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1005 [1004]

K. Henry. 8. Tho. Bilney Martyr. Aunswere to Syr Tho More.

with all your flocke hartily well to fare.


Your prisoner and humble beadman 

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beadman: one who prays regularly for another.


vnto God for you, Tho. Bilney.

Thus haue you the letters, the abiuration and Articles of Thomas Bilney. MarginaliaBilney caste downe wyth repentaunce. After which abiuratiō made about the yeare of our Lorde. 1529. the sayd Bilney toke such repentāce and sorrow, that he was nere the poynt of vtter dispayre: as by the wordes of M. Latimer is credibly testified, whose wordes for my better discharge, I thought here to annexe, written in hys seuenth Sermon 

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John Day began to print Latimer's sermons when he was working with William Seres as early as 1548, with the backing of Katherine Brandon, the widowed Duchess of Suffolk, whose arms appear at the beginning of Latimer's books. Further details about her patronage of Latimer and other preachers, and of printers, can be found in my account of her life in ODNB (under Katherine Bertie). Latimer preached before King Edward VI's court during Lent 1549, and his comments on Bilney occur in a section that muses on the fear of death. Day and Seres printed at least three editions of Latimer's court sermons that year. The quotation 'Bilney, litle Bilnei, that blessed martyr of GOD', can be seen in Latimer's Seventh Sermon preached before King Edward VI: The seconde sermon of Maister Hughe Latimer, whych he preached before the Kynges Maiestie within his graces Palayce at Westminster, the xv. day of Marche M.ccccc.xlix (London: John Day and William Seres [1549], STC 15274.7), sigs. Bb3A-Bb3B; (reprinted in the Parker Society edition of Latimer's Sermons, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), p. 222.

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preached before king Edward, which be these: Marginalia[illegible text] I knew a man my selfe, Bilney, litle Bilney that blessed Martyr of God, who what tyme he had borne hys fagot, and was come agayne to Cambridge, had such conflictes within hymselfe (beholdyng this Image of death) that hys frendes were afrayde to let hym be alone. They were fayne to be with hym day and night, and comfort him as they could, but no comfortes would serue. And as for the comfortable places of Scripture, to bryng thē vnto hym it was as though a man would run hym thorough the hart with a sword. Yet for all this, he was reuiued and tooke hys death paciently, and died well agaynst the tyrannicall sea of Rome. Hæc Latim. Serm. 7.

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Agayne, the sayd M. Latimer speaking of Bilney in an other of hys sermons preached in Lincolneshire, hath these wordes followyng: 

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Bilney's `anguishe and agonie' following his recantation of 1527: which appeared in one of the final books Day printed, in Latimer's Lincolnshire Sermons for the Second Sunday in Advent Fruitfull sermons preached by the right reuerend Father, and constant martyr of Iesus Christ M. Hugh Latimer (London: John Day, 1584, STC 15280), fols. 247-247B; reprinted in Sermons and Remains, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), p. 51.

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That same M. Bilney, which was burnt here in England for gods wordes sake, was induced and persuaded by his frendes to beare a fagot at the tyme, when the Cardinall was aloft, and bare the swinge. Now when that same Bilney came to Cambridge agayne, a whole yeare after, he was in such an anguish and agony, that nothyng did hym good, neither eatyng nor drinkyng, nor any other communication of gods word: for he thought that all the whole Scriptures were against hym, and sounded to hys condemnation. So that I many a tyme cōmoned with hym (for I was familiarly acquainted with hym) but all thynges whatsoeuer any man could alleage to hys comfort, semed vnto hym to make agaynst him. Yet for all that, afterwardes he came againe: God indued him with such strēgth and perfectnes of fayth: that he not only confessed his faith the Gospell of our Sauiour Iesus Christ, but also suffered hys body to be burned for that same gospels sake, which we now preach in England. &c. Hæc ille, Serm. 8. fol. 132.

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Furthermore, in the first sermon of the sayd M. Latimer before the Duches of Suffolke 

