Reformation and Cockades

Over five hundred years ago, a movement began that would change the map of the world - and influence cockades for centuries!

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses combating the errors of the established Catholic church. This was no mere theological argument. The Pope and his church hierarchy had accumulated vast power in the world, making and unmaking kings and kingdoms. Luther's Theses were the first stroke at the foundation of a massive empire.

Beards, Breaths, and Feathers 

(and Cockades)

One of the sources of income for this religious Catholic empire was the sale of indulgences, supposedly the forgiveness of sins for money. Peddlers of these indulgences often displayed phony "relics" - items supposedly belonging to Christ or the Catholic saints. In an 1853 history of the Protestant Reformation, we are told about some of these relics - note the cockade reference!

"At Wittenberg were shown a piece of Noah's ark, a small portion of soot from the furnace of the three young Hebrews, a bit of the manger in which our Savior was laid, a little of the beard of the great Christopher, and nineteen thousand other relics of greater or less value. At Schauffhausen was shown the breath of St. Joseph, which Nicodemus had received into his glove; at Wurtemberg, a dealer in indulgences carried on his head a cockade, containing a large feather from the wing of Michael the archangel! Think you, was it not time for heaven to interpose? Luther appears amid all this to accomplish heaven's behests."

Luther was the catalyst for the Reformation, a movement that insisted the church go back to Scripture alone, without inventions of men.

Reformers, Catholics and Cockades

Catholicism and Protestantism began a struggle that involved not merely the kingdom of God, but also the kingdoms of men. Many a civil war was fought between Catholic and Protestant claimants to the same thrones. And naturally, each side of the conflict usually had its own cockade.

The Catholic Stuarts wore the white cockade in their quest to gain England's throne and that became the basis for the Scottish white cockade. (Read my blog post about it here.)

The Protestant Dutch William ultimately gained England's throne and brought with him the Dutch orange cockade. That's why Protestant Irish wear orange, while Catholic Irish wear green. (Yep, I've got a blog post on that too.)

William and Mary established Britain as Protestant, but the fracas between Catholic and Protestant didn't end. The Papist Act of 1778, for example, sparked riots that rocked the city of London and were led by anti-government rioters wearing blue cockades. Those blue cockades, by the way, were to appear again several times in American anti-government movements - notably the Nullification Crisis of 1832 and the Secession Crisis of 1860-61. (Aaaand here's the blog post.)

As Protestant and Catholic statesmen  boiled along in political disputes, the real Reformation continued. Puritans within the church and Separatists or Non-Conformists outside of the church sought to wean the church from the teachings of men and go back to Scripture alone. But the persecution continued. An account of French Huguenots tells of cockades and a massacre:

Armed bands rushed from Nimes into the country around, ravaged, murdered, or blackmailed the Protestant farmers and small cultivators. Some of the more remote, isolated, and consequently defenceless victims, wishing to find protection, obtained from the Prefet of Alons white flags and cockades. This was done under the eyes of the ' Sous-Prefet ' who, on August 2, gave Graffan the order to march on those very men termed now by that treacherous official 'disguised rebels.' Graffan, proud of this official order, marched forthwith to St. Maurice, seized six men haphazard, brought then triumphantly to the same 'esplanade,' and shot them under the windows of the 'Sous-Prefet,' notwithstanding the protests of the doomed men that they were Royalists and bore the white cockade.

The first Thanksgiving at Plimouth
In seeking a way to practice religion according to Scripture instead of the State, many people began looking for a new place to start over. And they found it in the New World. Pilgrims began to arrive in America to create a city on a hill, an example of how practicing biblical religion can create a strong, healthy society.

The Christian foundations of America's history can be traced 500 years back to Martin Luther and his 95 theses. And a long line of cockades marks the trail!

No comments:

Post a Comment