Tag Archives: King Henry VIII

The execution of Bishop John Fisher (1535)

Fisher banner, All Hallows by the TowerJune 22nd – On this day in 1535, the 65 year old Bishop and Cardinal John Fisher was executed for “misprision of treason”, for refusing to accept Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.  (The notoriously vengeful King had never forgiven Fisher for siding against him in the long-running dispute over his proposed divorce from Katherine of Aragon, and for arguing against him, and for the indissolubility of marriage –  a principle that the Bishop swore he was prepared to die for – before the Papal Legate in Blackfriars in 1529).

Fisher, as portrayed by Holbein

Fisher, as portrayed by Holbein

The Bishop had been tried and convicted at Westminster Hall on 17th June.  He had originally been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 24th June, but when the King realised that this was the feast of St John the Baptist, he changed the date, reasoning that if he did not the public might forever associate John Fisher with his patronal namesake.

The Bishop  was eventually beheaded at Tower Hill on 22nd June (the feast of the first English Christian martyr, St Alban).  His head is said to have been shown to Anne Boleyn, who had expressed a desire to see it, and it was then stuck on a pole on London Bridge.  His body was buried in All Hallows-by-the-Tower (although later reburied in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula inside the Tower).

Site of execution, Tower Hill

Site of execution, Tower Hill

By all accounts, the  Bishop met his death in a state of anticipation that was at times almost joyous.  According to one:

“[W]hen they reached the scaffold, the rough men of his escort offered to help him up the ladder. But he smiled at them: ‘Nay, … ye shall see me go up to my death well enough myself; without help’.  And forthwith he began to climb, almost nimbly. As he reached the top the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and its light shone upon his face. He was heard to murmur some words from Psalm 33 … .   The masked headsman knelt …  to ask his pardon. And again the cardinal’s manliness dictated every word of his answer: ‘I forgive thee with all my heart, and I trust on Our Lord Thou shalt see me die even lustily’.   Then they stripped him …  and … a  gasp of pity went up at the sight of his …  body, nothing …  but skin and bones …  the flesh clean wasted away; and a very image of death … .  He was offered a final chance to save his life by acknowledging the royal supremacy, but …  turned to the crowd, and …  spoke these words: ‘Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my courage hath served me well … , so that …  I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you help me … with your prayers, that at the very …  instant of my death’s stroke, …  I then faint not in …  fear; and I pray God save the king and the realm, and …  send the king a good counsel’.   The …  courage of his spirit triumphing over the obvious weakness of his body, amazed them all, and a murmur of admiration was still rustling the crowd when they saw him go down on his knees and begin to pray. … Then he …  put his wasted neck upon the low block”.

Fisher (right) with More

Fisher (right) with More

Bishop John Fisher is honoured as a Saint by both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, alongside Sir Thomas More.  The Catholic Church beatified him in 1886, and canonised him in 1935, and celebrates his feast day on 22nd June, the day of his execution.  The Church of England added him to the Calendar of Saints and Heroes in 1980, and celebrates his feast day on 6th July, the day of More’s execution (see July 6th posting).

The Tower of London, where Fisher was executed, is visited, although not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights”, “Rebellious London”  and “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.

Fisher banner, All Hallows by the Tower

Fisher banner, All Hallows by the Tower – click image to see a larger version

The  church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, or All Hallows Barking, where he was buried, is  visited, although generally not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Dark Age [Anglo-Saxon and Viking] London”, “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights” and  “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Evil May Day (“The Chronicle of the Grey Friars”)

 Replica of the May Pole erected on May Days on Undershaft (until the practice was discontinued after the Evil May Day riots of 1517)

Replica of the May Pole erected on May Days on Undershaft (until the practice was discontinued after the Evil May Day riots of 1517)

May 1st –  On this day in 1517…..

Another in the occasional series on contemporary accounts of events in the history of London, this one of “Evil May Day” in 1517 from “The Chronicle of the Grey Friars”:

“Thys yere was yell [evil] May Day, that yong men and prentes of London rose in the nyght, and wolde have had James Mottas an owte-landych mane [foreigner] … slayne … , but he hyde hym in hys gotters in hys howse; and from thence they wente un to sent Martyns, and there spoyled the … shoppes; and thane rose the mayer and shreffes and wolde have cessyd them, but they cowed not.  … And iiij or v days after … , … at the last there were dyvers of them hongyd within the citte on gallos  … .  And within shorte space the kynge [Henry VIII] satte in Westmyster halle, and there was commandyd the … rest of them …  to come with halters abowte their neckes … to ask pardone, and soo a generall pardone was gevyne unto theme alle that came that tyme”.

