Item the 20th day of the same month the said King Edward the Sixth came from the Tower of London through London, and in divers places pageants, and all the streets hanged richly, with all the crafts standing in Cheap, presenting them as loving subjects unto their King, and so to Paul’s; and at the west end of Paul’s steeple was tied a cable rope, and the other end beside the Dean’s place at an anchor of a ship, and a man running down on the said rope as swift as an arrow out of a bow down with his hands and feet abroad not touching the rope; and when the King had seen the said thing went forth unto the palace of Westminster; and the next day came from thence unto Westminster church, and there was crowned, and kept his feast in Westminster Hall. God of his mercy send him good luck and long life, with prosperity! And this was done in the 9th year of his age and birth.
Among those in charge of the arrangements for the coronation and accompanying festivities was Lord Rich (a title that by this time he had enjoyed for five days). On the day of Rich’s ennoblement, the corpse of Henry VIII had arrived at Windsor where it was received by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, who preached at the Requiem Mass, and at Edward’s coronation Archbishop Cranmer was flanked by both Gardiner and Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall. But that the tide was turning against such religious conservatives as Gardiner, Tunstall and Bonner was already evident, Cranmer in his coronation sermon extolling Edward as a royal iconoclast and second Josiah. (Josiah, according to the Second Book of Kings, became King of Judah at the tender age of eight, and was known for having destroyed the images, idols and other ‘abominations’ that had been spreading among the Hebrews.) The nine-year-old Edward must indeed have appeared a Josiah-like godsend to the convinced reformers at court and in the Church.
Many of those present at Edward’s coronation feature in my book, The Burning Time.
On 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.
On 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.
Bishop 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.
If we open our story in the year 1530 or thereabouts, we find little to suggest the turmoil to come – apart from the King’s increasing impatience with Rome, and the rise of Lutheranism in parts of Europe. (Soon after Luther’s teachings had been condemned by the Pope in 1521, his works had been publicly burnt in Oxford, Cambridge and at Paul’s Cross – the site of the open-air pulpit outside St Paul’s Cathedral – in London.) Henry was still married to Katherine of Aragon, though becoming increasingly desperate to cast her off and marry Anne Boleyn. He had been insinuating to Pope Clement VII that, if the Pope would not hurry up and make it possible for him to divorce Katherine, a way of dispensing with papal authority must be sought. In 1529 Henry had dismissed Cardinal Thomas Wolsey from the post of Lord Chancellor, under pressure from Anne, and replaced him with Thomas More. The disgraced Wolsey died in November 1530. Earlier that year, in July, John Stokesley, who was supportive of the King’s campaign for a divorce and involved in the making of the case for an annulment under canon law, was appointed Bishop of London in succession to Cuthbert Tunstall, who had become Bishop of Durham.
At the heart of the small community of Augustinian canons living in St Bartholomew’s Priory was William Bolton, who had been the prior since 1505. Now nearing the end of his life, Bolton had in his heyday been not only a cleric but also a builder of some eminence, having been employed as ‘master [or clerk] of the works’ by both Henry VII and Henry VIII. (The word ‘builder’ in this context implies something more akin to architect or project manager in modern terms, rather than someone involved in the physical work of construction.) Bolton’s main work for Henry VIII had involved the rebuilding of New Hall in Essex, which the King had procured from Thomas Boleyn, the Earl of Wiltshire, and grandfather of Anne. The prior had also undertaken large building operations at St Bartholomew’s itself and at Canonbury Tower in Islington, which formed part of the monastery’s possessions (and from where its water supply was derived). Another notable commission entrusted to Bolton had been the ordering of the chimney pots for Cardinal Wolsey’s palace at Hampton Court. But by 1530 Bolton’s active life was over; in addition to his post at St Bartholomew’s, he had for the last eight years been Rector of Harrow on the Hill, in Middlesex, but he was by now about eighty years old and virtually immobile. He died in April 1532.
Within the Priory Church, as was common in monastic churches, a chapel was set aside for the use of parishioners – the lay people who lived and worked in the monastic close. The parish also had its own priest, who would celebrate Mass in the chapel and look after the general spiritual welfare of the parishioners. It is not known who was fulfilling this role around the time of Prior Bolton’s death, but by the end of the decade the post was held by a man who remained a constant presence at St Bartholomew’s throughout all the turmoil of the burning time. This was Sir John Deane, the last parish priest of the chapel and subsequently the first rector of the parish church. In the early 1530s, Deane was already connected to the monastery, being Rector of Little Stanmore in Middlesex, one of the possessions of St Bartholomew’s.
Meanwhile, steadily making his way up a different professional ladder, negotiating the twists and turns of Tudor politics, was a lawyer of the Middle Temple called Richard Rich, in 1530 aged thirty-four and recently returned as Member of Parliament for the borough of Colchester in Essex. His is a name that is already well-known, if in fictionalized form, to readers of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and of C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake series – where he appears as the principal villain – as well as to viewers of Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons. Rich’s life would intersect with that of John Deane at many points over the following years, and both men would be witnesses at close quarters to all the horror of the burning time.
Nothing they had known before 1530, in their respective careers, could quite have prepared them for the sights, sounds and smells they would encounter over the next thirty years, as many of their closest acquaintances were consumed in the fires of Smithfield.