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14 February 1551: Stephen Gardiner deprived of his see

Gardiner by unknown artistOn this day in 1551, 11 years after he had preached against the new Protestant doctrines at Paul’s Cross, Stephen Gardiner was officially stripped of his position as Bishop of Winchester.

Gardiner had been summoned to appear before the Privy Council early in the reign of Edward VI, the young Protestant King, and had been incarcerated in the Fleet prison. He was held there until January 1548, not being released until after the closure of Edward’s first Parliament (it was Gardiner’s belief that he was kept locked up expressly to prevent him attending Parliament and being anywhere near the centre of power), and he was then asked to subscribe to a statement on the doctrine of justification. This he refused to do and was subsequently placed under house arrest in his Southwark palace. He then returned to his diocese where he continued in his stubbornness.

When Bishop Gardiner was made to preach in the summer of 1548, as a test of his orthodoxy, he was instructed to comply with the recent ruling that no one was to preach on the theology of the Eucharist until it had been properly determined. As with most other instructions emanating from the Edwardian hierarchy, Gardiner refused to obey. In his sermon, preached on the feast of St Peter and St Paul, 29 June, he spoke of the sacrifice of the Mass and, though he admitted that communion could be received in both kinds and he attacked papal authority, he went on to defend religious ceremonies on the basis that they helped to move men towards God. His insistence on speaking in this way afforded his opponents a pretext for his immediate rearrest and exclusion from the second session of Parliament under Edward, that second Parliament convening in November 1548. A year later, in November 1549, when the third session was convening at Westminster, Gardiner again wrote to the Privy Council, urging them to release him so that he could sit in the Upper House, which he claimed to be his right. But by the time the next session convened, he had been tried on 19 charges in front of royal commissioners, headed by Thomas Cranmer, the trial beginning at Lambeth on 15 December 1550. Though he strongly defended himself, many witnesses spoke against him. The eighth session of the court appointed to try him was held at Lord Rich’s house at St Bartholomew’s in Smithfield on 20 January 1551. He was deprived of his bishopric on 14 February, and spent the rest of Edward’s reign in the Tower.

More about Stephen Gardiner’s fluctuating fortunes under the Tudors can be found in my book, The Burning Time.

14 February 1540 – Stephen Gardiner preaches at Paul’s Cross

Gardiner by unknown artistOn this day in 1540 (a Sunday), the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, preached the first of that year’s Lenten sermons at Paul’s Cross. These occasions drew large crowds and whatever was said at Paul’s Cross would be heard in the highest quarters. Bishop Gardiner used the opportunity to attack the doctrine of justification by faith, arguing that those who said good works were not necessary for salvation were guilty of misinterpreting the scriptures. This could be seen as an act of deliberate provocation, intended to goad the emerging Protestant clergy of London to contradict him and thereby land themselves in trouble with the authorities (King Henry VIII at this time was showing himself to be increasingly conservative in matters of religious doctrine and practice). The reformist preacher Robert Barnes duly rose to the bait, taking issue with Gardiner and accompanying his argument with personal insults in his own Paul’s Cross sermon, preached a fortnight later. Gardiner complained to the King, who ordered both preachers to be examined before him. Thomas Cromwell (previously a protector of Barnes, but now feeling the threat of the King’s displeasure himself) realised it would be impolitic, and probably useless, to intervene and so did nothing.

The French ambassador, Charles de Marillac, was following – and reporting on – these events with interest, not least because Bishop Gardiner was well known to the French court:

A private matter, which might become of public consequence, has occurred in the shape of a great contention about religion between the Bishop of Winchester, formerly ambassador in France, and a great doctor of the law, called Barnes, principal preacher of these new doctrines. The Bishop, one of these Sundays in Lent, did marvels of preaching in St Paul’s Cathedral against the said doctrines, confirming wisely the old and sharply refuting the new. This Barnes could not endure, so that, some days after, although another was appointed to preach, he mounted the pulpit and, after long insisting on the contrary of what the Bishop had said, angrily threw his glove upon the people, as a defiance to the Bishop, against whom he would maintain what he said to the death. The King, much scandalised by this farce, has ordered both to dispute before him and the Council, in order that it may be seen who is right and who is to suffer punishment.

