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574 [574]

K. Richard. 2. The story of W. Swinderby.
¶ The history of William Swinderby 
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William Swinderby

In the Commentarii (fos. 60v-61r), Foxe wrote that he had read an account in a 'vetustae historiae' [old history] of an elderly priest burned in Smithfield in 1401. (The 'vetustae historiae' was, in fact, College of Arms MS Arundel 7, a version of Thomas of Walsingham's Chronica Majora). Foxe speculated that this elderly priest was William Swinderby and reprinted the reference to the 'vetustae historiae' and his opinion that it referred to Swinderby in the Rerum (pp. 59-60) and in all of the editions of the Acts and Monuments. But in the 1570 edition, Foxe added a great deal more material about Swinderby. His account of Swinderby's trial and abjuration in Lincoln is taken from the Fasciculi Zizianniorum. The remaining material, concerning Swinderby's 1391 appearances before Bishop John Trefnant of Hereford come from Bishop Trefnant's register. Comments by Foxe indicate that he consulted the actual register and made a copy from it, and furthermore, that he had borrowed the register and had to return it. It seems likely that Bishop John Scory of Hereford, who had been bishop of Chichester under Edward VI, and who went into exile under Mary, procured the register for Foxe. The 1570 account of Swinderby was reprinted faithfully, without change, in all subsequent unabridged editions of the Acts and Monuments. Foxe concluded his account with his persistently held, but erroneous belief that Swinderby was executed. In fact, Swinderby was condemned by Trefnant in 1391, escaped from custody, appealed to Richard II, and by March 1392 was being sought in Wales. He eluded his pursuers and later researchers, and vanished from the historical record.

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Thomas S. Freeman
University of Sheffield


Ex Registro Epscopi Herfordēsis.
W. Swinderby fyrst examined. Denoūcers of W. Swynderby 3. fryers, Fresby. Hinkby. Blaxton.
IN the yeare. 1389 

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Actually this trial took place in 1382. Foxe's account of it was entirely derived from the Fasciculi Zizanniorum (see Bodley Library MS Musaeo e 86, fos. 81v-82v).

. William Swinderby priest within the dioces of Lincolne being accused and detected vpō certaine opinions, was presented before Ihon 
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I.e., John Buckingham, bishop of Lincoln.

byshop of Lincolne, & examined vpō certaine articles in the church of Lincolne, after the forme and order of the popes law, accordyng to their vsuall rite obserued, hys denouncers were these: Frier Frisby obseruant: Frier Hyncley, Augustine: & Thomas Blaxton Dominican. The Articles wherewith they charged hym, althoughe in forme of woordes as they put them vp, myght seeme somethyng straunge here to be recited: yet to the entent that all men may see, the despitefull malice of these spyder Friers, in sucking all things to poyson 
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Foxe is alluding to to the early modern belief that spiders ingested ordinary liquids and turned them into venom.

, and in forgyng that is not true, as in processe (Christ willyng) hereof shall better appeare by his aunsweres, I thought here good to notifye the same 
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Swinderby was charged with sixteen articles (reproduced in Registrum Johannis Trefnant, Episcopi Herefordensis, ed. W. W. Capes, Canterbury and York Society 20 {London, 1916], pp. 365-6). What Foxe is listing are the six errors and five heresies Swinderby abjured. Foxe presents them accurately - at least as they were presented in the Fasciculi Zizanniorum - but he re-arranges the order in which they are given.

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That men may aske their debtes by charitie, but in no maner for debt to enprison any mā: and that he so imprisonyng is accursed.

That if parishners do knowe their curate to be a lechour incontinent, and an euill man they ought to withdrawe from hym their tythes, or els they be fautours of hys sinnes.

That, tythes purely be almose, and in case that Curates be euill men, the same may lawfully be conferred to other men.

That for an euill curate to curse his sugette for withholdyng of tythes: is nothyng els, but to take with extortion wickedly and vnduely from them their money.

That, no prelate may curse a man, except he knowe before that he is cursed of God.

That euery priest may absolue any sinner beyng contrite (and is bound notwithstandyng the inhibition of the Byshop) to preache the Gospell vnto the people.

That a priest takyng any annuall pension vpon couenaunt, is in so doyng a simoniacke and accursed.

That any priest beyng in deadly sinne, if he geue him selfe to consecrate the body of the Lord, he committeth idolatrie, rather then doth consecrate.

That no priest entreth into any house, but to euill entreat the wife, the daughter, or mayd. And therfore he admonished the goodmā of the house, to take hede what priest he let into his house.

An other conclusion falsely 

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Foxe claims that this accusation was made falsely because it is the only one that Foxe disagrees with. Like almost all magisterial Protestants, Foxe held that a sacrament was binding even if the priest conducting it was in mortal sin. This was one area where many Lollards, including Swinderby, held views which Foxe felt were erroneous.

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to him obiected. That a childe is not truly baptised, if the priest that baptiseth, or the Godfather, or Godmother be in deadly sinne.

Itē, that no man liuyng agaynst the law of God is a priest, how euer he were ordeyned priest of any byshop.