2 - Explanatory plaque

Explanatory plaque

 

 

 

Remembering Syon

The Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon

Time Team reconstruction of Bridgettine Monastery Church SyonOn  this day (March 3rd) in 1415, the “Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon” was founded in Sheen (later, in 1431, moving to a nearby new location between Brentford and Isleworth).  The monastery-cum-nunnery was of the Bridgettine order, the richest and most powerful of  its time, named after its founder, the mystic and later saint Queen Birgitta of Sweden (1303-73).

One of the brothers, Richard Reynolds, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s  supremacy over the Church; famously encouraging those who suffered alonsgide him by promising them that after their “sharp breakfast” they would have a banquet in heaven.  The monastery itself was dissolved in 1539, by Henry.  Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was confined here while awaiting her execution in 1542.  Five years later, in 1547, the coffin containing Henry’s body was accommodated overnight here on route from Westminster to Windsor.  According to one colourful account, the decomposing body burst open during the night, and in the morning dogs were discovered lapping up the liquid that had seeped from the coffin!

Syon House

Syon House was built on the site of the monastery by Edward Seymour, the First Duke of Somerset (and Lord  Protector), sometime between 1547-1552.    After Seymour’s execution in 1552, it came to be owned by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, and it was here that his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey was offered the crown at the beginning of her short  and ill-fated reign.  After Dudley’s execution in 1553, it reverted to the monarch.  In 1594, the then Queen, Elizabeth I, granted the house to Henry Percy, the Ninth Earl of Northumberland, and it has remained in his family from that time to this.  In the late eighteenth century, Hugh Percy, the First Duke of Northumberland, commissioned Robert Adam to redesign the interior, and Capability Brown to landscape the gardens, thereby creating “one of the finest villas in Europe”.

The fourteenth-century  “Monastery Barn”  and seventeenth-century “Ninth Earl’s Arch” still stand in the grounds of the house.

Archaeological Excavations

Time Team reconstruction of Bridgettine Monastery Church Syon

Time Team reconstruction of Bridgettine Monastery Church Syon

Google Earth visualisation of Kings College Cambridge (for comparison)

Google Earth visualisation of Kings College Cambridge (for comparison)

In 2003, a  “Time Team” archaeological excavation in the grounds of the house unearthed the remains of the Bridgettine monastery church – which was evidently approximately twice as large as the broadly contemporary King’s College Chapel in Cambridge!

A number of burials were later unearthed within the church by a team from Birkbeck University of London. Surviving written records, including a “mortilage”, have enabled the buried individuals to be identified.  One was the order’s last recorded librarian, Thomas Betson, who died in 1517. Betson’s library catalogue shows that at one time the monastery possessed nearly 1750 books, many of them the only copies in Britain, but almost all now lost.  His notebook includes a herbal, that is to say, a list of healing plants, and a list of remedies.

The death of Henry VIII – and Whitehall Palace

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

January 28th –  On this day in 1547, Henry VIII “dyed at hys most princely howse at Westminster, comenly called Yorkeplace or Whytehall”  (Stow).

The house, or rather palace, was originally  built for the  Archbishops of York in the thirteenth century, circa 1240, when it was known as York Place.  It was acquired by Henry VIII from the then Archbishop of York, Cardinal Wolsey, in 1529 (see also Whitehall Palace posting here).  This was  not long after a fire had rendered parts of the nearby Old Palace of Westminster unusable, in 1512  (see also Westminster Hall posting).

The Banqueting House

The Banqueting House

 General view of the Banqueting House interior - from the entrance

General view of the Banqueting House interior – from the entrance

Under Henry,  the palace was  renamed Whitehall, and the populace was reminded “You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title’s lost.  ‘Tis now the King’s, and called Whitehall” (Shakespeare,  “King Henry the Eighth”).