Gardiner and Barnes both appeared before Henry on 5 March, when the King declared Barnes to have lost the theological argument (there can never have been much doubt as to whose side he would come down on). He ordered Barnes to apologise to Gardiner and preach a recantation sermon, which order Barnes initially complied with, again at Paul’s Cross, on 12 March. Eighteen days later, however, unable to live with his conscience, he publicly withdrew his recantation – despite also begging Gardiner for forgiveness – in another sermon, preached at St Mary Spital in the presence of the Lord Mayor and members of the Court of Common Council. (The ‘Spital sermon‘ is a civic tradition that continues to this day, though it rarely generates such excitement as in 1540.) Barnes seems to have wished to distinguish the personal insults he had made to Gardiner, for which he was sorry, from the statements of his faith, for which he could not apologise. Gardiner, his actions almost as ambiguous as Barnes’s words at this point, was slow to respond to the request to indicate his forgiveness and, after hesitating, held up a finger rather than the hand Barnes had asked for. He explained later that he had been taken aback by the request and embarrassed, though also rather put out. His apparent lack of generosity, along with his whole role in the undoing of Barnes – with whom he was reported actually to have been friendly in their younger days at Cambridge – contributed to the reputation for treacherous cruelty he acquired among Protestants as one of their chief persecutors, to be forever remembered (by the name of his see) as ‘Wily Winchester’.

More about both Stephen Gardiner and Robert Barnes, and their respective fates, can be found in my book The Burning Time.

13 February 1542 – Execution of Queen Katherine Howard

HowardCatherine02On this day in 1542, Queen Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, was beheaded. Her alleged pre- and extramarital liaisons had come to light in the previous year, during the King’s so-called ‘Great Progress‘ to York, undertaken with the aim of demonstrating Henry’s power and authority in the north of England, in the wake of the failed popular rising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, which was partly a protest at the break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries.

Business transacted by the Privy Council at its meeting back in London on 14 November 1541 included the sending of letters to the Deputy of Calais and the ambassadors in Flanders, France and the Holy Roman Empire, declaring ‘the story of the Queen’s misdemeanour’. On 1 December Richard Rich was appointed as one of the three privy councillors to examine Francis Dereham, William Damport and Joan Bulmer in the case against the Queen, and he was also a member of the special commission appointed to try Thomas Culpeper and Dereham at Guildhall the same day. The indictment against Katherine contained the accusation that she:

queen of England, formerly called Kath. Howard, late of Lambeth, Surrey, one of the daughters of Lord Edmund Howard, before the marriage between the King and her, led an abominable, base, carnal, voluptuous and vicious life, like a common harlot, with divers persons, as with Francis Dereham … maintaining however the outward appearance of chastity and honesty. That she led the King by word and gesture to love her and (he believing her to be pure and chaste and free from other matrimonial yoke) arrogantly coupled herself with him in marriage …

Katherine (who had been stripped of her title of Queen on 23 November) was accused of having continued her relations with Dereham, and of having seduced Culpeper, during the Progress at Pontefract, among other places. On 6 December Rich was involved, with other members of the Council, in examining the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, suspected of complicity with the accused. While Rich and other councillors remained in London to deal with the Howard affair (Culpeper and Dereham were executed at Tyburn on 10 December, Katherine herself being beheaded on 13 February 1542), the King went away to try to recover his spirits after this latest marital disaster.

Several of these characters, particularly the great survivor Richard Rich, feature throughout the pages of my book The Burning Time.