These Articles or conclusions vntruly collected, were as cruelly exhibited agaynst him by the Friers in the byshop of Lincolnes court. The whiche Articles although he neuer preached, taught or at any time defēded, as appeareth more in the proces folowyng: yet the friers with their witnesses standyng foorth agaynst hym, declared hym to be conuict: bryngyng also drye woode with them to the towne to burne him, MarginaliaW. Swinderby cōpelled by the Friers to abiure articles, which he neuer taught.and woulde not leaue hym, before he made them promise and sware for feare of death neuer to holde them, teach them, nor preach them, priuely, nor apertly vnder payne of relapse: and that he should go to certaine churches to reuoke the foresayd cōclusions, whiche he neuer affirmed. As first in the church of Lincolne, then in S. Margaretes church at Leicester. Also in S. Martines church in Leycester, and in our Ladies churches at Newarke: and in other parish churches also, of Melton Moubray, of Halughton, Hareburgh, & Lenthburgh. Which penance beyng to him inioyned, he did obediently accomplishe: with this forme of reuocation, which they bound him vnto, vnder these wordes.

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¶ The reuocation of William Swynderby wherunto he was forced by the Fryers.

MarginaliaThe forced abiuration of W. Swinderby.I William Swynderby priest: although vnworthye, of the dioces of Lincolne, acknowledging one true catholique, and apostolique fayth of the holy church of Rome. We abiure all heresie & errour repugning to the determinacion of the holy mother church, wherof I haue been hetherto infamed, namely the conclusions & articles aboue prefixed, and euery one of them to me iudicially obiected, by the Commissarye of the reuerend father in Christ & Lord, L. Iohn by the grace of God byshop of Lincolne: and we reuoke the same, and euery one of them, some as hereticall, some as erroneous, and false, and do affirme and beleue them to be so and hereafter will neuer teach, preach, or affirme publiquely or priuely the same. Neyther will make any sermon within the dioces of Lincolne, but asking first and obteyning the licence, of the foresayd reuerend father and L. the byshop of Lincolne. Contrary to þe which if I shall presume hereafter, to say or do, to hold or preach: I shall be content to abyde the seueritie of the Canon, as I haue iudicially by the necessitie of the law, sworne, and do sweare, &c.

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Thus haue you the conclusions and articles of this good man, falsely obiected to hym by the malitious and lyeng Fryers: and also the retractation, wherunto they by force compelled him: wherby it may likewise be coniectured, what credit is to be geuen to the articles & conclusions, which these caueling friers wrasting all things to the worst, haue obiected and imputed both to Wickleffe and all other of that sorte, whom they so falsely doe infame, so slanderously do belie, & so maliciously do persecute. After these things thus done and wrought in the dioces of Lincolne: it so be fell, the sayd W. Swynderby to remoue to the dioces and countrey of Herforde. Where, he was as much, or more molested by the friers agayne, and by Iohn Tresnant byshop of Herford, as by the processe and storye here ensuing, set out at large out of their own registers 

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Specifically out of the register of Bishop John Trefnant of Hereford. On 30 June 1391, Swinderby, who must have emigrated from Leicester to Herefordshire, appeared before Trefnant to answer charges of heresy. He was allowed to leave because he had been granted a safe conduct. In the following months Swinderby was summoned to appear again before Trefnant and refused, although he sent another document defending his position. In October, Swinderby finally appeared and submitted another, longer, defence of his position. He was then condemned for heresy.

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, may appeare.

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¶ Here followeth the proceße of Iohn Tresnant bishop of Hereford had against the aforesaid William Swinderbie in the cause of hereticall prauitie, as the popyshe heretikes call it 
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The process against Swinderby in June 1391 is taken from Trefnant's register; see Registrum Johannis Trefnant Episcopi Herefordensis, ed. W. W. Capes, Canterbury and York Society 20 (London, 1916), pp. 231-2.


MarginaliaProces of the B of Herford against W. Swinderby.THe glorious name of the prince of peace, & his counsell (whose counsellour no man is, and whose prouidence in his disposition is neuer deceaued) being inuocated: To all and singuler beleuers of Christe, which shall see or heare this our processe vnderwritten, Iohn by the sufferaunce of God bishop of Hereford: greeting, & peaceable charitie in the Lord. MarginaliaThe florishing inuocation of Gods name.For as much as God þe creator of all things, the keper of Iustice, the louer of ryght, and the hater of malice, beholding from the high throne of his prouidēce the sonnes of mē, now through the fall of their first father, prone and declinyng to dishonest and filthy and detestable mischiefes, and to kepe vnder their malice (which wicked transgressiō did first gender) hath appointed diuers presidentes of the worlde stablished in sundry degrees, by whom and their circumspecte prouidence, mans audacitie should be restrained, innocencye should be nourished amongst þe good, and terror should be striken into the wicked not to deceaue: also that their power to hurt, and their insolencie shoulde be bridled in all places. And wheras amongest many kindes of cares whieh come to our thoughtes, by the dutye of the office committed vnto vs, we are speciallye bounde to extende our strength, chiefly that the catholike fayth maye prosper in our times, and hereticall prauitye maye be rooted from out of the bordees of the faythfull: We therefore being excited through the information of manye credible & faythfull Christians of our dioces, to roote out pestiferous plantes, as sheepe diseased with an incurable sickenes, going aboute to infect the whole and sounde flocke, are by the care of the shepheard to bee remoued from the flocke, that is to say, preachers, or more trulye execrable offenders of the new sect, vulgarely called Lolardes, MarginaliaLollardes, by the popes interpretation is a worde deriued of Lollium.which vnder a certaine cloked shewe of holynes, running abroade thorow diuers places of our diocesse, and endeuouring to cut a sunder the Lordes vnsowed coate, that is to say, to rent the vnitie of the holy church, and of the Catholike fayth, and also to teare in peeces with their tempestious blasts the power of s. Peter, that is to say, to weaken the strēgth of thecclesiasticall states

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