Archive for English history

12 July 1537 – Robert Aske

Posted in Hanged in chains with tags , , , on July 12 by Last Writes

There have been some prolific executors in history. Take Henry VIII for example. The English king avoided a would-be turbulent reign by bumping off would-be insurgents. As many as 72,000 were prematurely put to death apparently during the Tudor king’s 38-year reign.

One such miscreant was Robert Aske who is said to have played Russian roulette with his death penalty and lost. But more of that later.

Aske no questions

A Yorkshire lawyer by trade, Aske got into politics and was very vocal about his fervent religious opinions. So imagine when a king of England decides to dump the Catholic church in favour of a new church that gave him Almighty powers.

And imagine if that same king was from a bloodline that had just toppled the ruling House of York and grabbed the throne under shady circumstances not two generations before.

Well, the self-respecting Yorkshireman wouldn’t have a bar of it. Aske led from the front in what was termed the Pilgrimage of Grace uprising in 1536. He amassed a small army of around 9,000 men and seized control of York. Soon his support grew to about 40,000.

Henchmen close to the king opened negotiations and they promised a general pardon if Aske got his army to stand down. Amazingly the not-so-wily lawyer believed the promises. And for that, once he’d safely dismissed his army, Aske was captured and promptly had up for treason.

Crimes against the king carried the ultimate penalty – and commoners (as Aske was) would normally have been hanged, drawn and quartered. But some sources claim he opted to be hanged in chains, thinking it would be less painful that being strung up, then having his innards rudely whipped out, before being beheaded and quartered.

But if that’s true, the poor sap overlooked one thing. He’d forfeited a death that was over in less than a half a day for one that was ekeed out over many. For hanging in chains meant slow suffocation, a painstaking death which took days.

Whichever the method he was definitely hanged from the walls of York castle as a lesson to all insurgents and Aske died on this day aged roughly 37.

If you had the unenviable task, which would you choose? Cast your vote in our hypothetical quiz.

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28 June 1497 – Lord Audley

Posted in Beheaded, Death penalty with tags , , , , on June 28 by Last Writes

You met the two men hanged, drawn and quartered cohorts yesterday – William An Gof and Thomas Flamank. Now let us introduce you to Lord Audley, one of a trio of leaders who took the First Cornish Rebellion to London in 1497.

Disgruntled by crippling taxation, the people of Cornwall and the West Country mobilised and began marching on London in an uprising that garnered support as it progressed.

Tuchet away

That’s how Audley hooked up en route with the people’s army – there was solid support and it seemed like a good time to strike. Henry VII’s tenuous claim to the throne was pretty precarious in the early days, plus he was diverted by a war in Scotland, so maybe he wouldn’t have been able to cope with battles on two fronts. That was the thinking.

But how did a lord get involved with what was predominantly a people’s battle?

Born in Staffordshire, the 7th Lord was actually called Sir James Tuchet. He was down in Somerset when he got wind of the uprising; word had spread fast and more and more supporters were joining such a popular cause every day. All too happily he too joined the ranks as a commander and together they marched up through Guildford, bound for Blackheath.

Over and out

There the West Country army was hoping to get some shut-eye before the big confrontation with Henry’s troops in London. But Henry was ready for them. Indeed the yokels caught sight of the awe-inspiring rival troops and a third of them legged it back home leaving a well-matched 10,000 versus 10,000.

Sadly it wasn’t merely a numbers’ game – Henry’s army had proper gear. They were kitted up for this kind of thing – after all, this was their job. Their rivals on the other comprised Ben the butcher, Jim the joiner – ok so we’ve made up the names, but you get the drift? These men had no training in warfare. All they’d come equipped with was the courage of their convictions and a motley collection of parochial tools and weapons – no match for the armoury of the English army.

Needless to say the Cornishmen found themselves surrounded and the battle of Deptford was over before it had even begun.

