Nag's Head Fable

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Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker.

The Nag's Head Fable was a fiction which purported that Matthew Parker, an Archbishop of Canterbury, was not consecrated solemnly, but instead was consecrated with a Bible pressed to his neck while inside the Nag's Head tavern. The story surfaced more than 40 years after Parker's consecration and was spread by Roman Catholics as fact until the dawn of the 20th century.

Fact and fiction[edit]

On the passing of the first Act of Uniformity in Queen Elizabeth I of England's reign, fourteen bishops were dismissed from their sees, and all the other sees, except Llandaff (then part of the Church of England), were at the time vacant.[1] The question was how to obtain consecration so as to preserve unbroken apostolic succession, as the Bishop of Llandaff refused to officiate at the consecration of the new Archbishop of Canterbury.[1] Matthew Parker had been selected for the see. The allegation of an indecent consecration in the Nag's Head Fable seems first to have been made by a Jesuit, Christopher Holywood, in 1604, over 40 years after the event.

According to propaganda, John Scory, the deposed Bishop of Chichester, was sent for and officiated at the Nag's Head tavern in Cheapside.[1] There Parker was supposedly consecrated by having a Bible pressed to his neck while Scory said, "Take thou authority to preach the word of God sincerely."[1] This story was later discredited, as a full description by an eyewitness of the consecration of Parker in Lambeth Palace Chapel was located. In this account it is stated that it was not the consecration which took place at the Nag's Head, but only that those who took part in it dined there subsequently. We are furthermore told that Bishops William Barlow, Scory, Myles Coverdale, and John Hodgkins, all officiated at the consecration.[2]

As recently as the late nineteenth century, the legend was still being told as fact by unscrupulous controversialists in such countries as Sri Lanka.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
  2. ^ a b Claude Beaufort Moss, DD London SPCK (1965). "The Christian Faith: An Introduction To Dogmatic Theology". The Chaucer Press. pp. PART II, CHAPTER 64. Retrieved 2007-07-16.