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587 [587]

K. Richard. 2. The story of Walter Brute with his declarations. Actes and Mon. of the church.

¶ The story and proces agaynst Walter Brute.
MarginaliaThe story of Walter Brute a Briton.AFter the storye of William Swynderbye, I thought good and conuenient, next to adioyne the actes and doynges of Walter Brute, hys ioynt felow and companion, being a lay man, and learned: brought vp as it seemeth in the Vniuersitye of Oxford, being there also graduate. 
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Walter Brute

The background of Walter Brut, or Brit, remains obscure. From 1391-3, he was tried for heresy by John Trefnant, the bishop of Hereford, and most of our information about him comes from the records of that trial, which were preseved in Trefnant's register. Brut described himself as 'laycus' (layman) and 'agricola' (farmer) and as 'a Britonibus ex utraque parente originem habens' (having a Welsh origin from both parents); see Registrum Johannis Trefnant, Episcopi Herefordensis, ed. W. W. Capes, Canterbury and York Society (London, 1916), p. 285. But he was clearly well-educated, fluent in Latin, and with a ready knowledge of scripture, canon law and history. (The best discussion of Brut's background and education is Anne Hudson, '"Laicus litteratus": the paradox of Lollardy' in Heresy and Literacy, 1000-1530, ed. Peter Biller and Anne Hudson (Cambridge, 1994), pp. 222-6). Brut had also been previously cited for heresy by Archbishop William Courtenay and by Trefnant's predecessor, John Gilbert (see Registrum Trefnant, p. 279). Trefnant's heretic may have been the same person as Walter Bryt or Brit, an astronomer, who was a fellow of Merton College in 1379 (see ODNB sub 'Bryt, Walter'). Both the astronomer and the heretic were Welsh, both possessed the same not common Christian name and surname, and if the astronomer left Oxford to return to Hereford - perhaps because of unorthodox religious beliefs - it would explain his relative obscurity and his apparently truncated university career. Against this, astrology is completely absent from Bryt's astronomical writings but figures prominently in Brut's apocalyptic predictions.

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If Brut was the former fellow of Merton, it would help explain the elaborate preparations Trefnant made for his trial. The bishop summoned two masters and three bachelors of theology, two doctors and of civil and canon law, drawn from the dioceses of Hereford, Worcester and Exter and the two universities. But Brut's eventual fate is unknown and despite its local significance, his trial faded from memory. Neither Bale nor any other Henrician or Edwardian Protestant had heard of Brut and Foxe did not mention him in either of his Latin martyrologies or in his 1563 edition. It was only when he gained access to the Trefnant register that Foxe learned of Brut and his trial. When he read this material, Foxe must have realized that God was indeed on his side. Here was a figure, from the dark period before Luther, who identified the Papacy with Antichrist and who believed that the Eucharist was primarily a memorial. But even the garden of Eden had serpents and there were aspects of Brut's thought that troubled Foxe, most notably, but not exclusively Welshman's insistence that the just laywoman, as well as layman, was a priest, that a woman had a duty to preach publicly and could even legitimately consecrate the Host. When it came to these passages, Foxe, displaying a sudden concern for the reader's patience - after reproducing page after page of Brut's arguments - and 'summarized' (i.e., omitted) Brut's more radical opinions on the subject. Foxe also registered caveats against Brute's denial that tithing was obligatory and that sworn oaths were not binding. Brut's writings presented Foxe with an unusually severe case of a frequent dilemma: how to present the views of an individual who possessed many beliefs Foxe admired along with some Foxe deplored. Simple misrepresentation was dangerous, because what Foxe wrote could always be compared to the original at some point. So Foxe (apart from the woman preachers, which was a bridge too far) usually presented what Brut said and than devoted considerable effort to interpreting it for the reader. The clash between the views of Brut, a remarkably independent, if not idiosyncratic, thinker and the much more conventional views of Foxe is compelling.

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Thomas S. Freeman
University of Sheffield

The tractation of whose discourse as it is somthing long, so therein maye appeare diuers things worthy to be red and considered. First, the mighty operation of Gods spirite in him, his ripe knowledge, modest simplicity, his valiant constancie, his learned tractations, and manifolde conflicts susteined against Gods enemies. MarginaliaEx Registro Episc. Herford.On the contrary part, in his aduersaries may appeare, might against right, mās autority against plaine veritye: against whiche they hauing nothing directly to answer, procede in condemnation, against whom they are able to bring forth no confutation. The chiefest occasion that semed to styrre vppe the harte and zeale of this Walter againste the Pope: was the impudent pardons and indulgences of pope Vrbane, graunted to Henry Spenser bishop of Norwich, to fight against pope Clement, mentioned before, pag. 545. Secondly, the wrongfull condemnation of the articles and conclusiōs of William Swynderby, the whole order wherof, in the processe here followyng more plainlye may appeare.

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¶ The processe had by Iohn bishop of Hereford, against Walter Brute, lay man, and learned of the dioces of Hereford, touching the cause of heresy, as they called it, set forward by the way of the bishops office. &c. at thinstruction of certaine faithful Christians, as he termed them, but in dede cruel and false promoters.

IN the name of God Amen 

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The charges against Walter Brut are taken from Trefnant's register; see Registrum Johannis Trefnant, Episcopi Herefordensis, ed. W. W. Capes, Canterbury and York Society (London, 1916), pp. 278-83.

