Category Archives: Monarchy

Death Execution Monarchy

Signs there were of sorrow

John Foxe’s The Book of Martyrs was published in 1563. Although it contains hundreds of martyrologies, it was primarily written in memory of the more than three hundred Protestants burned under Mary I. The book was widely read in Elizabethan England. Containing famous illustrations, copies of the book were chained to churches, schools, and guildhalls, making it accessible to all.

One of the most moving of all the accounts is the description of the execution of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley in 1555. Former bishops of Worcester and London respectively, they had exerted much influence during the reign of Edward VI, but their radical religious convictions made them enemies to the Catholic Mary 1. Condemned to death as heretics, they were taken to a stake beside Balliol College, Oxford, and burned alive. Their testaments to faith and refusal to recant made them figures of awe and admiration.

Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, [he] had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keeper’s wife) weep, ‘Though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet.’

The place of death was on the northside of the town, opposite Balliol College. Dr. Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley, as he passed Bocardo, looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in disputation with a friar. When they came to the stake, Mr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him: ‘Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.’ He then knelt by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the martyrs, who would have answered him, but were prevented by Dr. Marshal, the vice-chancellor. Dr. Ridley then took off his gown and tippet, and gave them to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shipside. He gave away also many trifles to his weeping friends, and the populace were anxious to get even a fragment of his garments. Mr. Latimer gave nothing, and from the poverty of his garb, was soon stripped to his shroud, and stood venerable and erect, fearless of death.

Dr. Ridley being unclothed to his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr. Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer.

Dr. Ridley then requested of Lord Williams, to advocate with the Queen the cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted faggot was now laid at Dr. Ridley’s feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say: ‘Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England, as I trust, will never be put out.’

When Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a wonderful loud voice, ‘Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.’ Master Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side, ‘O Father of heaven, receive my soul!’ received the flame as it were embracing of it. After that he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeareth) with very little pain or none.

But Master Ridley, by reason of the evil making of the fire unto him, because the wooden faggots were laid above the gorse and over-high built, the fire burned first beneath, being kept down by the wood. Which when he felt, he desired them for Christ’s sake to let the fire come unto him. Which when his brother-in-law heard, but not well understood, intending to rid him out of his pain, heaped faggots upon him, so that he clean covered him, which made the fire more vehement beneath, that it burned clean all his nether parts before it once touched the upper, and that made him leap up and down under the faggots and often desire them to let the fire come unto him, saying ‘I cannot burn’. For after his legs were consumed by reason of his struggling through the pain he showed that side turned toward us clean, shirt and all untouched with flame. Yet in all this torment he forgot not to call unto God still, having in his mouth, ‘Lord have mercy upon me’, intermeddling this cry, ‘Let the fire come unto me, I cannot burn.’ In which pains he laboured until one of the standers-by with his bill [pickaxe] pulled off the faggots above, and where he saw the fire flame up, he wrested himself unto that side. And when the flame touched the gunpowder he was seen [to] stir no more, but burneth on the other side, falling down at Master Latimer’s feet.

Some say that before he was like to fall from the stake, he desired them to hold him to it with their bills. Howsoever it was, surely it moved hundreds to tears beholding the horrible sight.  For I think there was none that had not clean exiled all humanity and mercy which would not have lamented to behold the fury of the fire so to rage upon their bodies. Signs there were of sorrow on every side.

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Court Elizabeth Monarchy

A man raised up by ourself

This snippet is a letter written by Elizabeth I to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester.  A long-time favourite of the Queen, in 1586 he accepted the title of Governor-General of the Netherlands, inciting Elizabeth’s considerable wrath:

To my lord of Leicester from the queen, by Sir Thomas Heneage

How contemptuously we conceive ourselves to have been used by you, you shall by this bearer understand: whom we have expressly sent unto you to charge you withal. We could never have imagined (had we not seen it fall out in experience) that a man raised up by ourself and extraordinarily favoured by us, above any other subject of this land, would have in so contemptible a sort broken our commandment in a cause that so greatly toucheth us in honour. Whereof although you have showed yourself to make but little account in so most undutiful a sort, you may not therefore think that we have so little care of the reparation thereof as we mind to pass so great a wrong in silence unredressed. And therefore our express pleasure and commandment is that, all delays and excuses laid apart, you do presently upon the duty of your allegiance obey and fulfill whatsoever the bearer hereof shall direct you to do in our name. Whereof fail you not, as you will answer the contrary at your uttermost peril.’

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Court Monarchy Shakespeare

Macbeth, sonne of Douada

This little snippet comes from John Monipennie’s Certaine matters concerning the realme of Scotland (1597). Although it is traditional to assume that Shakespeare used Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles as the chief source for his history plays, Monipennie’s chronology was also in circulation at the time of the composition of Macbeth, and it is possible Shakespeare may have owned a copy. The following chronology of Scottish Kings might be of note to anyone who ever wondered what happened in Scotland after Burhnam Wood came to Dunsinane.

Duncane, the first, sonne of Beatrix, daughter of Malcolme the second, began to raigne in the yeere of Christ 1034. A good and a modest Prince. He was slaine by Macbeth traiterously, in the sixth yeere of his raigne.

Macbeth, sonne of Douada, daughter of Malcolme the second, began his raigne in the yeere of Christ 1040. In the beginning of his raigne he behaved himselfe as a good and just Prince, but after, he degenerated into a cruell Tyrant. He was slaine in battell by his Successor Malcolme the third, in the seventeenth yeere of his raigne.

Malcolme the third, surnamed Cammoir, sonne of Duncane the first, began to raigne in the yeere of Christ 1057. A very religious and valiant Prince: he married Margaret, daughter to Edward surnamed the Out-law, sonne to Edward surnamed Iron-side, King of England, a very good and religious woman, according to those times, who bore unto him sixe sonnes and two daughters. The sonnes were Edward the Prince, Edmond Etheldred, Edgar, Alexander, David. The daughters were Mathildis or Maud, surnamed Bona, wife to Henrie the first, surnamed Beauclearke, King of England, the sonne of William the Conquerer of England… The other daughter was Marie, wife to Eustathius, Earle of Boloigne.’

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