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Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

Memorial to Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

This is a guest post from Robert Warwick who has written about an event that happened in his home town in Tudor times. We are delighted to have this post – partly because we have covered Catholic persecution quite often but as yet haven’t really said much about the dreadful religious persecutions that took place under the catholic rule of Queen Mary – hopefully this post will do a bit to redress the balance.

Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman

On 18th July 1556 three people were burned to death in the small Sussex town of East Grinstead, between London and Brighton on the South Coast of the UK.  Their names were Anne Tree, Thomas Dungate and John Foreman.  To some they were witches, to others heretics, to many – martyrs for carrying their protestant beliefs to their deaths. Ordinary people caught up in the struggle between the protestant and catholic churches after the death of Henry VIII.

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

St Swithuns, East Grinstead

Remembered to this day

The five years of the reign of Mary I, also known as Bloody Mary, from 1553 saw countless deaths, but even today these three martyrs are remembered by many who live in East Grinstead. In the churchyard of St Swithun’s, on the High Street, there are three slabs to commemorate them.  Even today it is not at all uncommon to see small posies of flowers laid underneath their inscribed names.  The actual resting place for their ashes remain unknown, but many think that they are somewhere in the graveyard, yards away from their memorial.  Just a few years ago over one hundred people turned up at a ceremony to commemorate the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of their death.  The three of them were each tied to a stake and burned alive a few paces over the road from the church just outside the gentleman’s and lady’s outfitters, Broadley Brothers, a shop that has remained almost completely unchanged for the forty years or so I have known it.

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here

East Grinstead High Street - today it is hard to imagine the horror that took place here in 1556

East Grinstead

Today East Grinstead is the home for 24,000 or so people, many of whom have a daily commute into London.  In Tudor times things were very different.  The population of the town itself was about 300, comprising of a windmill, slaughter house, a currying house for dressing leather and a blacksmith’s forge.  Politically there were forty eight houses (or burgages) that were eligible to vote for the town’s two Members of Parliament.

Travelling in Sussex was a hazardous business, with poor roads and the constant threat of robbery.  East Grinstead was a convenient stopping off point for travellers and was a favoured location for Assizes for those judges that were too timid to venture further south.  The picture this paints is of a vibrant close knit community, small by today’s standards and certainly not immune to the political and religious upheavals of the day.  They were not the only ones to suffer.

St Swithuns churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

St Swithun's churchyard - memorial stones are in the foreground

Executed for heresy

In the same year Thomas Hoath, a priest was also accused of heresy and executed at the hand of the state.  John Smyth was excommunicated, his fate unknown.  But it is the story of these three ordinary people, killed in extra-ordinary times, that still manages to capture the imagination of East Grinstead townsfolk.

Although I live within a five minute walk of where the martyrs died I find it almost impossible to compare my life, and the town where I have lived most of my life, with that of the martyrs and others who lived here at the time of Mary’s reign.

All pictures by Rob Warwick

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The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche. National Gallery, London

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche. National Gallery, London

As Edward VI lay on his deathbed in 1553 he wanted a protestant heir to the throne – (or at least his advisors did ). He was only 15 years of age. Rather than name his Catholic half-sister Mary as his successor, he left the throne to his aunt’s descendents, in the knowledge that Jane, a staunch protestant, would be next in line to the throne.

Mary I Declared Queen

However, within only a few days, Mary had gathered enough support to ride into London in a triumphal procession. Parliament declared Mary the rightful Queen – and Jane and her husband were imprisoned for treason. Jane’s husband Guilford was publicly beheaded at Tower Hill. A horse and cart brought his body back to the Tower of London, past the rooms where Jane was held prisoner. Jane was then taken out to Tower Green for a private execution rather than a public one – this was expressly ordered by Queen Mary out of respect for her cousin.

Queen Mary

Queen Mary, allowed Jane a private execution

The Scaffold

On ascending the scaffold Jane gave her gloves and handkerchief to her maid, and then recited Psalm 51 in English. Tyndale had translated the Bible into English in 1525, but any editions before 1570 were very rare so it is possible that Jane translated this psalm herself, as she was a scholar of biblical languages. The Roman Catholic priest sent by Mary to try to convert Jane to Catholicism, stayed with her during the execution.

“What shall I do? Where is it?”

Jane is reported to have turned to the executioner saying, “I pray you dispatch me quickly”. Then, indicating her head, asked, “Will you take it off before I lay me down?” to which the executioner answered, “No, madam”. Jane put on her blindfold herself, wanting to go to her death with dignity – however once blindfolded, she could not find the executioner’s block, and began to panic, crying “What shall I do? Where is it?” (This is the moment depicted in the painting by Delaroche above) An unknown hand helped her, and with her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus from St Luke’s gospel, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” She was then beheaded.