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John Day began to print Latimer's sermons when he was working with William Seres as early as 1548, with the backing of Katherine Brandon, the widowed Duchess of Suffolk, whose arms appear at the beginning of Latimer's books. For one example among many, see A notable sermon of the reuerende father Maister Hughe Latemer whiche he preached in the Shrouds at paules churche in London, on the. xviii. daye of Ianuary. 1548 (London: John Day and William Seres [1548], STC 15291). Further details about her patronage of Latimer and other preachers, and of printers, can be found in my account of her life in ODNB (under Katherine Bertie). Latimer's story concerning how Bilney asked him to hear his confession was first printed by Day in 1562 in a collection known as 27 sermons preached by the ryght Reuerende father in God and constant matir [sic] of Iesus Christe, Maister Hugh Latimer, as well such as in tymes past haue bene printed, as certayne other commyng to our handes of late, whych were yet neuer set forth in print, (STC 15276) in the section known as Certayn Godly Sermons, made vppon the Lordes Prayer, from a series that he preached in Lincolnshire before the Duchess of Suffolk and her household in 1553. Latimer's reminiscence appeared in his first sermon on the Lord's Prayer, at fol. 13B (reprinted in the Parker Society edition of Latimer's Sermons, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), pp. 334-5. The events that Latimer described here probably occurred in 1524, about the same time that he was proceeding to his bachelor's degree in theology.

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. fol. 5. he yet speakyng more of Bilney, inferreth as followeth: Here I haue (sayth he) occasion to tell you a story which happened at Cambridge. M. Bilney or rather S. Bilney, that suffred death for gods wordes sake, MarginaliaLatimer called, & conuerted by Bilney. the same Bilney was the instrument wherby God called me to knowledge. For I may thanke hym next to God for that knowledge that I haue in the worde of god. For I was an obstinate Papist as any was in England: insomuch that when I should be made bacheler of Diuinitie, my whole Oration went agaynst Philip Melanchton, and against hys opiniōs. Bilney heard me at that tyme, and perceiued that I was zelous without knowledge, and came to me afterward in my study, and desired me for Gods sake to heare hys confession. I did so: and (to say the truth) by hys confession I learned more: then afore in many yeares. So from that tyme forward I began to smell the worde of God and forsake the Scholdoctors, and such fooleries. &c. And much more he hath of the same matter, which ye may see hereafter in the lyfe of M. Latimer.

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MarginaliaBilney returneth agayne from his abiuration. By this it appeareth how vehemently this good man was pearced with sorow and remorse for hys abiuration, the space almost of ij. yeres, that is, from the yere. 1529. to the yere. 1531. It followed then that he by gods grace and good counsaile, came at length to some quiet of conscience, beyng fully resolued to geue ouer his lyfe for the confession of that truth, which before he had renounced. And thus beyng fully determined in his mynde, and settyng his tyme, he tooke hys leaue in Trinitie hall 

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Bilney's college at Cambridge was Trinity Hall.

at tenne of the clocke at night, of certayne of hys frendes, and sayd that he would go to Ierusalem, MarginaliaNam facies eius erat euntis Hierosolymā. alluding belyke to the words and example of Christ, in the Gospell, goyng vp to Ierusalem, what tyme he was appoynted to suffer his passion. MarginaliaBilney going vp to Hierusalem. And so Bilney meanyng to geue ouer his lyfe for the testimony of Christes Gospel, told hys frendes that he would go vp to Ierusalem, & so would see them no more, and immediatley departed to Northfolke, and there preached first priuely in housholdes to confirme the brethren and sisterne, and also to confirme the Anchres, whom he had conuerted to Christ. Then preached he openly in the fieldes, confessyng his fact, and preachyng publikely that doctrine, which before he had abiured, to be the very truth, and willed all men to beware by him, and neuer to trust to their fleshly frendes in causes of religion. And so settyng forward in hys iorney toward the celestiall Ierusalem, he departed from thence to the Anchres 
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The place where the Anchoress was walled up was near the convent of the Dominican Friars in Norwich (now known as St. Andrew's and Blackfriars Halls). Sir Thomas More wrote that Bilney was 'secretely kepte' for a time in Norwich, and he was seized while he was delivering to her 'dyuers of Tyndales bokes'. The books afterward were conveyed away by another man, who was found with them, and the double discovery of Bilney and the books 'came to lyght by the very prouysyon of god.' Sir Thomas More, The confutacyon of Tyndales answere, ed. L. A. Schuster et al., in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vol. 8, pt. 1 (New Haven, 1973), p. 23 from The confutacyon of Tyndales answere (London: William Rastell, 1532, STC 18079), sig. Cc3B.

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in Norwiche, and there gaue her a new Testament of Tyndals transla tion, and the obedience of a Christian man, 
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Foxe tells us here that Bilney gave her only two books (rather than the `dyuers' that More mentioned) by William Tyndale: his translation of the New Testament, and The obedience of a Christen man. Tyndale's New Testament began to reach England from its first edition of 1525 (printed in Cologne, STC 2823) and from the Worms edition of 1526. Other expositions of scripture followed when Tyndale was living in Antwerp. The obedience of a Christen man appeared in 1528. The obedience of a Christen man and how Christen rulers ought to governe (Marlborow in the land of Hessen: Hans Luft [Antwerp: J. Hoochstraten], 1528, STC 24446).