12 February 1850 – Baptism of Jeanne Sabatier

Notre Dame de LoretteOn this day in 1850, a baby was baptised at the church of Notre Dame de Lorette in Paris. The baby’s full name was  Fernande Ernesta Jeanne Sabatier (she would be known just as Jeanne) and her mother was Adèle, better known as Bébé, the younger sister of the famous courtesan and muse of the poet Charles Baudelaire, Apollonie Sabatier.

In 1848, at the age of only 16, Bébé had become the mistress of the artist Fernand Boissard, a development which initially came about through Boissard’s need for consolation after his previous mistress had left him for a Danish diplomat. In April 1849 Bébé and Boissard moved into a house together near the rue Frochot, where her sister lived, and in December Bébé gave birth, at her sister’s house, to her daughter Jeanne. Boissard, contrary to the expectations of all their friends, refused to acknowledge the child as his, though at Ernest Meissonier’s insistence he did agree to make some financial provision for her. Apollonie and Meissonier acted as godparents at the baptism. Bébé spent the next two years still hoping to marry Boissard, who kept stringing her along despite the fact that he was already becoming involved with a young woman called Edwina Broutta. Edwina was the same age as Bébé but belonged to a different world. She came from a wealthy family and was a musician, both qualities which appealed to Fernand Boissard who proposed to her in February 1852. The future looked uncertain for Bébé, who for the next few years continued to live in the shadow of her elder sister.

More about the world of Parisian courtesans, including the Sabatier sisters, can be found in my book Grandes Horizontales.

11 February 1526 – Robert Barnes recants

Robert BarnesOn this day in 1526 (a Sunday) Robert Barnes, a prominent early advocate of Protestantism in England, was forced to recant his beliefs in public at Paul’s Cross.

Robert Barnes was born in Bishop’s Lynn in Norfolk in about 1495 and entered the house of the Austin Friars in Cambridge while still a boy. He subsequently studied under Erasmus at the University of Louvain, which was at that time a distinguished centre of academic humanism and where Barnes developed humanist sympathies. He returned to Cambridge in the mid-1520s, where he became prior of the Austin Friars and, as a result of his studies at Louvain, initiated a series of educational reforms in the house, including the introduction of various classical Latin authors into the curriculum. One of his pupils was Miles Coverdale, who would go on to produce the first complete translation of the Bible into English. Barnes played a significant role in the meetings of young intellectuals that took place at the White Horse tavern in St Edward’s parish in Cambridge. Just about everyone who was anyone in the church reform movement seems to have encountered and been influenced by Robert Barnes. The conservative Stephen Gardiner, who knew Barnes well and had himself been a devotee of Erasmus from an early age, does not seem to have been overly impressed, thinking of him as a typical friar of his period, albeit a very entertaining one – ‘a trim minion friar Augustine, one of a merry scoffing wit, friarlike, and as a good fellow in company was beloved of many’.

Barnes received the degree of Bachelor of Theology in 1522 and a doctoral degree a year later. He first attracted adverse attention from the wider authorities towards the end of 1525 when he preached a Christmas Eve sermon in the Cambridge church of St Edward King and Martyr, in which he criticised various aspects of traditional religion, decried the way festivals were observed and condemned the ostentatious splendour of Cardinal Wolsey. The sermon had been planned in advance, Barnes being encouraged to deliver it by Thomas Bilney and his other friends. Once in the pulpit, however, he departed from the prepared discourse, based on Luther’s sermon on the epistle for the day, and went further than any of his friends had anticipated, particularly in lashing out at the cardinal himself. On this first occasion of his getting into trouble, Barnes was brought to London where he was examined before Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall and Wolsey himself and persuaded, though not without protest, to recant his opinions. He was assisted in his trial by Miles Coverdale, who subsequently abandoned his monastic vows and went abroad.

