England has a long history of deference to Scripture. The first king of all the English, Alfred the Great (r. 871-899), ordered the ten commandments and some parts of Psalms translated to preface his code of law. The earliest substantial work we have in the Anglo-Saxon (close to old Saxon) tongue is a fairly close paraphrase of the first 22 chapters of Genesis. It likely originated even before Alfred's time.
Later, around 990 AD, a complete translation of the four Gospels from Greek to Old English was made, and which we still have today under the title of "Wessex Gospels." This early translation apparently did not use the Latin Vulgate at all but went straight to the original language, similar to what Tyndale did with the whole Bible.
It wasn't until the time of William I and his son William II who invaded Wales in 1093 that the island government began to shift toward being factionally papist. But it was a slow process, slowed down by the king's prerogative, as seen in a letter sent by him to the pope in 1103, “use with yourself a better deliberation in this matter, let your gentleness so moderate itself,” or else the king would be “forced to withdraw his obedience” (a vestra me cogatis recedere obedientia), if the pope did not do so- noting that his nobles and the great people of England “would not suffer it” were he to do otherwise than this.
Despite these pressures, the monarchy slowly was bogged down by foreign appointees to the offices of his state church. The conflict reached a climax in the year 1213 when John I "Lackland" of England was driven, by circumstances, to vassalize himself to a papal legate. He was immediately sworn off by the nobles, thus precipitating the First Baron's War. Before the end of his life, he was forced to sign the so-called "Magna Carta" to guarantee the preservation of the basic liberties guaranteed under the law to this point. This was a forerunner for later conflicts against the monarchy when it trampled on these rights such as the English Civil War (and execution of the king), the deposition of James II, and ultimately, the U.S. Revolutionary War. The Constitution was consciously to some degree modeled after the "Great Charter" of 1215, which we find was originally a document meant to protect the island kingdom from the encroachments of Romanism in the 13th century.
The gradual untangling of the church and state continued through the Act of Tolerance proclaimed in 1689 under William III and Mary II. During this time, Wycliffe produced one of the most cogent English documents, the Wycliffe Bible of 1380, which however appears to have been somewhat flawed in its source material. Nevertheless, it was an important precursor, as the Wessex Gospels had been, to the work of Tyndale.
The followers of the Bible in Wycliffe's time were called by a name whose origin is obscure, "Lollards." It was written by Henry Knighton in 1396 (originally in Latin) the following:
>A.D. 1382: Willelmus de Swyndurby associated in this year with some of the sect of Wyclyf, at a certain chapel of St. John the Baptist, near the dwelling-place of the lepers. This sect was held in the highest honor in those days, and was multiplied to such an extent, that it was difficult to pass by two men in the way without one of them being a disciple of Wyclyffe.
Wycliffe wrote the following:
>"We have a perfect knowledge of all things necessary to salvation, from the faith of Scripture."
-De veritate sacrae scripturae, p. 108.
>"The merit of Christ is of itself sufficient to redeem every man from hell: it is to be understood of a sufficiency of itself, without any other concurring cause."
-Wycliffe, De veritate sacrae scripturae, pp. 552-553.
>"All that follow Christ, being justified by his righteousness, shall be saved as his offspring."
-De veritate sacrae scripturae, p. 550.
One of Wycliffe's most classic quotes is that which made it into the Council of Constance long after his (bodily) death:
>"Since heretical falsehood about the consecrated host is the most important point in individual heresies, I therefore declare to modern heretics, in order that this falsehood may be eradicated from the church, that they cannot explain or understand an accident without a subject. And therefore all these heretical sects belong to the number of those who ignore the fourth chapter of John: We worship what we know." - Council of Constance, records for July 6, 1415.