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whereupon he was apprehended & caryed to pryson there to remayne, tyll the blynd Byshop Nixe sent vp for a writte to burne hym.

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Marginalia4. orders of Friers against Bilney. In the meane season, the Fryers and relygious men, with the residue of theyr Doctours, Ciuill and Canon resorted to hym, busilie labouring to perswade him not to dye in those opinions, saying: he should be damned bodye and soule, if he so continued. MarginaliaDoct. Call and Doct. Stokes, sent to dispute with Bilney. Among whom, first were sent to hym of the Byshop, Doct. Call minister (as they call him) or Prouinciall of the graye Fryers: and Doct. Stokes an Augustine Fryer, who laye with him in prison in disputation, till the writte came that he shoulde be burned. MarginaliaDoct. Call, called by Bilney. Doctor Call, by the word of God, through the meanes of Bilneys doctrine, & good lyfe, wherof he had good experience, was somewhat reclamed to the Gospells side. Doctor Stokes remayned obdurate, and doth yet to thys day, whose hart also the Lord, if it be his will, reforme, and open the eyes of his olde age, that he may forsake the former blindnes of hys youth. MarginaliaFryer Byrde busie about Bilney. An other great doer agaynst hym, was one Fryer Byrde, with one eye, 

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John Byrd was born in Coventry, and he became a suffragan bishop in 1537. In 1541 he was made bishop of the newly-created diocese of Chester. At the time of Bilney's examinations, Byrd was still a Carmelite friar. See Richard Copsey's account of him in ODNB. Dr John Stokes, was the prior of the convent of Augustinian friars in Norwich.

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Prouinciall of the white Friers. Thys Byrde was a Suffragane in Couentrie, and after, Byshop of Chester, and was hee that brought apples to Boner, mentioned in the storye of Haukes. MarginaliaFryer Hodgkyns a blacke Fryer, agaynst Bilney. An other was a blacke Fryer, called Hodgekyns, who after, being vnder the Archbyshop of Canterbury, maried, and afterward in Queene Maryes tyme, put away hys wyfe. These iiij. orders of Fryers were sent (as is sayd) to baite Bilney: who notwithstandyng, as hee had planted hym selfe vpon þe firme rocke of Gods word, was at a poynt, and so continued vnto the end.

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But here now commeth in Syr Thomas More trumpyng in our way, with his paynted carde, & would needes take vp this Tho. Bilney from vs, 

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Defence of Bilney

This important passage of Foxe's text, dealing with Archbishop Matthew Parker's erstwhile friend, Thomas Bilney, was quite radically expanded in the 1570 edition of the martyrology. This was in order to respond to Nicolas Harpsfield's criticisms of the passage in the 1563 edition, expressed in the Dialogi sex contra summi Pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatoreset pseudomartyrs (Antwerp, 1566), edited by Alan Cope, which was itself very critical of Foxe's original 1563 edition. It was Harpsfield who raised More's conclusions about Bilney's trials and second recantation at Norwich. It is therefore worth examining in detail how Foxe undertook those changes, and this is done in the notes to the individual passages as they occur.

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Andrew ChibiUniversity of Leicester

and make hym a conuert after his sect, Thus these coated cardes, though they could not by playne scriptures conuince hym beyng alyue, yet now after his death, by false play they wil make him theirs whether he will or no. This Syr Thomas More 
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Foxe expanded the Bilney related material in the 1570 edition to include criticism of More's treatises and unusual Star Chamber investigation after the publication of Nicolas Harpsfield's treatise, Dialogi sex contra summi Pontificatus, monasticae vitae, sanctorum, sacrarum imaginum oppugnatoreset pseudomartyrs (Antwerp, 1566) which was itself very critical of Foxe's original 1563 conclusions. It was Harpsfield who raised More's conclusions about Bilney's trials and second recantation at Norwich, forcing Foxe subsequently to deal with these issues too. For comments, see G R Elton, 'Persecution and toleration in the English reformation', in Studies in Church History, 21 (1984), pp. 163-84 (also published in Studies in Tudor and Stuart Politics and Government: Papers and reviews 1946-1972, ed. G R Elton (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 175-98.

