MarginaliaMartyrs of Couentrie.
Persecution in Coventry
Foxe's first account of the Coventry martyrs , burned in Coventry in 1520 and 1522 appeared in the Rerum (pp. 116-17). In it, Foxe relates that the widow of a prominent man named Smith, was arrested with six other unnamed people outside the walls of Coventry. The woman was reprieved, but as she was escorted home, the man who led her by the arm discovered that she had a copy of the Lord's Prayer, in English, hidden in her sleeve. Because of this discovery, she was led back to be burned with the others. Foxe dated this episode to around 1490. Foxe's source for this story may well have been his wife, whose father was a citizen of Coventry. (Foxe stayed briefly in Coventry in the 1540s).[Back to Top]
In the 1563 edition, Foxe redated the executions to a more plausible, although still slightly inaccurate, 1519. He also added the names of the mayor and sheriff at the beginning of the account, which - as Shannon McSheffrey has observed - suggests that he consulted a mayoral list or civic annals. However, Foxe also supplied the names of the martyrs and the warden of the Coventry Franciscans which, with the other details Foxe added, indicates that he had a local informant or informants. This may, or may not, have included the Mrs. Hall, cited in the 1570 edition. He specifically cites Mrs. Hall in this edition in order to rebut Harpsfield's scepticism that the martyrs were executed for reading prayers and Scripture in English.[Back to Top]
In 1566, Nicholas Harpsfield attacked Foxe's version of this story, claiming that it was preposterous to assert, as Foxe had done, that these people were burned merely for reading and owning the Scriptures and the Lord's Prayer in English (Dialogi sex, pp. 827-8 and 833). Foxe responded by asserting in the 1570 edition that these were indeed the very 'crimes' for which these people were burned. Foxe also stated that there witnesses to this story and cited one of them: Mrs Hall of Baginton. Nevertheless Harpsfield had a point. Foxe dropped the account, given in the 1563 edition, of Robert Hatchet declaring to Bishop Blyth, that all that he and his defendants wanted was the Lord's prayer and other essentials of the Christian faith in English. Apart from terse narratives in civic annals, Foxe's account is the only source for these executions. The annalists do report that the seven were burned for hearing and saying prayers in English, but they also report that Robert Silkby was burned for believing that Christ was not really present in the Eucharist. (See Lollards of Coventry, 1486-1522, ed. and trans. Shannon McSheffrey and Norman Tanner, Camden Society, Fifth series 23 , pp. 54-55 and 315-18. This book is indispensable for an understanding of this episode). It is quite likely that the seven who were executed (many of whom, as Foxe notes, had already done penance for heresy) held further unorthodox beliefs.[Back to Top]
Thomas S. Freeman
cause of þe appre
hensiō of these
theyr childrē, &
familie, the Lordes prayer, & x.
Commaundementes in Eng-
: for whiche they were vp-
Foxe added a new beginning to this story, to flatly contradict Nicholas Harpsfield's scepticism that these people were executed for no other reason than reading and reciting prayers in the vernacular.
pō Ashewedensday, taken and
put in prisō, some in places vn
der the ground, some in Cham
bers, & other places about, till
Friday folowyng. Then they
were sent to a Monasterie cal-
led Mackstocke Abbey 6. myles
frō Couentry. During whiche
tyme, their children were sent
for to the Grayfriers in Couē-
try, before the Warden of the
sayd Friers, called Frier Staf-
Who straitly examinyng
John Stafford was the warden of the Franciscan friary in Coventry until 1538. (See Lollards of Coventry, 1486-1522, ed. and trans. Shannon McSheffrey and Norman Tanner, Camden Society, Fifth series, 23 , p. 347).
them of their beliefe, & what he
resie their fathers had taught
them, charged thē vpon payne
of suffering such death, as their
MarginaliaThe lords prayer in Englishe, forbidden of the Papistes.fathers should, in no wise to
medle any more with þe Lordes
prayer, the Crede, and com-
maundements in English. &c.
Whiche done, vpon Palme-
sonday, the fathers of these chil
dren were brought backe agayne to Couētrie, and there,
the weeke next before Easter, were cōdemned for relapse
(because most of them had borne fagottes in the same Ci
tie before) to be burned.
