In the mid-seventeenth century, clergyman John Gregory made a surprise discovery in Salisbury Cathedral that began to reveal the truth of the Boy Bishops. The Boy Bishops of the Middle Ages, following widespread and popular custom, supplanted the true bishops in their cathedrals for a period of time during the Christmas season.
This strange and largely forgotten tradition, stretching from the early Middle Ages to the present day, gives a fascinating insight into the medieval world and its legacy. Elected by their fellows, these Boy Bishops exercised their power in cathedrals, churches and beyond, right across Europe. They controlled services, directed the clergy, enjoyed lavish entertainment, went on visitations to great noble and religious houses and received huge sums of money. However, the topsy-turvy reign of a Boy Bishop was often accompanied by bitter eclesiastical arguments, violence, civil unrest and even murder. It is a little-known fact that the Boy Bishop tradition is still alive today.
The Medieval Boy Bishops will appeal to those interested in religious history, the peculiarities of the medieval world and the place of children in society. Author Neil was inspired to write the book by his passion for English literature and history. "I was fascinated by the idea of Boy Bishops," says Neil. "I'm trying to bring back to life a largely forgotten corner of medieval history." This book will revive interest in a fascinating but neglected area of medieval history in the same way as books such as A Very English Deceit, Longitude and The Mechanical Turk have done for more recent history.