The execution of Elizabeth Barton, the “Holy Maid of Kent” (1534)

Elizabeth Barton

On this day in 1534, Elizabeth Barton, otherwise known as the “Holy Maid of Kent”, was hanged and beheaded at Tyburn for treason, for having earlier prophesied that if the king, Henry VIII, were to break from  the Catholic Church and divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn,  he would die, and be sent to Hell (*).  Her head was impaled on a spike on London Bridge, and the rest of her body buried in Greyfriars Church (now Christ Church Greyfriars or Christ Church Newgate Street).

Elizabeth had been born in the parish of Adlington in Kent in 1506, and reportedly begun to experience visions prophesying the future in 1525.  Thousands of ordinary folk came to believe in her prophesies.  Some of the highest in the land also came to believe in her, including Bishop John Fisher, Archbishop William Warham, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the second most powerful man in England after the king, and indeed, if only for a short while, while she spoke for him, the notoriously fickle king himself.  However, as soon as  she started speaking against the king, he turned against her, and his agents, including Thomas Cromwell,  arranged for her to be condemned without trial, by a Bill of Attainder.

(*) Also on this same day in 1534, prominent citizens of London were required to swear the Oath to the  Succession, acknowledging Anne as Henry’s lawful queen, and any children they might have as lawful heirs to the throne.

 

 

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