Psalm 51

edge2Have mercy upon me, O God,

according to thy lovingkindness:

according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

edgeCreate in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.

O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.

Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

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Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey, Queen for nine days, executed at the age of 17, was more than just a pawn in the religious and state politics of Tudor England.  We will write more about the end of her short life in a future post, but for today we want to focus on her early life.

Bradgate Park

Jane was born at Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, famous today for its herds of red deer and fallow deer.  Jane was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorset and his wife Lady Frances Brandon.  Through her mother, Jane was great-granddaughter to Henry VII.  Jane had a very difficult childhood, even by the standards of the time.

Bradgate Park (prakashodedra on Flickr: Click image)

Bradgate Park (prakashodedra on Flickr: Click image)

A strict childhood

Her mother, Lady Brandon, was a strict and really very cruel disciplinarian.  She seems to have been irritated by Jane’s personality.  She thought that Jane was too meek and gentle, and attempted to toughen her up with regular beatings. Starved of affection and a mother’s love and understanding Jane became a bookworm.  She turned out to be a very able scholar and quickly mastered skills in the arts and languages. Despite this Jane felt that nothing she could do would please her parents. She confided in a visiting tutor from Cambridge, Roger Ascham, saying,

“When I am in the presence of either Father or Mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yes presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways … that I think myself in hell.”

Photo of Bradgate Park by American-Psycho-UK on Flickr (click image)

Photo of Bradgate Park by American-Psycho-UK on Flickr (click image)

Jane Grey – scholar

Jane threw herself into her studies and became learned in Latin, Greek and Hebrew as well as modern languages. Through the teachings of her tutors, she became a committed Protestant.  Her faith was clearly a source of strength to her throughout her short life, and at her execution – more of that in a future post.

Young, beautiful and learned Jane, intent
On knowledge, fount it peace; her vast acquirement
Of goodness was her fall; she was content
With dulcet pleasures, such as calm retirement
Yields to the wise alone; — her only vice
Was virtue: in obedience to her sire
And lord she died, with them a sacrifice
To their ambition: her own mild desire
Was rather to be happy than be great;
For though at their request, she claimed the crown,
That they through her might rise to rule the state,
Yet the bright diadem and gorgeous throne
She viewed as cares, dimming the dignity
Of her unsullied mind and pur benignity.

by William Hone (1780 -1842)

Inscribed beneath a portrait of Lady Jane Grey

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Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of Garnets straw in the background of this image

Henry Garnet 1555 - 1606 Note picture of 'Garnets straw' in the background of this image

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London.The Stuart
authorities,determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet
had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show
trial.Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold
which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.
In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this
form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end.
Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and
uneasy crowd.
There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases and
Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in
order to protect others.
Who’s there, i’ the name of
Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hanged
himself on the expectation of plenty: come in
time; have napkins enow about you; here
you’ll sweat for’t.
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s
name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God’s sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
in, equivocator.
It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death
[Knocking within]
Knock,
knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an
English tailor come hither, for stealing out of
a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
roast your goose.
After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took
the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that
the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a
martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening. The authorities were horrified
that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture
the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic.
The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever -some time during the
French revolution. An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought
it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

The execution of Father Garnet

On the morning of the 3rd May 1606 Father Henry Garnet was executed at St Pauls churchyard in London. The Stuart  authorities, determined to blame the Jesuit order for the recent gunpowder plot had hunted down the fugitive Priest. Garnet had been condemned to the traitors death of hanging, drawing and quartering following what would today be labelled a show trial. Garnet was dragged from the Tower of London through the streets on a hurdle to his place of execution – a scaffold which had been made higher than usual to allow as many as possible to view the execution.

An act of mercy?

In an act of mercy King James had ordered that he be allowed to hang until dead so as not to suffer the full horror of this form of execution. It was a mercy that was not needed because the crowd surged forward and pulled his legs to hasten his end. Garnets body was quartered as was the custom but when his head was held up to view there were no cheers from a restless and uneasy crowd.

A hidden reference in Macbeth?

 

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

Lady Macbeth: Photo miss insomnia tulip on Flickr ( Click image)

There is a suggestion that the following lines from Macbeth refer to Garnets execution, and if so, this helps to date the play to sometime just after the execution. Garnet was famous for his ‘equivocal’ answers to questions put to him – not telling direct lies but obscuring the truth in order to protect others whilst ‘Farmer’ was one of his aliases.

Who’s there, i’ the name of

Beelzebub?

Here’s a farmer, that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty: come intime;

have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t.

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s name?

Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale;

who committed treason enough for God’s sake,

yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator.

It may be that the last part of this verse refers to events after Garnets death

[Knocking within]

Knock,

knock, knock! Who’s there?

Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither,

for stealing out of a French hose: come in, tailor;

here you may roast your goose.

