‘The politics of polemics: John Ponet’s Short Treatise Of Politic Power, and contemporary circumstance, 1553–1556’, Journal of British Studies, 22 (1982), pp. 35–49.
- Pettegree, Andrew, Marian Protestantism: six studies (1996).
- O'Donovan, O. and Lockwood O'Donovan, J. (eds.), ‘From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought, 100-1625’.
- Skinner, Q., ‘The Foundations of Modern Political Thought: Vol. 2, The Age of Reformation’.
- Wollman, D.H., ‘The biblical justification for resistance to authority in Ponet’s and Goodman’s polemics’, Sixteenth Century Journal, 13 (1982), pp. 29–41.
|Church of England titles|
|Bishop of Rochester
|Bishop of Winchester