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The Execution of ‘Rebel’ Priests in the Western Rising of 1549

  • MARK STOYLE (a1)

Abstract

This article explores the killing of priests by supporters of Edward VI's Protestant regime during the Western Rebellion of 1549. It begins by considering what previous historians have had to say on the subject – and by noting that they have differed quite sharply about the number of priests who died. The article then moves on to re-consider the primary evidence in depth, in order to establish what a minimum figure for clerical fatalities might reasonably be said to be – and concludes that that figure may well have been a good deal higher than has been appreciated hitherto.

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This article grew out of a seminar paper delivered at the University of Southampton in November 2018 and I am grateful to all of those who attended on that occasion for their stimulating comments and questions. I would also like to thank George Bernard, Peter Clarke, John Draisey and the two anonymous readers for this Journal for reading the initial draft of the text and for making many extremely helpful suggestions. I am especially indebted to Jonathan Vage, who not only read and commented on the text, but was also generous enough to share his unrivalled knowledge of the West Country's sixteenth-century clergy with me. My thanks too to Sean Goddard for preparing the map.

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1 See, for example, Pollard, A. F., The history of England from the accession of Edward VI to the death of Elizabeth, 1547–1603, London 1911, 26, and Elton, G. R., Reform and Reformation: England, 1509–1558, London 1977, 347.

2 See, for example, Jordan, W. K., Edward VI: the young king, London 1968, 453.

3 See, for example, Pollard, A. F., England under Protector Somerset: an essay (1900), New York 1966 edn, 239; Loades, D., Politics and the nation, 1450–1660: obedience, resistance and public order, Brighton 1974, 205; and Davies, C. S. L., Peace, print and Protestantism, 1450–1558, London 1984 edn, 275, 279.

4 See, for example, Dickens, A. G., The English Reformation, London 1964, 11, 50.

5 See, for example, Blake, W., ‘The rebellion of Cornwall and Devon in 1549’, Journal of the Royal Institute of Cornwall xviii (1910), 147–96, 300–38 at p. 325.

6 Youings, J., ‘The south-western rebellion of 1549’, Southern History 1 (1979), 99122 at p. 120.

7 Eadem, , Social history of Britain: sixteenth century England, London 1984, 213–14.

8 A. R. Greenwood, ‘A study of the rebel petitions of 1549’, unpubl. PhD diss. Manchester 1990.

9 Ibid. 16, 76–7, 89, 123.

10 Ibid. 76 (quotation), 98–9.

11 Ibid. 76 (quotation), 121–8.

12 Youings, ‘South-western rebellion’, 120.

13 A. Fletcher and D. MacCulloch, Tudor rebellions, London 1997, 58; Dickens, English Reformation, 50.

14 Rose-Troup, F., The western rebellion of 1549: an account of the insurrections in Devonshire and Cornwall against religious innovations in the reign of Edward VI, London 1913, 497501.

15 Ibid. 292.

16 Ibid. 337 n. 1.

17 Ibid. For the original ballad see BL, Anon., ‘Ballad on the defeat of the Devon and Cornwall rebels’, printed fragment of single sheet ballad, n.d. n.p. (RSTC, 6795).

18 DHC, Chanter 14 (Bishop John Veysey's register, i, 1519–51).

19 Ibid. fos 71r, 134v.

20 Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 497; for the original entry in the register see DHC, Chanter 14, fo. 134v.

21 Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 500; for the original entry see DHC, Chanter 14, fo. 135r.

22 Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 500; for the original entry see DHC, Chanter 14, fo. 123v.

23 It is interesting to note that, while some Protestant clergymen were threatened and intimidated by the Catholic northern rebels in 1569, there is no evidence that any of them were badly hurt by the insurgents: K. J. Kesselring, The northern rebellion of 1569: faith, politics and protest in Elizabethan England, Basingstoke 2010, 74. As Kesselring goes on to note (p. 74), ‘had any suffered death or serious physical harm, there would surely have been some mention of it in contemporary reports’.

24 Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 501. See also Whiting, R., The blind devotion of the people: popular religion and the English Reformation, Cambridge 1991, 230.

25 Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 355 n. 3, 501.

26 Henderson, M. I. and Rowse, A. L. (eds), Essays in Cornish history, by Charles Henderson (1935), 2nd edn, Truro 1963, pp. xvxxiv.

