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1189 [1189]

K. Hen. 8. Defense of Thomas Bilney, agaynst M. More.

Cain goe. Furthermore, where the Byshop feared, in burning Bilney, þt he had burned Abell, what doth this feare of the Byshop importe, but a doubtyng of his minde vncerteine? For who feareth that whereof he is sure? Wherefore the case is plaine, that Bilney at hys burnyng did not recant, as More reporteth: For then the Byshop knowyng Bilney to dye a Catholicke conuert, and a true member of the Churche, would not haue feared, nor doubted, but would haue constantly affirmed Bilney to haue dyed a true Abell in dede. And to conclude this matter, MarginaliaCain burneth Abell.if Bilney dyed an Abell, then þe Bishop by his own confession, must nedes proue him selfe to be a Cain, whiche slue him. What more clearer probation could we bryng, if there were a thousād? Or what nede we any other, hauyng this alone?

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MarginaliaTestimonies prouing that M. Bilney did not recant at hys death.Now for testimonie and witnes of this matter, to be produced, for so much as M. More allegeth none to proue that Bilney at his death, did recant: I will assay what testimonie I haue on þe contrary side, to auouche and proue that Bilney did not recant.

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MarginaliaWitnes for Bilney.And for somuch as Bilney was a Cambrige mā, 

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Bilney was a fellow of Trinity Hall (canon and civil law) and, famously, a member of the Little Germany discussion group at the White Horse tavern.

and the first framer of that Vniuersitie in the knowledge of Christ, and was burned at Norwich, beyng not very farre distant from Cambrige: there is no doubt, but among so many frendes as he had in that Vniuersitie, some went thether to heare, and see him. Of whom one was Tho. Alen felow then of Penbroke Hall, who returnyng the same tyme, from Bilneys burnyng, declared to MarginaliaDoct. Turner Deane of Welles.Doct. Turner, Deane of Welles, being yet aliue (a man whose authoritie neither is to be neglected, nor credite to be distrusted) that the sayd Bilney tooke hys death most paciently, and suffered most constātly, without any recantation, for the doctrine whiche hee before had professed.

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MarginaliaAn other witnes for Bilney.In the Citie of Norwych Necton, & many other be now departed, which were then present at þe burnyng of Bilney: neuertheles some be yet aliue, whose witnesses, if nede were, I could fetch with a litle labour, & wil (God willyng) as tyme shall require, In the meane time, at the writing hereof, here was one Tho. Russell, a right honest occupyer, and a Citizē of Norwich, who likewise beyng there present on horsebacke at the execution of this godly man, beholdyng all thynges that were done, did neither heare him recant any word, nor yet heard of his recantation.

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MarginaliaAn other witnes for Bilney.I could also adde hereunto þe testimonie of an other, beyng brother to the Archbyshop of Caunterbury, named M. Baker, a man yet a lyue, who beyng the same tyme present at the examination of Bilney, both heard him, and saw him, when as a certeine Frier called him hereticke. Whereunto Bilney replying agayne, made aunswere: if I be an hereticke (sayd he) thē are you an Antichrist, who of late haue buryed a certein Gētlewomā with you, in S. Frances coule, assuring her to haue saluation therby. Which facte, although the Frier the same tyme did denie, yet this cā not be denyed, but Bilney spake these wordes: wherby he may easely bee iudged to be farre from the mynde of any recantation: accordyng as by the sayd Gentleman, it is also testified, that after that, he neuer heard of any recantation, that Bilney either ment or made.

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If I should recite all, whiche here might be brought, I might sooner lacke rowme in my booke to conteine them, then names enough to fill vp a grand iurye. But what nede I to spent tyme about wytnes, when one M. Latimer may stand for a thousand, MarginaliaOne Martyr witnes for an other Martyr.one Martyr to beare wytnes to an other? And though my frēd Cope, pressing me with the authoritie of M More, sayth, that hee will beleue him before me: yet I trust, hee will not refuse to credite this so auncient a Senior, father Latimer, beyng both in Bilneys tyme, and also by Bilney conuerted, and familiarlye with him acquainted: who beyng the same tyme at Cambridge, I suppose would inquire as much, and could know more of this matter, then M. More. MarginaliaThe testimonye of Maister Latimer concerning Maister Bilney.Touchyng the testimoniall of whiche Latimer, I haue noted before, how hee in. iij. sondrye places in his Sermons, 

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Bilney is mentioned a few times in Latimer's sermons, for example, as 'little Bilney, that blessed martyr of God' in his Seventh sermon before Edward the sixth (1549), or simply as 'master Bilney', as in the Last sermon before Edward the sixth (1550). For these references, see Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, sometime bishop of Worcester, martyr, 1555, 2 vols., ed. by George E Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), 1, pp. 222 and 251 respectively. Other references can be found in volume one (pp. 334, 336, 343) and in volume two (p. 51).

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hath testified of good Bilney, of that blessed Bilney, of Saint Bilney, how hee dyed paciently agaynst the tyrannicall Sea of Rome. &c. And in an other Sermon also, how the sayd Bilney suffered his body to be burned for the Gospels sake. &c. Item, in an other place, how the sayd Bilney suffred death 
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Foxe may be referring to Latimer's Seventh sermon before Edward the sixth (1549) in which the former bishop talks about his old friend Bilney and his martyr's death. [See, Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, sometime bishop of Worcester, martyr, 1555, 2 vols., ed. by George E Corrie (Cambridge, C.U.P., 1844), i, p. 222].