At his recantation, Barnes was made to perform public penance by processing around the cathedral bearing a bundle of twigs and kneeling while Bishop Fisher preached a sermon. The service was presided over by Cardinal Wolsey himself who, with 36 bishops and mitred abbots, sat on a platform specially constructed for the occasion. Bishop Fisher based his sermon on the day’s Gospel reading (Luke 18:31-43), concerning the healing of a blind man; he likened the blind man to a heretic and declared: ‘Heresy is a perilous weed, it is the seed of the devil, the inspiration of the wicked spirits, the corruption of our hearts, the blinding of our sight, the quenching of our faith, the destruction of all good fruit, and finally the murder of our souls.’

More about the life and death of Robert Barnes, who later repented of his recantation and went to the flames, can be found in my book The Burning Time.

6 February 1554 – John Bradford imprisoned with Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley

Bradford 'portrait' from FoxeOn this day in 1554, John Bradford, a Protestant preacher who had been imprisoned in the Tower of London after being involved in a ‘disturbance’ at Paul’s Cross, was moved into another room in the Tower, which he shared with Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, until these three were taken to Oxford in early March. During the month or so they were together, the four men spent their time reading the Bible, praying and discussing theology together, and were each bolstered by this mutual support and encouragement. The authorities under Mary I had not yet learnt the value to the ‘heretics’ of such fellowship, and seemed to have no clear strategy of how to deal with their prisoners; the arrangements appear haphazard, it being a matter of accident who ended up sharing a cell with whom.

On Easter Eve, 24 March, Bradford was transferred to the King’s Bench prison in Southwark. Here his companions included Robert Ferrar (the former Bishop of St David’s),  Dr Rowland Taylor (Rector of Hadleigh in Suffolk) and John Philpot. In prison Bradford continued his ministry of preaching (twice a day) and administering communion (according to the second Book of Common Prayer, now outlawed), the keepers (who liked him) admitting many visitors so that they could listen to him and take part in the services he conducted. Like that favourite saint of the Protestant preachers, the Apostle Paul, he also wrote many letters from prison, both to individuals and to congregations throughout the country. He was abstemious in his habits, sleeping for no more than four hours a night, eating only one meal a day, and spending much time in reading and contemplation. Lean-faced, with a neatly trimmed beard, he seems to have been a natural ascetic, unconcerned with such mundane matters as food and drink. But he also showed signs of inner distress: ‘In the middle of dinner he used often to muse with himself, having his hat over his eyes, from whence came commonly plenty of tears dropping on his trencher.’ He was known for his generosity and his gentleness (even the Jesuit Robert Parsons, no sympathiser with Protestants, admitted that Bradford was ‘of a more soft and mild nature than many of his fellows’), and was often in demand for visiting the sick and dying, even being allowed out of the prison by its governor, the knight marshal Sir William Fitzwilliam, a Protestant sympathiser, to make such visits. He never attempted to escape, or even to delay his return. And once a week he would visit the common criminals being kept in the same prison as himself, distributing not only advice but also funds that had been received as donations. He did the same among the prisoners of religion, having been elected by the majority of them as their pastor. These distributions led to some argument, in particular with a splinter group of Protestants called the ‘free willers’, a large number of whom were imprisoned in the King’s Bench, and who accused Bradford of discriminating against them in his sharing-out of alms, a charge which Bradford strenuously denied. The ‘free willers’ were fiercely opposed to the idea of predestination, espoused by Calvin in Geneva, and a version of which was beginning to be adopted by mainstream Protestantism in England, of which Bradford was a leading exponent. Much of his prison correspondence had to do with this issue, as he was frequently called upon to reassure believers who were fearful that they were not among the ‘elect’. The prisons themselves became hothouses of debate over these differing interpretations of their faith, to the distress of many evangelicals and the satisfaction of their opponents. Certainly the fact that even in prison, and faced with the possibility of death, rival groups of Protestants vigorously kept up their doctrinal and other differences can have done little to recommend them to the authorities, despite the acknowledged holiness and sympathetic character of a man like Bradford.

