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DIED A.D. 1534.
Elizabeth Barton, better known as “The Holy Maid of Kent, was first a servant girl. She was born early in the 16th century, and resided at Aldington in Kent. In the year 1525, she was in the serrice of a Mr Cob or Knob, at Aldington, near Limme, formerly a port about four miles from Romney Marsh. The commencement of her delusion and imposture is traced to convulsion fits which occasionally seized her, and continued for a period of extraordinary length, and seem very much to have resembled swoons, commencing in strange agitations of her body, but the reality of which, even in their commencement, there is much reason to suspect. Reviving from one of these fits, in which it is reported she had lain for seven months, she inquired if her master's child was dead-for it was at the time lying desperately ill in its cradle,and being answered in the negative—then said she, “it shall die anon.” This, accordingly, having taken place, she was immediately viewed with superstitious dread and astonishment, although every one expected the death of the child. The ignorant and credulous multitude soon blazoned abroad the fame of this alleged prophecy, which being also patronized by the priest of the parish, soon spread through the neighbourhood in all directions. It was a happy occur. rence, at that critical conjuncture, for supporting the interests of a falling church, and as such was eagerly seized by the ecclesiastics. The young woman was easily induced to turn her talents at imposture into this line. She enforced the obligation of the mass, confession, prayers to saints, with all the superstitions of the church, by her authority as one inspired. To give her admonitions and reproofs more weight, she related strange visions of things God had shown her, professed to describe what was passing in chapels or churches at a distance, and by various other delusions gained an extensive reputation as a prophetess It was not among the vulgar alone that her imposture succeeded. The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Warham, and Dr Fisher, bishop of Rochester, with no less a person than Sir Thomas More, were induced to believe that there was something of inspiration and miracle attending the case; and they appointed certain commissioners to inquire into it, whose report greatly contributed to the support and prevalence of the imposture. To seal the sanctity, and to secure the credit of this miracle to the service of the Romish church, Elizabeth Barton was now consecrated a nun, and a day fixed for her public entry into a chapel at Courtopstreet or Court-of-street, dedicated to the virgin. This ceremony, accordingly took place in the presence of a vast concourse of attendants of all orders. Being in the chapel, she fell into one of her fits immediately before the image, and uttered some speeches in rhythm tending to recommend the worship and service of the virgin Mary; and at the same time she said it was the will of our Lady that she (Elizabeth) should be put into some nunnery. This was accordingly complied with, and the archbishop of Canterbury ordered her to be received into Saint Sepulchres at Canterbury. Here this poor infatuated young woman
became increasingly the dupe and the tool of superstition. She continued, as it was said, to work miracles, and receive divine visions, for about eight or nine years, when an opportunity occurred of turning her impostures to political purposes. The question of King Henry the Eighth's divorce from Queen Catharine was now sharply controverted on both sides, and was violently opposed by the ecclesiastics. They accordingly called in the services of Elizabeth Barton, instructed her to denounce the king's intentions and the ecclesiastical innovations he had made. She went even so far as to declare that he would not be a king a month longer if he divorced Catharine, that he would not enjoy the favour of the Almighty, and that he would die the death of a villain. 'The monks disseminated everywhere the sayings of the holy maid, and one During, a friar, published a book of the revelations and prophecies of Elizabeth. Her sayings concerning the divorce were conveyed es. pecially to the queen, whom they tended to confirm in her purpose of resisting to the utmost the king's will. But Henry VIII. was not a monarch to be overawed and ruled in his purposes by such machinations. He accordingly ordered the maid of Kent to be arrested, and all her accomplices cited before the star chamber. There she openly confessed her imposture, and with the whole party, viz. Masters, the parson of the parish where she had lived, During, Bocking, Reit, Risby, and Gold, suffered death at Paul's cross, April, 1534. Neither did the resentment of the king stop here. Fisher, bishop of Rochester, a man of ability and learning, Abel, Addison, Laurence, and some others were condemned for misprision of treason, and sentenced to confiscation of goods and imprisonment, because they had not discovered certain treasonable speeches of Elizabeth. The better to undeceive the people and discover the wicked proceedings of the priests, many of Elizabeth's impostures were exposed, and the scandalous prostitution of her manners laid open to public view. It was found that a door to her dormitory, which was said to have been miraculously opened, in order to give her free access to the chapel, for the sake of secret converse with heaven, had been contrived by Bocking and Masters, for less honourable purposes. Fisher, the bishop of Rochester, who had been cast into prison for his concealment of Elizabeth's treasons, and who had suffered many hardships there, was honoured by the pope with the rank of a cardinal; but this only inflamed the king's resentment to a higher pitch, and Fisher was in consequence impeached, tried, condemned, and beheaded; and shortly after, Sir Thomas More, who had also been imprisoned for connivances at Elizabeth's treason, was brought to the same violent and ignoble end. Thus an ignorant and base girl was not only the origin of an extensive and disgusting imposture, but the occasion of bringing several of the most distinguished men of the day, and probably the queen herself to a disgraceful and miserable end. Never was there a more barefaced, and seldom a more baneful imposture than that of the Holy Maid of Kent.'
