8 February 1555 – Laurence Saunders
Laurence Saunders was hot roasted on this day for daring to speak out against Catholicism back in the mid-16th century.
Eton- and Cambridge-educated Laurence Saunders was burned at the stake after warning people away from ‘the errors of the Popish religion’. He was forewarning his fellow countrymen about the dangers of Mary I’s ascendency to the English throne.
The preacher spoke out against Mary’s ‘lukewarm indifference in the cause of Christ’ and that the English risked incurring the wrath of God. It was such treasonous outbursts as these that led to his arrest. At his trial when asked to confess his crimes Saunders shot back ‘I will not accuse myself. You cannot charge me with the breach of any of your laws since they were in force.’
But for all his clever counter-arguments, Saunders was sentenced to be executed. Without delay he was transported to Coventry where he was burned at the stake from the bottom up for his heretical beliefs.
Actual details of his death described how he was surrounded by greenery – which has a high water content, so is slow to catch light and burn. As a result, his death would have been prolonged and painful.
Of course, Saunders wasn’t entirely wrong in his indictment of fanatical Mary either. She earned her nickname Bloody Mary from her over-zealous slaying of supposed heretics in her bid to turn England back into a Catholic country.