More about the life and death of John Bradford can be found in my book The Burning Time.

6 February 1550: Bishop Bonner’s appeal dismissed

EdmundBonner - caricatureBishop Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London under Henry VIII, and seen here in caricature, was quick to fall foul of the new regime of the young Protestant King, Edward VI. He had been called before the Privy Council and sent to the Fleet prison on 18 September 1547 for refusing to observe the Royal Injunctions to have the Epistle and Gospel at High Mass read in English. He was released a few weeks later from this first imprisonment in the Fleet, and actually attended the House of Lords during Edward’s first Parliament. In the second session of Parliament, Bonner again regularly attending proceedings in the Lords, opposing the religious changes introduced by the reformers, and encouraging others to follow suit. He neglected to enforce use of the new English prayer book, and this resulted in a remonstrance from the King who wrote to him on 2 August 1549, soon after this first Book of Common Prayer had come into force, taking him to task over the many people in his diocese who were neglecting to attend church and Holy Communion and putting this down to Bonner’s own ‘evil example and slackness’. Bonner had previously preached a great deal, particularly on all the major feast days, and he was now refusing to do so. The young King told him to reform, and commanded him to preach strongly against rebellion and resistance to temporal authority in his next sermon at St Paul’s, and in support of obedience in using the rites established by law to be used in the Church. On 10 August further injunctions were delivered from the King to Bishop Bonner, requiring him to celebrate communion in St Paul’s in a few days’ time and to declare in his sermon that the present King’s authority was no less than that of any of his predecessors, despite his youth, and to preach God’s displeasure at rebellion. The Greyfriars chronicler reported that, on 18 August 1549, Bishop Bonner, knowing what was likely to happen to him, ‘did the office at Paul’s both at the procession and at the communion discreetly and sadly’.

On 1 September  Bonner preached at Paul’s Cross and was subsequently accused regarding his teaching. His failure to obey the clear instructions from the King was discussed by the Privy Council on 8 September and a commission for his deprivation was appointed. He was made to appear before Archbishop Cranmer and others on 13, 16 and 18 September. On 20 September he was sent at night to Marshalsea prison and, reported the chronicler, ‘he went the same day unto Lambeth in his scarlet habit and his rotchet upon it’ (that is, dressed in his episcopal robes). He was deprived of his bishopric at Lambeth on 1 October 1549 by Archbishop Cranmer. He was then sent back to prison, where he was to remain at the King’s pleasure.

Only a few days after Bishop Bonner’s deprivation, Lord Protector Somerset was overthrown, and the shift of power to the Earl of Warwick (who later became Duke of Northumberland) presaged a strengthening of the reformist position. On Christmas Day 1549 a royal circular to the bishops was issued, reinforcing the message of an earlier proclamation, ordering the destruction of all Latin service books. There were bonfires of books all over England, the bishops being forced to supervise these burnings. The Greyfriars chronicler, sympathetic to Bonner, relates the hard time the former bishop had in prison – how, on 8 January 1550, Bonner had his bed removed by the keeper of the prison and for eight days had only straw and a coverlet to lie on, for refusing to pay his jailer the sum of £10. He appealed against his sentence, and on 6 February he was taken from the Marshalsea to appear before the Privy Council sitting in Star Chamber at Westminster. Here he was informed that his appeal had been considered, and dismissed, by eight privy councillors (among them Lord Rich). It was Rich, as Lord Chancellor, who concluded the proceedings by commanding that Bonner (with whom in the previous reign he had worked closely in the pursuit of heretics) ‘be had from thence to the place he came from, from there to remain in perpetual prison at the King’s pleasure, and to lose all his spiritual promotions and dignities for ever’.

More about Bishop Edmund Bonner and his role in the persecution of heretics under Henry VIII and Mary Tudor, as well as his own disgrace under both Edward VI and Elizabeth I, can be found in my book The Burning Time.