John Hooper was born in 1495 during the reign of Henry VII. He was born in the county of Somerset but his actual birthplace is not known. He went up to Merton College in Oxford in 1514 and graduated with a BA in 1518.
There is virtually nothing known of the history of John Hooper in the next twenty one years. However, it was during that period that he came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A great influence leading to his conversion was his reading books written by Zwingli and the Commentary of Paul’s Letters by Johan Bullinger of Zurich.
Pox’s Book of Martyrs tells us the Hooper’s love for and knowledge of the Scriptures compelled him to leave Oxford. He moved to the household of Sir Thomas Arundel who retained him as his steward. Sir Thomas liked John Hooper as a person but did not follow or agree with his Christian views. As a consequence he left Sir Thomas’ employment and travelled to Paris. After staying there for just a short while he returned to England and served in the household of a Mr Sentlow.
John Hooper continued to voice his strong views and he believed that the reforms in the Church in England had not gone far enough. He began to attract the attention of Henry VIII and as a result fled to the Continent.
One of the things he said was, “our king has destroyed the pope but not the papacy”. On the Continent he met Bullinger and other reformers and through these contacts, he became more reformed in his thinking. In particular he came to be concerned that the church must be purified according to the Scriptures. He made visits to Germany, Basle and Zurich. During this period, in 1546, he met and married a Burgundian lady by the name of Anna de Tzarclan and their marriage was described as a very happy one.
In 1547 Henry VIII died and was succeeded by his son Edward VI. Hooper felt a call to return to his homeland and he arrived back in England in May 1549. His reputation as a man of soundness and doctrine had gone before him. As a result he was approached and appointed as a chaplain to the Protector, the Duke of Somerset. He preached, usually twice a day, and crowds flocked to hear him.