27 RCM, mss Henderson. I am most grateful to Angela Broome, the archivist of the Courtney Library at the RCM, for permitting me to consult Henderson's manuscript notes.

28 Rowse, A. L., Tudor Cornwall: portrait of a society (1941), 6th edn, London 1969.

29 Ibid. 284.

30 Ibid. 283.

31 Ibid. 283–4.

32 Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 104, 497.

33 mss Henderson, x. 72; Rowse, Tudor Cornwall, 284. A new cleric was admitted to Gulval on 3 Dec. 1549: DHC, Chanter 14, fo. 133v.

34 Rowse, Tudor Cornwall, 284; mss Henderson, x. 72.

35 Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 76 n. 2.

36 Rowse, Tudor Cornwall, 284.

37 Ibid.

38 Loades, Politics and the nation, 206.

39 Cornwall, J., Revolt of the peasantry, 1549, London 1977, 201–2.

40 See, for example, P. Caraman, The western rising of 1549: the prayer book rebellion, Tiverton 1999, 105–6.

41 D. Pill, ‘The diocese of Exeter under Bishop Veysey’, unpubl. MA diss., Exeter 1963, 309–10.

42 Ibid. 311.

43 Ibid. 309, 315.

44 This comment was not strictly accurate, for the register in fact makes specific reference to two clerics who were attainted in the wake of the rising.

45 Youings, ‘South-western rebellion’, 120.

46 Ibid. 120–1.

47 J. Loach, Edward VI, New Haven–London 1999, 76.

48 Ibid. 77.

49 Foxe, Actes and monumentes, 1496.

50 Ibid. 1499.

51 If Foxe's reference to ‘James Mourton’ is interpreted as a simple slip for ‘Simon Moreton’, moreover, then six of the eight clerics in Foxe's list can be demonstrated from independent sources to have been killed in 1549. I owe this point to Jonathan Vage.

52 A chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from AD 1485 to 1559, by Charles Wriothesley, volume II, ed. W. D. Hamilton (Camden Society n.s. xx, 1877), 4 (author's italics).

53 Troubles connected with the prayer book of 1549, ed. N. Pocock (Camden Society n.s. xxxvii, 1884), 16.

54 Ibid. 26.

55 The chronicle and political papers of King Edward VI, ed. W. K. Jordan, London 1966, 13.

56 Halliday, K., ‘New light on the commotion time of 1549: the Oxfordshire rising’, Historical Research lxxxii (2009), 655–76 at p. 657.

57 Chronicle and political papers, 13. For the proclamations of 14 June and 16 July ordering martial law against future rioters see Tudor royal proclamations, I: The early Tudors, 1485–1553, ed. P. L. Hughes and J. F. Larkin, New Haven–London 1964, 462–4, 475–6.

58 Halliday, ‘The Oxfordshire rising’, 657, 662; Calendar of state papers, domestic series, of the reign of Edward VI, 1547–1553, ed. C. S. Knighton, London 1992, 127.

59 Bernard, G. W., The king's Reformation: Henry VIII and the remaking of the English Church, New Haven-London 2005, 374.

60 For the execution of Joyes see Calendar of the patent rolls, Edward VI, III: 1549–51, London 1925, 117. For the execution of the vicar of Barford in Oxfordshire at Aylesbury in August see Chronicle of England, 21.

61 ‘R. L.’, A copye of a letter contayning certayne newes & the articles or requestes of the Devonshyre & Cornyshe rebelles, [London] 1549 (RSTC 15109.3), sig. B.vii, verso.

62 Ibid. sig. Bviii, verso.

63 See ‘R. L.’, A copye of a letter, passim; for general discussion of this publication see Rose-Troup, Western rebellion, 246–7, 485; Youings, ‘South western rebellion’, 101, 113–15; and Cooper, J. P. D., Propaganda and the Tudor state: political culture in the west-country, Oxford 2003, 241, 244.

64 ‘R. L.’, A copye of a letter, sigs A.viir, B.iir, and B.iir.

65 Stoyle, M., ‘Fullye bente to fighte oute the matter: reconsidering Cornwall's role in the western rebellion of 1549’, EHR cxxix (2014), 549–77 at p. 569

66 Idem, Circled with stone: Exeter's city walls, 1485–1660, Exeter 2003, 190–1.

67 [J. Hooker], ‘The beginnings, cause & course of the Commotion … in the counties of Devon and Cornewall’, Bodleian Library, Oxford, ms Rawlinson, C 792, fo. 13r–v.