(Macbeth II, 3)

garnets strawA bloody relic

After the execution a piece of blood stained straw was taken as a relic. It was said that a young Catholic in the crowd took the straw to a Tailor called Hugh Griffin. It was only later, when the blood had dried on the straw that people noticed that the stain looked like a human face. On closer inspection it was thought the face looked like Garnet. As Garnet was now a martyr it was inevitable that the image on the straw was viewed as a miraculous happening.

The authorities were horrified that a man viewed by them as a traitor was being celebrated in this manner. Immediate efforts were made to try and capture the relic and it was suggested that a ‘Popish’ painter had forged the relic. The straw was eventually smuggled out of England and ended up in France where it disappeared forever – some time during the French revolution.

An idealised likeness of the straw can be seen behind Garnets picture at the top of this post, I thought it might be interesting to try and re-create the straw which is the picture you can see at the side of this post.

Mysterious faces in strange places.

Of course – we have no way of knowing exactly what Garnets straw really did look like and a martyrs face on a straw may seem a strange idea. However, this story reminded me of a recently found image. In May 2009 a family in Wales claimed to have seen the face of Jesus on the underside of a lid of marmite. If this sort of thing still happens quite regularly today then it is perhaps no suprise that people from earlier and more traumatic times  saw such things too.

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

Daily Telegraph Story - click image

 

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winters gibbet by night. Amblekingrat on flickr (Click image)

winters gibbet by night. Amblekingrat on flickr (Click image)

I took a quick  look through the posts we have made so far on this blog and noticed that a great many of them refer to the cultural achievements of Tudor times. This period saw an extraordinary flowering of music, poetry, literature, painting and the theatre. However, these times are also remembered for the savage treatment that offenders could recieve, and this post examines the subject of capital punishment.

Hanging.

Death by hanging was the most commonly used form of capital punishment. This was imposed upon those convicted of murder and manslaughter as well as a range of other crimes. In 1563, Queen Elizabeth’s government passed an anti-witchcraft law making it a capital offence to cause the death of a person by witchcraft. Although we often think of burning at the stake as a Witches punishment it was far more common for hanging to be used in these circumstances. A witch could be imprisoned for a first offence of harming a person but this would become a death penalty for a second offence. As well as witchcraft, other offences were punishable by death such as buggery, rape, and stealing hawks.hanging

The condemned person was usually placed beneath the gallows on a horse drawn cart, once the rope was around the neck the horse was led away and the person left to hang (sometimes a ladder was used as per the illustration ). This method of hanging often meant the person died slowly of strangulation, as a mercy people were sometimes allowed to pull on the victim’s legs to hasten the process. In more recent times great care was taken to ensure that the execution was quick and efficient (this film gives some information).

Off with his head!

In the case of offenders from the nobility the penalty was to be beheaded. This would often take place away from the public eye, in London of course this meant execution on Tower green within the walls of the Tower of London. In the case of Anne Boleyn, a specialist swordsman was brought from France for the occasion to ensure that the death was a quick one. Thomas Cromwell however was not so fortunate. The executioner was incompetent and the first axe blow cleaved into Cromwell’s skull. There were reports that it took several blows to remove his head and rumours were that this had been arranged on purpose.

beheaded

Burnt at the stake.

Heretics were sentenced to death by burning at the stake, a punishment meant to symbolise the flames that awaited the sinner in hell. Although used throughout the Tudor period it reached a peak during the reign of Mary I where an estimated 200-400 people died this way. Revulsion at this penalty is said to have hardened the resolve of many people against Catholicism and the memory of these executions was kept alive by the very popular book called ‘Foxes book of Martyrs’. Even this horror was not enough for some offenders.

burning-1

Hung, drawn and quartered.

People convicted of high treason could be sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered. This punishment which was first developed in the time of Edward the first was a particularly brutal event. The term ‘drawn’ has a couple of meanings, firstly it refers to the way that the condemned persons were tied to a hurdle and drawn through the streets, usually tied head down behind the horse.hung-drawn-quartered

Once upon the scaffold the person was hung until nearly dead. Upon being cut down their ‘privy parts’ were cut off before their innards were ‘drawn’ from them (ideally whilst still alive) – these were thrown upon the fire and the person was then beheaded. After this the person would be cut into quarters and these parts were displayed prominently as a warning to others.

The illustration below dates from 1616 and shows the old London Bridge – if you look at the tower at the entrance to the bridge on the Southwark side of the river you can see the heads displayed on spikes above the entrance.

London Bridge 1616 : Claes Van Visscher

London Bridge 1616 : Claes Van Visscher

The death penalty today – facts from Amnesty International

See also our earlier post Anne Boleyn &  ‘Tyburn Martyrs’

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See also:

Death penalty information center

Medieval life and times : Execution

Ultimate top ten lists – execution

Wikipedia capital punishment

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