“There’s the biter bit” (Charles Wriothesley, 1538)


The Holy Maid of Kent - Copy

Charles Wriothesley (*) wrote in his “Chronicle of England during the Reigns of the Tudors …”  that on this day in 1538:

“At Clerkenwell, where the wrestling is kept, after the wrestling was done, there was hanged … the hangman of London … for robbinge a booth in Bartlemewe fayre, which said hangman had done execution in London since the Holy Maid of Kent was hanged, and was a conninge butcher in quartering of men”.

The “Holy Maid of Kent”, incidentally, was Elizabeth Barton, who was executed in 1534 for denouncing King Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and marriage to Anne Boleyn, apparently while possessed by spirits (being a ventriloquist, in the original sense of the word).  After her execution, her head was impaled on a spike on London Bridge, and her body buried in Greyfriars Church (now Christ Church Greyfriars or Christ Church Newgate Street).

(*) Wriothesley, who lived from 1508-1562, was a herald at the College of Arms in the City of London as well as a chronicler.  He is buried not in the church of St Giles-without-Cripplegate, alongside  other members of the Wriothesley family, but in St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.

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