On this day in 1535, John Houghton, the Prior of the London Charterhouse, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, for refusing to take an oath acknowledging the King – Henry VIII – as the Supreme Head of the Church in England (*). His last words are reported to have been as follows:
“I beseech all here present to attest for me on the dreadful day of judgement that being about to die I declare that I have refused to comply with the will of His Majesty the King, not from obstinacy, malice or a rebellious spirit, but solely for fear of offending the Supreme Majesty of God”.
Previously, from the window of his cell in the Tower of London, Thomas More had witnessed Houghton, together with two other Carthusian priors, a Bridgettine monk and a secular priest, being taken to Tyburn, and remarked to his daughter Meg [Roper]: “These blessed Fathers be now as cheerfully going to their deaths as bridegrooms to their marriage” (**).
(*) A further six monks from the London Charterhouse were executed during the Reformation, and nine died, or rather were allowed to die, of starvation, in gaol at Newgate.
(**) More himself was executed two months later.