ther he had any cause why he should not be adiudged for relapse, he trustyng to finde fauour and grace in submittyng him selfe, sayd: that hee submitted him to the mercy of almightye God, and to the fauorable goodnes of hym his iudge. And lykewise did William Swetyng submitte hym self, trustyng belyke, that they should finde some fauour and reliefe in this humble subiectyng them selues vnto their goodnes.[Back to Top]
MarginaliaThe vnmercifull, & vnchristian dealing of the catholique Papistes.But note here the vnmercifull and vnchristian dealyng of these Catholicque fathers: who vpon their submission were contented to geue out a solemne commission, the tenour wherof was to release & pardon them frō the sentence of the excommunication, wherinto they had incurred: But immediatly after vpon the same, the Byshop all this notwithstādyng pronounced vpon them the sentence of death and condemnation. MarginaliaWilliam Swetyng, & Iames Brewster, burnt in Smithfield.Wherupon they were both deliuered to the secular power, and both together brent in Smithfield at one fire, the xviij. of October, an. 1511.
The signification of the excommunication of Sweeting and Brewster, and their transfer to the secular authorities for execution, is dated 14 September 1511 (TNA C/85/126/19).
MarginaliaChristofer Shomaker burnt in Newbery, Martyr.TO these blessed saintes before past,
Of all the sections of Foxe's book, this account of the persecution of the Lollards in the Chilterns, may be the most valuable to students of late medieval English religion. One reason for its value is that is based on court books from the diocese of Lincoln that are now missing. However, there is some corroboration for Foxe's account of these persecutions. In the seventeenth century, Archbishop James Ussher copied twelve lines into one of his notebooks '"Ex libro Detectionum Confessionum et Abjurationum haeretic" coram Johanne Lincolnensi episcopo an. 1521 (In Bibliotheca Lambetha)' (Trinity College, Dublin, MS 775. fos. 128v-129r). Furthermore, the signification to Chancery survives of the excommunication of four heretics - named by Foxe - who were burned in Longland's persecution. Foxe did not invent the persecution and he is probably accurate in his description of the scope of the persecution and the people affected by it. But the extent to which he rewrote the beliefs of those accused of heresy, or omitted material he felt was damaging, will never be known.[Back to Top]
The second reason for the value of these records lies in the systematic manner in which Bishop John Longland investigated heresy in his diocese. The bishop began his inquiries by questioning those who had previously abjured and were thus vulnerable to being charged as relapsed heretics. Moreover, once they had abjured again, they were required to inform on other heretics, to demonstrate their sincerity. By this means, one heretic incriminated several others, each of whom incriminated others and ultimately Longland detected about 50 heretics. Four of these people were burned and the rest were obliged to do penance.[Back to Top]
Longland's persecution not only confirms that Lollardy was entrenched in the chilterns, it also demonstrates that in towns, such as Amersham, were almost completely controlled by them and that the local elites were disproportionately Lollard in sympathy. (For discussion of this see Derek Plumb, 'John Foxe and the Later Lollards of the Thames Valley' [Cambridge PhD, 1987], pp. 274-76 and Andrew Hope, 'Lollardy: the stone the builders rejected?' in Protestantism and the National Church in Sixteenth Century England, ed., Peter Lake and Maria Dowling (Beckenham, Kent, 1998], pp. 3-4 and 9-10). On occasion, the Lollard minorities were even able to intimidate the orthodox Catholics in the region. All of this was, of course, manna from heaven to Foxe, who used this material to show that there was a 'True Church' in England.[Back to Top]
Thomas S. Freeman
University of Sheffield
If Smith was burned in in 1518, then he was prosecuted while Bishop William Atwater held the see of Lincoln. Foxe probably obtained his knowledge of this case from the testimony of John Say.
brought to the knowledge of the same doctrine. MarginaliaThe death of Christofer Shomaker.
1518.Thus muche briefly I finde in that Register cōcernyng Christofer Shomaker, declarīg further that hee was burned at Newberye, aboute thys tyme, which was. an. 1518. And thus much out of the Registers of London.
This is an error (probably typographical): this information came the Lincoln court book, not London.
IN turning ouer the Registers & Recordes of Lincolne likewise, & commyng to the yeare of Lorde. 1520. and 1521. I finde that as þe light of þe Gospell began more to appeare, and the number of the professours to growe: so the vehemencie of persecution, and styrre of the byshops began also to encrease. Wherupon ensued great perturbation and greuous affliction in diuers and sondry quarters of this realme, especially about Buckynghamshyre, and Amersham, Vxbrige, Henley, Newbery, in the dio-ces of London, in Essex, Colchester, Suffolke, & Northfolke, & other partes moe. And this was before the name of Luther was heard of in these countreys amongest the people. Wherfore they are much begyled & misse informed, whiche condemne this kinde of doctrine now receaued, of noueltie, askyng where was this Church and Religion 40. yeares ago, before Luthers tyme?
Once again, Foxe is using the records of Lollard trials to show that there was a 'True Church' before Luther.
Foxe is interested in demonstrating the zeal of the Lollards in acquiring godly literature, but this is also an indication of the affluence of many of these Lollards. On the importance of books to the Lollards see Margaret Aston, 'Lollardy and Literacy' in Lollards and Reformers: Images and and literacy in late medieval England (London, 1984), pp. 1-47.[Back to Top]
Foure principall pointes they stoode in agaynste the Church of Rome, in pilgrimage, adoration of saintes, in readyng Scripture bookes in Englishe, and in the carnall presence of Christes body in the Sacrament.
MarginaliaAbiuratio magna.After the great abiuration aforesayd, whiche was vnder William Smith, Byshop of Lyncolne, MarginaliaKnowen men, Iust fast men.they were noted & termed among them selues by þe name of Knowen men, or Iuste fast men, as nowe they are called by the name of Protestantes.
Here Foxe dexterously identifies the Lollards with the Protestants, implicitly establishing that Protestant teachings went back to (at least) Wiclif.
As they were simple, and yet not vncircūspect in their doyngs, so the crafty serpent beyng more wylie thē they, by fraudulent subtiltie, did so circumuent them, MarginaliaThe practyse of Romyshe prelates.that they caused the wife to detect the husband, the husband the wife, the father þe daughter, the daughter the father, þe brother to disclose the brother, and neighbour the neighbor.
Foxe is genuinely shocked by Bishop Longland's methods of investigation, which undermined the integrity of both family and community.