68 Hooker, J., ‘The description of the citie of Excester’, in Holinshed, R., The … volume of Chronicles … now newlie … augmented and continued … to the yeare 1586, London 1587 (RSTC 13569), 1026.

69 John Fry to Sir John Thynne, 16 Aug. 1549, Sir John Thynne's letter-book, ms Thynne, Longleat House, Wilts., volume 2, fos 124v–125r.

70 TNA, C1/1369/19 (‘The answer of John Skampe’). This document refers to the unfortunate curate of Pilton as simply ‘Sir Rychard [blank]’. A list of West Country clerics compiled during the early 1540s notes the presence of one ‘Richard Wollysworthye’ at Pilton, however, and it seems probable that this was the individual who went on to be hanged in 1549: TNA, E 344/19/15, fo. 10r. I am most grateful to Wendy Clarke for this reference.

71 See Rowse, Tudor Cornwall, 283, and, for example, Cornwall, Revolt of the peasantry, 202.

72 TNA, C1 1387/14, petition of John Tayllor.

73 TNA, E 199/6, item 52, inventory of the goods of Robert Raffe and John Wulcoke.

74 Stoyle, M., ‘A hanging at St Keverne: the execution of two Cornish priests in 1549’, Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries xlii/1 (2017), 14.

75 Pool, P. A. S., ‘Cornish parishes in 1753: IV, Stratton’, Old Cornwall vi/11(1966), 502. See now also the splendid Stratton churchwardens’ accounts, 1512–1578, ed. J. Mattingly (Devon and Cornwall Record Society n.s. lx, 2018), 27, 27 n. 178, 163, 163 n. 50.

76 I am grateful to George Bernard for discussion of this point.

77 DHC, Chanter 14, fos 133r (Langtree), 133v (St Thomas and Gulval), 134r (Manaccan), 134v (Poundstock and St Veep).

78 Ibid. fos 132v, 134r (Gidleigh), 133v (Jacobstowe), 134r (Combe in Teignhead), 135r (Maristow).

79 Ibid. fo. 135r. The first – the reference to the attainder of the vicar of St Keverne – had appeared two months before, on the previous page of the register: DHC, Chanter 14, fo. 134v.

80 Ibid. fo.135r–v. I am indebted to Jonathan Vage for pointing out to me that a new scribe appears to have taken over the register at the foot of fo. 135r.

81 Ibid. fos 136r–139v.

82 For a specific example of an episcopal register in another part of the country recording that a benefice had recently fallen vacant ‘by reason of the natural death’ (‘per mortem naturalem’) of the previous incumbent, when we know for certain that the dead man – in this case, Henry Joyes of Chipping Norton – had been executed for his part in the stirs of 1549, see Halliday, ‘Oxfordshire rising’, 670.

83 I am extremely grateful to Jonathan Vage for confirming for me – from his extensive databases of Tudor West Country clergymen – that no further references to these nine men after 1549–50 are, at present, known to survive.

84 For the many executions of monks and other clerics which took place in the aftermath of the northern risings of 1536–7 see Dodds, M. H. and Dodds, R., The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536–37 and the Exeter conspiracy,1538, Cambridge 1915, ii, chs xviii–xix. Rather surprisingly, only one priest is known to have been executed in the wake of the Northern Rebellion of 1569, though ‘a few others fled or were removed’: Kesselring, K. J., ‘Mercy and liberality: the aftermath of the 1569 Northern Rebellion’, History xc (2005), 213–35 at p. 226.

This article grew out of a seminar paper delivered at the University of Southampton in November 2018 and I am grateful to all of those who attended on that occasion for their stimulating comments and questions. I would also like to thank George Bernard, Peter Clarke, John Draisey and the two anonymous readers for this Journal for reading the initial draft of the text and for making many extremely helpful suggestions. I am especially indebted to Jonathan Vage, who not only read and commented on the text, but was also generous enough to share his unrivalled knowledge of the West Country's sixteenth-century clergy with me. My thanks too to Sean Goddard for preparing the map.

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The Execution of ‘Rebel’ Priests in the Western Rising of 1549

  • MARK STOYLE (a1)

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