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970 [969]

K. Henry. 8. Vij. Martyrs of Couentry. M. Patricke Hamelton, Martyr.
The eight Booke continuyng the history of English matters appertayning to both the states, as well ecclesiasticall, as ciuill and temporall.

Persecuters. Martyrs. The Causes.

MarginaliaMartyrs of Couentrie.
Maistres Smyth,
Rob. Hatchets.
Thomas Bond.
Landsdale, Martyrs.
the bishops
The Bishop of
Frier Staf-

Smith wi-
Rob. Hat-
chets a sho
Archer a
a shoomaker.
Tho. Bond
a shoomaker
Wrigsham a
an Hosier.
At Couen-
An. 1519.

Commentary  *  Close
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).

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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.

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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 [2003], 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.

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Thomas S. Freeman

pall cause
of the ap
of these per
sons, was for teaching
their children and
familie, the lordes pray-
er, and x. commaunde
ments in English 
Commentary  *  Close

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.

: for
which they were vpō
Ashwedensday, taken
and put in prisō, some
in places vnder the
ground, some in cham
bers and other places
about till Friday fol-
owyng. Then they
were sent to a mona
sterye called Macke-
stocke abbey 6. myles
from Couentry. Du-
ring which tyme, their
children were sent for
to the Grayfriers in Couen-
try, before the Warden of the said fri-
ers, called frier Staf-
Commentary  *  Close

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 [2003], p. 347).

: Who straitly exa-
minyng them of theyr belief, and what here
sie their fathers had
taught them, charged
them vppon payne of
suffering such death as
MarginaliaThe Lords prayer in Englishe forbidden of the papistes. their fathers should in
no wise to meddle any more with the lordes
prayer, the Crede, and
commaundements in
English. &c.

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Which done, vpon Palmesonday, the fathers of these children were brought backe again to Couetry, and there, the weeke next before Easter, were condemned for relapse (because most of them had borne fagots in the same Citie before) to be burned. 

Commentary  *  Close

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.

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woodcut [View a larger version]

Commentary on the Woodcuts  *  Close
This was not the only occasion when one of the small woodcuts introduced in 1570 celebrated the martyrdom of seven individuals. But this event took place in 1519, long before the Marian burnings, and the illustration (like other later ones) may seem more generic than accurate in that it shows two women among the seven whereas, as the text makes clear, there was only one woman, Mistress Smith.

MarginaliaVij. godly Martyrs in Couentry, burned.
Persecuters. Martyrs. The causes.

Only Maistres Smith was dimissed for that present, & sent away. And because it was in the euenyng being soōewhat 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 (sayeth he) What haue ye here? And so tooke it from her, and espyed that it was the Lordes prayer, the Articles of the faith, & x. Commaundemētes in Englishe. Which when the wretched Somner vnderstode, ah serrha (said he) come, as good now as an other tyme, and so brought her backe agayne to the Byshop, where she was immediatly MarginaliaMaistres Smith condemned for hauing the Lordes prayer in Englishe. condemned, and so burned with the vi. men before named, the fourth of Aprill, in a place therby called the little parke. an. 1519 

Commentary  *  Close

I.e., 1520. Foxe was misled by the fact that the Coventry annals dated events by mayoral years which commenced in Easter.


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Rob Silkeb Martyr.

Robert Sil-
At Couen
an. 1521.

IN the same number
of these Couentrye men aboue rehearsed,
was also Robert Sil
keb, who at the appre-
hension of these, as is
aboue recited, fled a-
way, and for that time
Commentary  *  Close

In 1563 (p. 420), Foxe stated that Silkeb fled to Kent; this was omitted in subsequent editions.

: But about ij.
yeares after, hee was
takē again, & brought
to þe sayd Citie of Co-
uentrie, where he was
also burned the morow
after he came thether,
which was about the
xiij. day of Ianuary.
an. 1521 
Commentary  *  Close

13 January 1522 in modern reckoning.

. Thus, when these were dispatched
immediatly þe Shriffes
went to their houses,
& toke
all their goods & cattel to theirowne
vse, not leauing theyr
wiues & children any
parcel therof to helpe

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them selues with all. And for so much as the people began to grudge somewhat, at the crueltie shewed, and at the vniust death of these innocent Martyrs, the Byshop, with his officers and priestes, caused it to bee noysed abroade, their tenauntes, seruauntes, and fermers, that they were not burned for hauing the Lordes prayer and Commaundementes in Englishe, but because they dyd eate fleshe on Fridayes and other fastyng dayes: Which neither could bee proued, either before theyr death, or after, nor yet was any such matter greatly obiected to MarginaliaTestimonie of this story.
Note how these Martyrs holding wyth the popishe sacraments, yet were burned of the Papistes, onely for a few Scriptures in Englishe.
them in their examinations. The witnesses of this historie bee yet alyue, whiche both saw them and knew them. Of whom one is by name mother Halle 

Commentary  *  Close

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.

, dwellyng now in Bagington ij. myles from Couentrie. By whom also this is testified of them, þt they aboue al other in Couentrie pretended most shew of worshyp and deuotion, at the holdyng vp of the Sacrament, whether to colour the matter, or no, it is not knowē. This is certeine that in godlines of life they differed from all the rest of þe Citie: Neither in their occupyng they would vse any othe: nor could abyde it in them that occupyed with them.

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The story of M. Patricke Hamelton, in Scotland.
Iames Be-
ton, Archb.
of S. An
M. Hew
Spēs, deane
of diuinitie
in the vni-
uersitie of
S. Andrew
M. Iohn
Rector of
the Vniuer-


P Atricke Hamelton a
Scotish mā borne 
Commentary  *  Close
Patrick Hamilton

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.

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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

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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

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of an high and noble
stock, & of the kynges
Commentary  *  Close

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.

, yong & of flouri
shing age, & excellēt towardnes, of 23. yeares
called abbot of Ferme,
first commyng out of
his country with thre
companions, to seeke
godly learnyng, wēt to þe vniuersitie of Mar-
purge in Germanye,
which vniuersity was
then newly erected by
Philipp Lantgraue
of Hesse: where MarginaliaOf thys Philip Lātgraue of Hesse, read before, pag. 866. he
vsing conferēce & familiari-
tie with learned men, namely wt Franciscus

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