, To all maner of faithfull Christian people that shall see and heare this our present processe, Iohn by the sufferaunce of God bishop of Hereford, sendeth greeting, and continuall charitye in the Lord. MarginaliaMurdring harts, lurking vnder louing wordes.We would that you all should know, that of late by many faithfull Christian people, and speciallye zealous folowers of the catholike faith, it was lamentably done vs to vnderstand by way of complaint: that a certaine sonne of ours going out of kinde, named Walter Brute lay persō, learned, of our dioces, hath vnder a cloked shew of holynes, damnablye seduced the people: & setting behinde him the feare of God, doth seduce them as much as he can, from day to day, informing and teaching openly and priuely, as well the nobles as the commons, in certaine conclusions hereticall, schismaticall, & erroneous, and also here tofore condemned. And they haue also probably exhibited against the same Walter, articles vnder written, in maner & forme as foloweth.

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¶ Articles exhibited and denounced to the bishop, agaynst Walter Brute.

MarginaliaArticles denoūced against W. Brute by priests and Friers.REuerend father and Lord, we the faithfull people of Christ, and zealous louers of the catholike faith, and also your humble and deuout children: doo minister and exhibite to your reuerend fatherhood, the articles vnder written, touching the catholike fayth, contrarye and against malicious persons, and detractours of the same faith, and the determinations of holye mother churche, and namelye against the chylde of Belial, one Walter Brute, a false teacher and seducer amongest the people. Humbly beseching, that you woulde vouchsafe to haue regarde to the correction of the enormities vnder wrytē, according vnto the Canonical constitutions, euen as to your office pastorall doth lye and belong.

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MarginaliaThe fyrst article.In primis, we do geue & exhibite and entend to proue, that þe same Walter Brute, beyng vnmindeful of his saluacion, hath ben by many and diuers faithfull Christiā people sondry tymes accused of the cursednes of heresie: As by the swifte report, slaunder, and rumour of the people, procedyng before the most reuerēd father and Lord, Lord William Archbishop of Canterbury, and also before the reuerend father and Lord, Lord Iohn Late B. of Herford your predecessour, & now B. of S. Asse hath ben testified & also hath ben many & diuers tymes cited to aunswere vnto articles by him against the catholicke faith aduouched, & openly and publiquely taught: But he in this matter of hereticall cursednes (so greously & shamefully spoken of) hath neuer regarded to purge hys innocency, but lurkyngly & runnyng into corners, hath many and sondry yeares laboured to aduaunce things erroneous, schismaticall, and also heresies, & to imprinte them in the hearts of faithfull people.

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Marginalia2. Article.Item, the foresayd Walter Brute hath openly, publicquely, and notoriously aduouched, and commonly sayd, and taught, and stubburnely affirmed: that euery Christen man (yea and womā) being without sinne, may make the body of Christ so well as a priest.

Marginalia3. Article.Item, the same Walter hath notoriously, openly and publicquely aduouched and taught, that in the Sacramēt of þe altar there is not the very body, but a signe and a memoriall onely.

Marginalia4. Article.Item, the foresayd Walter hath sayd commōly, and aduouched, and also hath laboured to informe men and companies, that no man is bounde to geue tythes nor oblations: and if any man will nedes geue, he may geue his tythes and oblacions to whom hee will, excludyng therby their curates.

Marginalia5. Article.Item, that such as do preach & preferre croyled matters and pardons (graunted by the high Bishop, to them that helpe the purpose of the reuerend father Lord Henry, by the grace of God Byshop of Norwich, when as he tooke his iourney vpon hym to fight for the holy father the pope) are schismatickes and hereticques, and that the pope cannot graunt such maner of pardons.

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Marginalia6. Article.Item, the sayd Walter hath oftentimes sayd, and cōmonly aduouched: that the Pope is Antichrist, and a seducer of the people, and vtterly agaynst the law and life of Christ.

Marginalia7. Article.Item, whereas of late your reuerence did (at the in-instance of faithfull Christen people) procede in forme of law agaynst William Swynderby: and that the sayd William Swynderby had vnto the sayd articles obiected agaynst him, geuen vppe his aunswers in writyng, conteinyng in them errours, schismes and heresies, euen as you with the mature counsaile of maisters and doctours in diuinitie and other faculties haue determined and geuen sentence, and haue pronounced the same William Swynderby to bee an hereticke, & a schismaticke, and an erroneous teacher of the people: Neuertheles, the forenamed Walter hath openly, publicquely, and notoriously sayd, aduouched, and stubburnely affirmed, that the sayd Williams aunswers (wherof a notise hath be geuen before) are good, rightuous, & not hable to be conuinced, in þt that they contein none errour: and that your sentence before sayd, geuen agaynst the same William, is euill false, and vniust: & that you and your assistaūtes haue wickedly, naughtly, peruersly, and vniustly condemned the aunsweres aforesayd.

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Now, therupō immediatly, those same faithfull Christiā people MarginaliaOtherwise blouddy promotershaue instātly required, that we would vouchsafe that other articles geuen by the same faithfull Christians agaynst the sayd William Swynderby, together with the writynges and aunsweres of the same Williā thereunto: MarginaliaThese conclusions & articles of W. Swinderby here repeted, & obiected to Walt. Brut, are to be foūd before pag. 556 & 562.should be admitted agaynst Walter Brute, mencioned of in this matter of cursed heresie: of which Articles and aunswers, the tenours do follow in these wordes

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This is confusing. What these are articles the Lollard Wlliam Swinderby had previously abjured before Trefnant. The reason they are coming up in Brut's trial is that he was charged with having defended these heretical articles. Foxe is cross-referencing the reader to his previous account of Swinderby, where these same articles are given.

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Inprimis, that one William Swinderby pretending himself priest, was of certayne articles and conclusions erroneous, false, schismaticall and heretical, by him preached, at diuers places & tymes, before a great multitude

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