The atmosphere in Tudor England was charged with political adversity. English subjects were on edge. Henry VIII required them to swear an allegiance to him as the head of the Church of England. If you refused the likely outcome was execution. Not even Henry’s close friends were safe; Thomas More lost his head because he could not, in good conscience, sign the oath.
Text of the Oath (as published in 1535):
I (state your name) do utterly testifie and declare in my Conscience, that the Kings Highnesse is the onely Supreame Governour of this Realme, and all other his Highnesse Dominions and Countries, as well in all Spirituall or Ecclesiasticall things or causes, as Temporall: And that no forraine Prince, Person, Prelate, State or Potentate, hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction, Power, Superiorities, Preeminence or Authority Ecclesiasticall or Spirituall within this Realme. And therefore, I do utterly renounce and forsake all Jurisdictions, Powers, Superiorities, or Authorities; and do promise that from henchforth I shall beare faith and true Allegiance to the Kings Highnesse, his Heires and lawfull Successors: and to my power shall assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Priviledges, Preheminences and Authorities granted or belonging to the Kings Highnesse, his Heires and Successors or united and annexed to the Imperial Crowne of the Realme: so helpe me God: and by the Contents of this Booke.
The letter in this article is meant to give you insight into the mood of the country in 1535/36. The joy and excitement of the early years of Henry’s reign were over and replaced with fear. The Pilgrimage of Grace in the autumn of 1536 put everyone on high alert – if you didn’t report those who were against him you yourself were considered one of them.
Anne Barneys to Lord Cromwell
[Miscellaneous Letters, Second Series, Vol. III, No. 79, State Paper Office]
Right honourable and singular good lord,
This is to advertise your lordship that whereas one Richard Freestone, one of the esquires for the body to the king’s highness, hath spoken certain words against the king’s grace and your good lordship, in saying that his grace and your lordship does naught in taking away the bishop of Rome’s high name and dignity, and also for taking away out of diverse places the images; and also he maintains many false priests about him in the courntry to hold up the same. And these words were spoken by the said Richard Freestone a month after Michaelmas last past, withother more words, which methought it becomed not him so to do. And some of those words were spoken amongst a hundred priests, being in one company at a month’s mindą, which the said Richard made himself in my own hearing, being a poor woman. Whereupon I call him traitor in his own house, and so I call him every time I meet him; for I think your lordship would so say if that you had heard him speak as I have done. And more I shall shew unto your lordship, if it may please you that I might come to your speech. I would have been with your lordshipo before this time, but I was great with child, and sithen I was delivered of child I have been sick till this time; and now, I thank Almighty God, I have recovered, and I am come now, and am at your lordship’s commandment, and will shew you the truth. And thus I remit all unto your lordship’s high wisdom, which I pray Jesu to preserve as I am bound to pray for.
By your poor oratrice and beadwoman,
Wallar of Norwich was present at the speaking of these words, and also one Wryseley of Norwich.
*A solemnity held in honor of a deceased person a month after his death, frequently attended with feasting.
Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies, page 263-4