In 1563 (p. 420), Foxe goes on to relate that Robert Hatchet declared to Bishop Blyth that he only wished to read the Lord's prayer in English. Foxe may have dropped the passage because he believed that the remark was invented or possibly he dropped it because he thought that the mention of Blyth was inaccurate; there is no other indication that the bishop presided at the 1520 trials.[Back to Top]
Only Maistres Smith was dimissed for that present, &
sent away. And because it was in þe euennig being some-
what darke, as she should go home, the foresayd Simon
Mourton the Somner offered him selfe to go home with
her. Now as he was leadyng her by the arme, and heard
the rattelyng of a scrole within her sleue: yea (sayth hee)
MarginaliaVij. godly Martyrs in Couentrie, burned.
what haue ye here? And so tooke it from her, and espyed
that it was the Lordes prayer, the Articles of the faith, &
x. Commaundementes in Englishe. Whiche when the
wretched Somner vnderstode, ah serrha (sayd he) come,
as good now as an other tyme, & so brought her backe
agayne to the Byshop, where she was immediatly con- MarginaliaMaistres Smyth condemned for hauing the Lords prayer in Englishe.
demned, and so burned with the vi. men before named,
the fourth of Aprill, in a place thereby called the litle
parke. an. 1519.
I.e., 1520. Foxe was misled by the fact that the Coventry annals dated events by mayoral years which commenced in Easter.
Rob. Silkeb, Martyr.
JN the same number of these
Couentrie men aboue re-
hearsed, was also Robert Sil-
keb, who at the apprehensiō of
these, as is aboue recited, fled
away, and for that tyme, esca-
: But about ij. yeares after,
In 1563 (p. 420), Foxe stated that Silkeb fled to Kent; this was omitted in subsequent editions.
hee was taken agayne, and
brought to the said Citie of Co
uentrie, where he was also bur
ned the morow after hee came
thether, whiche was about the
xiij. day of Ianuary. an. 1521.
13 January 1522 in modern reckoning.
Thus, when these were dis-
patched, immediatly þe Shriffes
went to their houses, and toke
all their goods & cattel to their
owne vse, not leauyng their
wiues and children any parcell
therof to helpe thē selues with
all. And for so much as the peo
ple began to grudge somewhat, at the crueltie shewed,
and at the vniust death of these innocent Martyrs, the
Byshop, with his officers & priestes, caused it to be noy-
sed abroad, by their tenauntes, seruauntes, and fermers,
that they were not burned for hauyng the Lordes prayer
and Commaundementes in Englishe, but because they
did eate fleshe on Fridayes and other fastyng dayes.
Which neither could be proued, either before their death,
or after, nor yet was any such matter greatly obiected to
MarginaliaTestimonie of thys storye.
Note, howe these Martyrs holding with the popishe sacramentes, yet were burned of the Papistes, onely for a fewe Scriptures in Englishe.thē in their examinations. The witnesses of this histo-
rie be yet alyue, whiche both saw them and knew them.
Of whom one is by name mother Halle
, dwellyng now
Foxe mentions that witnesses to what happened are alive, and he specifically cites Mrs. Hall, in order to rebut Harpsfield's scepticism that the martyrs were executed for reading prayers and Scripture in English.
in Bagington ij. myles from Couentrie. By whom also
this is testified of them, that they aboue all other in Co-
uentrie pretended most shew of worship and deuotion, at
the holdyng vp of the Sacrament, whether to colour the
matter, or no, it is not knowen. This is certeine that in
godlynes of life they differed from all the rest of the Ci-
tie: Neither in their occupyng they would vse any othe:
nor could abyde it in them that occupyed with them.