Diss Audley

Audley was arrested on the battlefield, and like An Gof and Flamank, he was charged with treason, tried on 26 June 1497 and sentenced to death.

However, as blue-blooded nobility goes, his was a beheading as opposed to the commoners’ hanging, drawing and quartering. And on this day, Audley was taken from Newgate to Tower Hill where he had his head lopped off, aged roughly 34.

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21 March 1556 – Thomas Cranmer

Posted in Burned at the stake, Death penalty with tags , , , , , , , on March 21 by Old Sparky

Thomas CranmerThomas Cranmer was a wily old dog. He was pretty in touch with the changing world under the Tudors…that is until his luck finally ran dry. Cranmer was executed on this day in 1556, for his support of Lady Jane Grey against Mary I.

Why was he supportive? Well Cranmer had committed his life to freeing England from the iron grip of Catholicism, after he’d become a Lutheran convert during a stint in Germany.

Essex boy

Having gained a fellowship in Cambridge, Cranmer married a pub landlord’s daughter, who sadly died in childbirth so he entered the priesthood just as the plague forced him to flee to Essex, where he was thrown into the path of Henry VIII.

At the time, Henry was hell-bent on extricating himself from a marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so he could legally jump the bones of the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. Cranmer said ok, and headed up an envoy to the then head of the English church – the Pope.

Rising star

However, divorce was a dirty word to the Catholics and his mission was denied but as Cranmer had impressed the Roman emperor, he was made a special envoy instead.

Little did the Catholics know he’d married again, otherwise he’d have been barred, but what they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them and the savvy clergyman bided his time and was finally made archbishop of Canterbury.

Then bam, he quickly annulled Henry’s first marriage and, after that, the reforms came thick and fast. England broke away from Rome, Henry was declared head of the English Church and Cranmer flourished. He even helped to translate the Bible into English, writing verses that are still in use today as well as co-writing the Book of Common Prayer.

Grey matter

All was rosy until Henry’s successor – the sickly Edward VI – passed away. Lady Jane Grey’s father-in-law tried to dismiss Mary I and install Grey on the throne in a move Cranmer heartily supported as the only other option was (staunch Catholic) Mary.

Mary I won and gleefully, one of her first victims was Cranmer – maybe in part due to the role he played in her mother’s divorce. At first he was tried for treason for his support of the Grey plot, but Mary deviously absolved him of guilt as she had bigger plans for Cranmer…and those included a heresy charge.

Of course the sentence was the same, so what was the big deal?

Well, maybe Mary wanted him to decry Protestantism and maybe the new queen was so committed to reinstating the Catholic Church that she would do all in her power to get key players to denounce the newfangled church. But first she had to get the backing of the nation and that wasn’t going to be easy because they seemed to like new church. After all, for once everyone could understand the prayers and could join in the services.

Right and wrongs

Cranmer, as a key advocate of the Church of England, was publicly tried and forced to denounce his support of Protestantism, yet despite this he was still sentenced to death.

The ex-archbishop was burned at the stake in Oxford and, as the legend goes, the 65-year-old is said to have theatrically thrust his right hand – the one that had signed his name to the anti-Protestant claims – into the flames. His death and others like him (such as Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, who are all honoured by a stone monument at one end of Giles Street) earned the queen the insalubrious soubriquet, Bloody Mary.

Talking of popular titles, it’s said that the nursery rhyme ‘Three Blind Mice’ is based on the three priests, according to Albert Jack in his book ‘Pop Goes the Weasel: the Secret Meaning of Nursery Rhymes.

Also on this day

21 March 2008 (and every Good Friday) – Devout Catholics in the Philippines re-enact the crucifixion of Christ. Some are actually nailed to crosses. No-one dies though.
21 March 1804 – Louis-Antoine-Henri de Bourbon-Condé, duc d’Enghien
21 March 1817 – Ann Statham
21 March 1901 – Herbert Bennett

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