Victims of Henry VIII: More, Fisher and Three Monks



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In the summer of 1535, not only were Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher executed but also three monks: William Exmewe, Humphrey Middlemore and Sebastian Newdigate. All five men refused to swear the oath of supremacy and acknowledge Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England. Their penalty was death.

Here is look at the Hall Chronicles, a contemporary report of what happened. Some words or phrases have been changed to modern English for easier reading, but for the most part it is exactly how it reads in “Hall’s Chronicles: The History of England.”



“The XXVII Yere” – 1535

Charterhouse Monks

On the xix (19th) day of June, three monks of the London Charterhouse were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn – their quarters set up about London for denying the king to be supreme head of the Church. Their names were William Exmewe, Humphrey Middlemore and Sebastian Newdigate.

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These men were arraigned at Westminster and had behaved themselves very stiffly and stubbornly. When they heard their indictment read about how traitorously they had spoken against the King’s Majesty, his crown and dignity, they neither blushed nor bashed at it, but very foolishly and hypocritically acknowledged their treason which maliciously they announced, having no learning for their defense, but rather being asked many questions, they used a malicious silence, thinking as by their examinations afterward in the  Tower of London it did appear for they said they thought those men, which was Lord Cromwell and others that there sat upon them in judgement, to be heretics and not of the Church of God, and therefore not worthy to be either answered or spoken unto. And therefore as they deserved they received as you have heard before. (They were executed.)



Bishop John Fisher

Also the xxii (22nd) day of the same month John Fisher, bishop of Rochester was beheaded and his head set upon London bridge. This bishop was of very many men lamented, for he was reported to be a man of great learning , and a man of very good life, but therein wonderfully deceived, for he maintained the Pope to be supreme head of the Church, and very maliciously refused the king’s title of supreme head. It was said that the Pope, for that he held so manfully with him and stood so stiffly in his cause, did elect him a Cardinal and sent the cardinals hat as far as Calais, but the head it should have stood on was as high as London Bridge or ever the hat could come to Bishop Fisher and then it was too late and therefore he neither wore it nor enjoyed his office.

Hodgson, Paul; John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop of Rochester, Confessor and Adviser to Lady Margaret Beaufort; St John's College, University of Cambridge; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/john-fisher-14691535-bishop-of-rochester-confessor-and-adviser-to-lady-margaret-beaufort-146362
Hodgson, Paul; John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop of Rochester, Confessor and Adviser to Lady Margaret Beaufort; St John’s College, University of Cambridge

This man as I said was “accoumpted”, learned, yea and that very notably learned, and yet have you heard how he was deceived with Elizabeth Barton that called herself the holy maid of Kent, and no doubt so was he in the defense of that usurped authority, the more pity: wonderful it is that a man being learned should be so blind in the scriptures of God that prove the supreme authority of princes so manifestly.



Sir Thomas More

Also, the vi (6th) day of July was Sir Thomas More beheaded for the like treason before rehearsed, which as you have heard was for the denying of the King’s Majesty’s supremacy. This man was also “coumpted” learned, and as you have heard before he was Lord Chancellor of England, and in that time a great persecutor of such as detested the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, which he himself so highly favored that he stood to it until he was brought to the scaffold on the Tower hill where on a block his head was stricken from his shoulders and had no more harm. I cannot tell whether I should call him a foolish wise man, or a wise foolish man, for undoubtedly he, beside his learned, had a great wit, but it was so mingled with taunting and mocking that it seemed to them that best knew him that he thought nothing to be well spoken except he had ministered some mock in the communication in so much as is coming to the Tower, one of the officers demanded his upper garment for his fee, meaning his gown, and he answered he should have it, and took him his cape, saying it was the uppermost garment that he had. Likewise, even going to his death at the Tower gate a poor woman called unto him and besought him to declare that he had certain evidences of her in the time that he was in office (which after he was apprehended she could not come by) and that he would “intreate” she might have them again, or else she was undone. He answered, ” good woman have patience a little while for the king is so good unto me that even within this half hour he will discharge me of all businesses, and help thee himself.” Also, when he went up the stairs on the scaffold, he desired one of the sheriff officers to give him his hand to help him up, and said, “when I come down again, let me shift for myself as well as I can.

Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein th eYounger
Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein theYounger

Also the hangman kneeled down to him asking him forgiveness of his death (as the manner is) to whom he said, “I forgive thee, but I promise thee that though shalt never have honesty of the striking of my head, my neck is so short.” Also, even when he should lay down his head on the block, he having a gray beard, striked out his beard and said to the hangman, “I pray you let me lay my beard over the block least ye should cut it.” Then his life was ended.

Sources:

Hall, Edward; “The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke, commonly known as Hall’s Chronicle;” pages 817-818

Lee, Paul; “Nunneries, Learning, and Spirituality in Late Medieval English Society: The Dominican Priory of Dartford” page 116

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