The storye of M. Patricke Hamelton, in Scotland.Iames
in the vni-
of S. An-
PAtricke Hamelton a Scotish
, of an hygh and
The account of Patrick Hamilton is the first of two extended sections in the Acts and Monuments tackling Scottish affairs. Foxe's willingness to extend his scope to Scotland was partly a routine matter of Protestant internationalism, reflecting the cosmic scale of his enterprise. More importantly, it reflected a 'British' idealism common amongst English and Scottish Protestants in the second half of the sixteenth century, an idealism first forged in the shared Anglo-Scottish exile of the 1550s. The first edition of the Acts and Monuments proclaimed on its title page its focus on 'this Realme of England and Scotlande': strictly speaking, a meaningless statement before the union of the crowns in 1603, but an eloquent testimony to the aspiration to see a common British Protestant culture. (See Jane Dawson, 'Anglo-Scottish Protestant culture and integration in sixteenth-century Britain' in Steven G. Ellis and Sarah Barber (eds), Conquest and Union: fashioning a British state, 1485-1725 (New York, 1995).) Subsequent editions also retained Scotland on the title page, despite the relative paucity of Scottish material in the book.[Back to Top]
For the problem - as Scotland's own martyrologist, Foxe's friend John Knox, acknowledged ruefully - was that Scotland had produced relatively few martyrs. There was a single medieval burning (that of Paul Craw, mentioned in Foxe: 1563, p. 360, and subsequent editions), and twenty-one further executions during the period 1528-58 (see Alec Ryrie, The Origins of the Scottish Reformation, p. 42). However, two at least of these were of internationally prominent figures, including the first Scottish martyr of the Reformation era, Patrick Hamilton. Hamilton's commonplaces on justification, which John Frith published as Patrick's Places, won him posthumous renown in England as well as in Scotland. The case also had a major impact in Scotland, and there are numerous independent accounts of his death. Foxe's account in 1570 and subsequent editions, however, is amongst the most detailed. On Hamilton, see Ryrie, Origins, pp. 31-3; ODNB; and Gotthelf Wiedermann, 'Martin Luther versus John Fisher: some ideas concerning the debate on Lutheran theology at the University of St. Andrews, 1525-30', in Records of the Scottish Church History Society vol. 22 (1984), 13-34[Back to Top]
As with all his Scottish material, Foxe's account of Hamilton appeared in two distinct forms. In 1563 there was a short and imprecise account padded out with moralising but short on detail. This followed closely the account which he had earlier written in the 1559 Rerum in ecclesia gestarum, itself based on the account in John Bale's Scriptorum illustrium maioris Brytanniae ... Catalogus, vol. 2 (Basle, 1559), apparently derived principally from Francis Lambert's memorial of Hamilton. The account was almost completely rewritten, and greatly extended, in 1570, and remained unaltered in the two subsequent editions. This new material is detailed, circumstancial and strikingly accurate. It includes text which purports to be taken from the 'registers', presumably those of the archbishop of St. Andrews (which do not survive), as well as a letter from the university of Louvain to Archbishop Beaton. Foxe never went to Scotland in person, and he does not reveal the identity of his informant(s), beyond stating that this material was gathered in 1564. Thomas S. Freeman has argued persuasively that all of this material was provided to Foxe by John Winram, the superintendent of Fife who had (before his late but sincere conversion to Protestantism) been subprior of St. Andrews. See Thomas S. Freeman, '"The reik of Maister Patrik Hammyltoun": John Foxe, John Winram and the martyrs of the Scottish Reformation', in The Sixteenth Century Journal vol. 27 (1996), 43-60.Alec Ryrie[Back to Top]
noble stocke, and of the kyngs
, yoūg & of florishing age,
Hamilton was the illegitimate son of Sir James Hamilton of Cadzow; his mother was a granddaughter of King James II. He was legitimized in 1513, at the age of about nine years.
and excellent towardnes, of 23.
yeares, called Abbot of Ferme,
first commyng out of his coun
trey with iij. companions, to
seke godly learnyng, went to
the Vniuersitie of Marpurge in
Germanie, whiche Vniuersitie
was then newly erected by Phi
lippe Lantgraue of Hesse: where MarginaliaOf thys Philip Lantgraue of Hesse, read before, pag. 1025.
he vsyng conference and fami-
liaritie with learned mē, name
ly with Franciscus Lambertus,
so profited in knowledge, and
mature iudgement in matters
of Religion, that hee, through
the incitation of the sayd Lam-
bert, was the firste in all that
vniuersitie, of Marpurge, which MarginaliaOf the Vniuersitie of Mertgraue, read pag. 1025.
publikely did set vp conclusiōs
there to be disputed of, concer-
nyng fayth and workes: argu-
yng also no lesse learnedly thē
feruently vpon the same. What
these propositions & conclusi-
ons were, partly in his treatise
hereafter folowyng, called Pa-
trike places, may appeare.
Thus þe ingenious wyt of this