The palace was extended both by Henry and by James I.  It  was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, but substantially burnt down in another fire in 1698.  Essentially only the Banqueting House, designed by the Neo-Classical or Palladian architect Inigo Jones in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London, with a ceiling by Rubens, still stands (together with: “Henry VIII’s wine cellar” in the nearby Ministry of Defence building in Horse Guards’ Avenue; the site of his tilt-yard in Horse Guards’ Parade; part of his real tennis court in the Cabinet Office building at No. 70 Whitehall; and “Queen Mary’s Stairs”, built in 1691, on the Embankment).

General view of the Banqueting House interior - looking back towards the entrance

General view of the Banqueting House interior – looking back towards the entrance

Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649 (see also here).  The Holbein Gate, built in 1532 and notable as the probable place of the clandestine marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533, survived both fires (i.e., 1666 and 1698), but was demolished in 1759.

The site is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart  London” and “Rebellious London” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of the web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” page, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

(All photographs included in this blog taken by Bob Jones)

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

The execution of Thomas Cromwell (1540)

Anne of Cleves as portrayed by Holbein in 1539

Anne of Cleves as portrayed (perhaps flatteringly) by Holbein in 1539

Henry VIII as portrayed by Holbein in 1536

Henry VIII as portrayed by Holbein in 1536

July 28th –  On this day in 1540, Henry VIII’s Chief Minister Thomas Cromwell was beheaded at Tower Hill on trumped-up charges of treason and heresy, having eighteen days earlier been attainted, or  in other words essentially found guilty without trial.  He had finally fallen out of favour, and victim to the sort of court intrigue that to that date he had himself customarily been behind, over his ill-advised choice of Anne of Cleves as the new wife for the King.

The lawyer, politician and chronicler Edward Hall recorded Cromwell’s last words, as follows:

Thomas Cromwell, as portrayed by Holbein in c1533

Thomas Cromwell, as portrayed by Holbein in c1533

“I am come hether to dye, …  for …  I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For … I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And …  beyng but of a base degree, …  have offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeve me. O father forgeve me. O sonne forgeve me, O holy Ghost forgeve me: O thre persons in one God forgeve me. And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe … .  Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have … mainteigned evill opinions, whiche is untrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct us in the truthe, so the devill is redy to seduce us, and I have been seduced: but beare me witnes that I dye in the Catholicke faithe … . And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long …  reigne over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I waver nothyng in my faithe”.

Hall also recorded, as follows:

“[H]e … committed his soule, into the handes of God, and so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed [botched] the Office [Execution]”.

Plaque marking site of execution on Tower Hill

Plaque marking site of execution on Tower Hill

Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Cromwell's nemesis at court, as portrayed by Holbein

Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Cromwell’s nemesis at court, as portrayed by Holbein

The Tower of London, where Cromwell was executed, is visited, although not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights”, “Rebellious London”  and “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Guided Walks” section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

The execution of Bishop John Fisher (1535)

Fisher banner, All Hallows by the TowerJune 22nd – On this day in 1535, the 65 year old Bishop and Cardinal John Fisher was executed for “misprision of treason”, for refusing to accept Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.  (The notoriously vengeful King had never forgiven Fisher for siding against him in the long-running dispute over his proposed divorce from Katherine of Aragon, and for arguing against him, and for the indissolubility of marriage –  a principle that the Bishop swore he was prepared to die for – before the Papal Legate in Blackfriars in 1529).

Fisher, as portrayed by Holbein

Fisher, as portrayed by Holbein

The Bishop had been tried and convicted at Westminster Hall on 17th June.  He had originally been sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 24th June, but when the King realised that this was the feast of St John the Baptist, he changed the date, reasoning that if he did not the public might forever associate John Fisher with his patronal namesake.

The Bishop  was eventually beheaded at Tower Hill on 22nd June (the feast of the first English Christian martyr, St Alban).  His head is said to have been shown to Anne Boleyn, who had expressed a desire to see it, and it was then stuck on a pole on London Bridge.  His body was buried in All Hallows-by-the-Tower (although later reburied in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula inside the Tower).

