John Dee's 1563 cover story

John Dee (1527 - 1608) was described in print, as persecuting Protestants while working for Bonner, Queen Mary's Catholic Bishop of London, in the first English edition (March 1563) of John Foxe's "Acts and Monuments" (a.k.a. Foxe's Book of Martyrs):

The following red passages are copied from the Glossary of People 
from The Unabridged Acts and Monuments Online or TAMO(1576 edition);
Editorial commentary and additional information; (HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011); 
Available from http//www.johnfoxe.org  [Accessed: 07.09.12]:


Dee is described by Foxe as a 'great coniurer' to whom Philpot was sent, shortly before Philpot's martyrdom. 1563, p. 1445, 1570, p. 1999. This is removed from the 1576 and 1583 editions.

Robert Smith was examined by John Dee, Harpsfield and Bonner on eucharistic doctrine. 1563, p. 1252, 1570, p. 1870, 1576, p. 1601, 1583, p. 1691.

Robert Smith was again examined before Bonner, Mordant and Dee. 1563, p. 1255, 1570, p. 1872,1576, p. 1603, 1583, p. 1692.

Philpot's seventh examination on 19 November 1555 was before Bonner; Rochester, chancellor of Lichfield; Chadsey and John Dee. 1563, pp. 1412-16, 1570, pp. 1978-80, 1576, pp. 1702-05, 1583, pp. 1810-12.

In Philpot's seventh examination, John Dee is referred to as Master Dee in 1563 and 1570 and then as Doctor Dee in 1576 and 15831563, pp. 1412-16, 1570, pp. 1978-80, 1576, pp. 1702-05,1583, pp. 1810-12.

In Philpot's eleventh examination, John Dee is referred to as a 'great conjurer' in 1563 and 1570. The reference is removed in 1576 and 15831563, pp. 1425-34, 1570, pp. 1986-92, 1576, pp. 1710-15, 1583, pp. 1817-22.

In the letter exhibited by Bonner about Bartlett Green, reference is made to John Dee and Feckenham. 1563, pp. 1444-45, 1570, p. 1999, 1576, pp. 1721-22, 1583, p. 1828.

In a letter that was never delivered, Green told Philpot of his presentment on 17 November before Bonner and two bishops, Master Dean, Roper, Welch, John Harpsfield, and two or three others. Dr Dale, Master George Mordant and Master Dee [not listed here as Dr] were also there. 1563, p. 1460, 1570, p. 2023, 1576, p. 1744, 1583, p. 1852.

Bartlett Green met with John Dee, who was very friendly to him. 1563, p. 1462, 1570, p. 2024,1576, p. 1744, 1583, p. 1853.

[Foxe refers to Dee as 'D.' in the 1576 and 1583 editions. This is discussed in Julian Roberts, 'Bibliographical Aspects of John Foxe' in David Loades (ed.), John Foxe and the English Reformation (Aldershot, 1999), pp. 36-37 and 49].

[Also referred to as 'John D']

1583 Edition, page 1602 | 1583 Edition, page 1715 | 1583 Edition, page 1835 | 1583 Edition, page 1876

Note how mentions of Dee as a known conjurer and as assisting in the persecution of protestants are downplayed or disappear in later editions. He is even upgraded from "Master" to "Doctor" in the 1576 edition. Also note that the following passages, featuring his own persecution under Queen Mary (apprehended on charges of conjuring that did not stick), do not appear until the 1583 edition:

On 29 May 1555, the privy council ordered Sir Francis Englefield to apprehend John Dee and to search for books and papers concerning him. 1583, pp. 1577-78.

On 5 June 1555 the privy council ordered that Cary, John Dee, John Field and Benger should be examined about their confessions concerning the practice of conjuring. 1583, p. 1581.

On 7 June the privy council ordered that Cary, Dee, Field and Benger be examined again about conjuring and witchcraft. 1583, p. 1581.

On 29 August 1555, Dee and Cary were released on bond. 1583, p. 1581.

The fact that the revelations that would damn Dee in the eyes of Protestants were made in an explosive best-seller, published in March 1563 by the Queen's printer (John Day), suggests that Dee may have considered this first English edition of 1563 to be a useful cover story while residing, traveling and gathering intelligence in Catholic countries, on Her Majesty's (secret) service.

A modern author comments:

from Sarah Gristwood, "Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics", pub. Viking  2007, p74-75:

If we doubt that there were dealings done, in these days of waiting and watching - dealings too secret to leave a paper trail - we have only to consider the story of John Dee. The one-time tutor in the Dudley household, who had secretly cast Elizabeth's horoscope for her, was himself close to Cecil as well as to the old royal tutor Cheke. Dee's name crops up repeatedly in the chronicles of Mary's reign, appearing first as a suspected heretic - and then as a Catholic inquiry agent in the service of the regime! One might assume that he had simply turned traitor to his beliefs... but in that case why would Robert Dudley approach him, of all available astrologers, to select a propitious day for Elizabeth's coronation, when the time came? It seems more likely that Dee was playing an underhand role not towards his Protestant friends, but to the Catholic authorities, and that these covert dealings would be known to such an ambitious insider as Robert Dudley.
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