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in his raylyng preface before his booke agaynst Tyndall, 
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Foxe is referring here to More's treatise of 1532-3, entitled The confutation of Tyndale's answer. Originally written in two parts, the first written while More was still chancellor and published in 1532, the second was published the next year, after More had resigned his office. More had written that eye-witnesses to Bilney's execution had heard him recant his heresies. See Thomas More, 'The confutation of Tyndale's answer', ed. by Louis A Schuster, Richard C Marius and James P Lusardi, The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, viii/1-3 (New Haven, Y.U.P. 1973), 1, pp. 22-6.

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doth chalenge Bilney to his catholicke church, and fayth, that hee, not only at the fyre, but many dayes before, both in words and writyng, reuoked, abhorred, and detested hys heresies before holden. And how is this proued? Marginalia4. reasons of Syr Tho. More. By iij. or iiij. mightie arguments, as bigge as milpostes, fet out of Marginalia* Vtopia one of Mores phantasies. * Vtopia, 
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Thomas More's treatise, Utopia (Louvain, 1516).

from whence, thou must know reader, can come no fyttons but all fine Poetrie.

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Fyrst, he sayth, that certayne Norwych men writing to London and denying that Bilney dyd recante, afterward, beyng therupon examined, were compelled to graunt, that he at hys examination redde a bill, but what it was, they could not tell, for they stoode not so neare to heare him. And albeit they stoode not so neare, yet some of them perceaued certeine thinges there spoken, wherby they thought that he dyd reuoke. Some agayne added to those thynges spokē, certaine additions of theyr owne, to excuse hym from recantation. 

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Bilney had recanted originally on 7 December 1527 after a trial in the chapter house at Westminster. For a useful discussion of the trial, see John F Davis, 'The Trials of Thomas Bilney and the English Reformation', in The Historical Journal, 24 (1981), pp. 775-90, and for a record of his trials and recantation see Guildhall Library, Register Tunstall, 9531/10, fols. 133v-35v.

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MarginaliaAunswere to Syr Tho. More. First to aunswere hereunto, and to try out this matter somewhat roundly with M. More, let vs see with what conueyaunce he procedeth in this narration. At his first examination (sayth he) he waxed stiffe in hys opinions, but yet God was so good Lord vnto hym, that he was fully cōuerted to the true Catholicke fayth. &c. And when myght this goodly conuersion begin? Many dayes (quoth he) before hys burnyng. 

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Bilney was executed on 19 August 1531 at the so-called 'Lollard's Pit' in Norwich.

Here is no certayne day assigned, but many dayes left at large, that he might haue the larger roume, to walke inuisible. Well then, but how many dayes coulde these be, I would fayne learne of M. More, when he was not many dayes in theyr handes, no longer then they could send vp to London for a writte to burne hym? Belyke then shortly after his apprehension, at the first commyng of the Friers vnto hym, 
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Bilney's sermons against the doctrine of purgatory and against idols and images may very well explain clerical antipathies. See Thomas More, 'A dialogue concerning heresies', in The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, vi/1-2 (New Haven, Y.U.P. 1981), 1, pp. 27-8.

by and by he reuolted. MarginaliaA lykely tale of M. More. A straunge matter, that he which ij. yeares before had layne in such a burning hell of dispaire, 
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Foxe refers to Hugh Latimer's observations on Bilney's mental condition after his return to Cambridge following his recantation. See Hugh Latimer, 'Eighth sermon - Second Sunday in Advent, 1552', in Sermons and Remains of Hugh Latimer, sometime bishop of Worcester, martyr, 1555, 2 vols., ed. by George E Corrie (Cambridge, 1844), 2, p. 51.

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for his first abiuration, and coulde finde no other comfort, but onely in returnyng to the same doctrine agayne, which before he had renyed, vtterly resigning hym selfe ouer to death, and takyng his leaue of hys frendes, and settyng his face with Christ purposely to go to Hierusalem, voluntarily there to fall into the hands of the Scribes and Phariseis for that doctrines sake, 
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Foxe is alluding to the writings of St Paul in Acts 19.21 & 20.22.

should now so soone, euen at the first brunt, geue ouer to the contrary doctrine agayne. It is not lyke. God was so good Lorde vnto hym, sayth M. More. That God was good Lorde vnto hym, very true it is. But that God did so turne him in deede, to be a member of the Romishe Church, that hath not M. More yet sufficiently proued. To affirme without proufe or demonstration, in matters of storie, it is not sufficient. But what hath bene done in deede, that must be proued by good euidence and speciall demonstration of witnesses, that we may certainly knowe it so to be. 
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As Lord Chancellor More worked in close cooperation against the rising tide of heresy in the capital with John Stokesley, the bishop of London. See J A Guy, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More (New Haven, 1980), pp. 166-74.

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It
SSs.iij.
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