Site of execution, Tower Hill

Site of execution, Tower Hill

By all accounts, the  Bishop met his death in a state of anticipation that was at times almost joyous.  According to one:

“[W]hen they reached the scaffold, the rough men of his escort offered to help him up the ladder. But he smiled at them: ‘Nay, … ye shall see me go up to my death well enough myself; without help’.  And forthwith he began to climb, almost nimbly. As he reached the top the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and its light shone upon his face. He was heard to murmur some words from Psalm 33 … .   The masked headsman knelt …  to ask his pardon. And again the cardinal’s manliness dictated every word of his answer: ‘I forgive thee with all my heart, and I trust on Our Lord Thou shalt see me die even lustily’.   Then they stripped him …  and … a  gasp of pity went up at the sight of his …  body, nothing …  but skin and bones …  the flesh clean wasted away; and a very image of death … .  He was offered a final chance to save his life by acknowledging the royal supremacy, but …  turned to the crowd, and …  spoke these words: ‘Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s Catholic Church, and I thank God hitherto my courage hath served me well … , so that …  I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you help me … with your prayers, that at the very …  instant of my death’s stroke, …  I then faint not in …  fear; and I pray God save the king and the realm, and …  send the king a good counsel’.   The …  courage of his spirit triumphing over the obvious weakness of his body, amazed them all, and a murmur of admiration was still rustling the crowd when they saw him go down on his knees and begin to pray. … Then he …  put his wasted neck upon the low block”.

Fisher (right) with More

Fisher (right) with More

Bishop John Fisher is honoured as a Saint by both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, alongside Sir Thomas More.  The Catholic Church beatified him in 1886, and canonised him in 1935, and celebrates his feast day on 22nd June, the day of his execution.  The Church of England added him to the Calendar of Saints and Heroes in 1980, and celebrates his feast day on 6th July, the day of More’s execution (see July 6th posting).

The Tower of London, where Fisher was executed, is visited, although not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights”, “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City Highlights”, “Rebellious London”  and “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.

Fisher banner, All Hallows by the Tower

Fisher banner, All Hallows by the Tower – click image to see a larger version

The  church of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, or All Hallows Barking, where he was buried, is  visited, although generally not entered, on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Dark Age [Anglo-Saxon and Viking] London”, “Medieval London”, “Medieval City Highlights” and  “Lost City Highlights” themed specials.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of our web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

The death of Henry VIII – and Whitehall Palace

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

January 28th –  On this day in 1547, Henry VIII “dyed at hys most princely howse at Westminster, comenly called Yorkeplace or Whytehall”  (Stow).

The house, or rather palace, was originally  built for the  Archbishops of York in the thirteenth century, circa 1240, when it was known as York Place.  It was acquired by Henry VIII from the then Archbishop of York, Cardinal Wolsey, in 1529 (see also Whitehall Palace posting here).  This was  not long after a fire had rendered parts of the nearby Old Palace of Westminster unusable, in 1512  (see also Westminster Hall posting here).

The Banqueting House

The Banqueting House

 General view of the Banqueting House interior - from the entrance

General view of the Banqueting House interior – from the entrance

Under Henry,  the palace was  renamed Whitehall, and the populace was reminded “You must no more call it York Place: that is past; For since the Cardinal fell that title’s lost.  ‘Tis now the King’s, and called Whitehall” (Shakespeare,  “King Henry the Eighth”).  The palace was extended both by Henry and by James I.  It  was undamaged in the Great Fire of 1666, but substantially burnt down in another fire in 1698.  Essentially only the Banqueting House, designed by the Neo-Classical or Palladian architect Inigo Jones in 1622, and notable as the first Renaissance building in London, with a ceiling by Rubens, still stands (together with: “Henry VIII’s wine cellar” in the nearby Ministry of Defence building in Horse Guards’ Avenue; the site of his tilt-yard in Horse Guards’ Parade; part of his real tennis court in the Cabinet Office building at No. 70 Whitehall; and “Queen Mary’s Stairs”, built in 1691, on the Embankment).

General view of the Banqueting House interior - looking back towards the entrance

General view of the Banqueting House interior – looking back towards the entrance

Charles I was executed outside the Banqueting House in 1649 (see ‘on this day’ blog for January 30th here).  The Holbein Gate, built in 1532 and notable as the probable place of the clandestine marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1533, survived both fires (i.e., 1666 and 1698), but was demolished in 1759.

The site is visited on our “St Paul’s to Westminster Abbey – Priories, Palaces and Parliament” standard walk, and on our “Post-Medieval London” themed special.

Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section of the web-site. Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” page, by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com), or by phone (020-8998-3051).

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens

Close-up of the Banqueting House ceiling by Rubens