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for Gods woordes sake. MarginaliaVid. pag. 1146.vid. pag. 1146.

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I may be thought perhaps of some, to haue stayd to long about the discourse of this matter. But the cause that moued, and halfe constrayned me thereunto, was Syr Tho. More, sometymes Lord Chauncellour of Englād, and now a great Archpiller of all our English Papistes, a man otherwise of a pregnant witte, full of pleasaunt conceites, also for his learning aboue the common sorte of his estate, esteemed industrious, no lesse in his studies, then well exercised in hys penne. Who, if he had kept him selfe within his own shoppe, and applied the facultie, being a lay man, wherunto he was called, and had not ouer reached him selfe to proue mastries in such matters, wherin hee had litle skill, lesse experience, & which perteined not to his profession, he had deserued, not only much more cōmendation, but also a longer life. 

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For a useful discussion of More's unorthodox involvement in the Bilney case, and Bilney's trials and tribulations, see J A Guy, The public career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 167-71 and John F Davis, 'The Trials of Thomas Bilney and the English Reformation', in The Historical Journal, 24/4 (December 1981), pp. 775-90].

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But forsomuch as he, not cōtented with his owne vocation, hath with Oza 
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This refers to a man named Uzzah, who with all good intentions, touched the ark of the covenant to steady it when the oxen pulling the cart upon which it was placed stumbled, threatening to upset the cart. As this was a direct violation of divine law (despite his good intentions) he was killed instantly through the contact. This story can be found in 1 Chronicles 13.11-3 and is a lesson in meddling where you do not belong.

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reached out hys vnmeete hand to medle with Gods Arkematters, wherin he had litle cunnyng, & while hee thinketh to helpe religion, destroyeth religion, & is an vtter enemie to Christ, and to his spirituall doctrine, and his poore afflicted Church, to þe entent therfore that he being taken for a speciall ryngleader, and a chiefe staye in the Popes Church, might the better bee knowen what he is, and that the ignoraunt and simple may see, what litle credite is to bee giuen vnto him, as well in his other false facyng out of matters, as namely in this present history of Bilneys recantatiō: I haue diligently searched out & procured þe true certificate of M. Bilneys burning, with all the circumstancies, and pointes therto belongyng, testified not by somesayes and by hearesaies (as M More vseth) MarginaliaDoctour Parker, Archbishop of Canterburye, present witnes at the burnyng of Bilney.but truly witnessed, and faithfully recorded by one, who as in place & degree surmoūteth the estate of M. More (though he were L. Chaūcellour) so beyng also both a spirituall person, & there present the same time, commyng for the same purpose the day before, to see his burnyng, was a present beholder of thinges there done, xxx, xxx xxx of the sayd Martyrdome, whose credite I am sure wil coūterpease with the credite of M. More. The order of whiche Martyrdome was this, as foloweth.

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Thomas Bilney, after his examination and condemnation before Doct. Pelles Doctor of law & Chauncellour 

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Thomas Pelles is identified by Professor Guy as a 'hard-core' conservative member of lower convocation who supported Catherine (in the divorce matter) as part of an Aragonese faction. As chancellor of Norwich diocese he had examined Bilney's opinions. He claimed after Bilney's execution that he had handed the martyr a draft revocation which Bilney read out. Pelles was arrested in 1531 for praemunire violations. See J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 142, 167 and 176].

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, first was degraded by Suffragan Vnderwoode, accordyng to the custome of their Popishe maner, by the assistaunce of all the Friers and Doctours of the same sute. Whiche done, he was immediatly committed to the lay power, & to the ij. Shriffes of the Citie, of whom MarginaliaThomas Necton Shriffe of Norwich.Thomas Necton was one. 
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Norwich had been granted the privilege (1404) of electing a mayor, aldermen and two sheriffs. Thomas Necton's name can be found listed as an alderman (for which, see L&P, 10, 1257 (ii) and Professor Guy names him as the brother of the Protestant bookseller Robert, who had been captured by Wolsey and tried by Tunstal in 1528 For further details, see J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), p. 168. For Necton as sheriff, there is a listing at the entrance to Suckling House, Norwich for 1530 (Necton owned the house for a time).

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This Thomas Necton was Bilneys speciall good frend, and sorye to accept him to such execution as folowed. But such was the tyrāny of that time, and dread of the Chauncellour and Friers, that he could no otherwise do, but needes must receiue him. Who notwithstandyng, as he could not beare in his conscience him self to be present at his death: so, for the tyme that he was in his custodie, he caused him to bee more frendlye looked vnto, and more holesomly kept, cōcerning his diet, then he was before.

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After this, the Friday folowing at night, which was before the day of his execution, beyng S. Magnus day & Saterday, 

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The feast day of St Magnus of Avignon (19 August). Susan Wabuda has suggested that this date for Bilney's execution was deliberate. Bilney had preached at St Magnus, London, almost exclusively against prayers to saints. Two chaplains had been present at the sermon, and swore out depositions against Bilney at his first heresy trial. [See, John F Davis, 'The Trials of Thomas Bilney and the English Reformation', in The Historical Journal, 24 (1981), p. 780].

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the sayd Bilney had diuers of his frendes resortyng vnto him into the Guild hall, where hee was kept. Amongest whom one of the sayd frendes findyng

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