BORN A. D. 1459.-DIED A. D. 1535.
John FISHER, bishop of Rochester, was born at Beverley in York. shire, in the year 1459. He took his degrees at Cambridge, and was made proctor of that university in 1495. The same year he was elected master of Michael house, since incorporated with Trinity college, and soon after entered into orders. He received his first ecclesiastical elevation at the hands of Margaret, countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII., who appointed him her chaplain and confessor, and committed herself entirely to his guidance and counsel. In 1501, he was chosen chancellor of Cambridge university, and in 1502, was appointed the lady Margaret's first professor of divinity.
In 1504, he was raised to the see of Rochester upon the recommendation of Bishop Fox. Upon Luther's appearance in opposition to popery, Fisher, ever a zealous champion for the church of Rome, was one of the first to enter the lists against him. He also did not hesitate to condemn in public the stateliness and pride with which the then ail. powerful Wolsey bore himself, yet he continued to enjoy the king's favour until the business of the divorce in 1527, when bis adherence to Catharine's cause and the pope's supremacy brought him into no small trouble, and ultimately proved the cause of his ruin. He also warmly opposed the first motion in parliament for the suppression of the lesser monasteries, and made himself particularly obnoxious to Henry by the warm opposition which he gave in convocation to the proposal for conferring upon the king of England the title of supreme head of the church. The affair of Elizabeth Barton was eagerly seized by his enemies as a pretext against him; but his determined refusal to take the oath of allegiance to Henry and his heirs, after his marriage with Anne Boleyn and the repudiation of Catharine, was made the capital charge against him. For this offence he was committed to the Tower in April, 1534, attainted in November, and deprived of his bishopric in the month of January following.
The unseasonable honour paid him by Pope Paul III., in creating him cardinal priest of St Vitalis, in May, 1535, sealed his fate. Secretary Cromwell being sent to him by the king to sound him on the subject, after some conference, said, “ My lord of Rochester, what would you say if the pope should send you a cardinal's hat,—would you accept of it?" To which interrogatory the bishop replied in terms expressive of his unworthiness of such a distinguished honour, and the little expectation he had of it, but at the same time frankly declaring that if such a thing were to happen, he would deem himself bound to accept of the honour with all gratitude, and would endeavour to use it for the best interests of the church. When this answer was reported to Henry, he exclaimed in his own brutal style, “ Yea, is he yet so lusty ? Well, let the pope send him a hat when he will, mother of God! he shall wear it on his shoulders then, for I will leave him never a head to set it on.” Rich, the solicitor-general, was now employed to circunvent the poor old man, which he did by visiting him in prison, and, after much affectation of friendship, drawing him into a discourse about the supremacy. Some expressions which the bishop in his warmth let drop upon this point were eagerly noted by his treacherous visitant, and made the ground-work of his impeachment. He was found guilty of high treason on the 17th, and beheaded on the 22d of June, 1535. He met his fate with extreme fortitude.
Erasmus speaks of this prelate in very flattering terms, and, by gen cral consent, he appears to have been a man of very high attainments for the age in literature, and of consistent morals. He was the author of several polemical pieces in defence of the peculiar doctrines of the Romish church against Luther and Ecolampadius. His writings were collected and published together at Wurtzburg, in 1595, in one volume, folio. His life by Dr Hall, under the name of Bailey, was published in 1655.
BORS CIRC. A.D. 1500.--DIED A.D. 1536.
WILLIAM TINDAL, or TYNDALE, was born in or near the year 1500, somewhere upon the borders of Wales. But nothing has been preserved respecting his parentage or the place of his nativity. It is well known that the doctrines of Wickliffe had been privately disseminated to a considerable extent in South Wales, and that Sir John Oldcastle himself resided upon the borders for some time, and diligently promoted the sentiments of that celebrated reformer. It is highly probable that in his early life, Tyndale had been imbued with the spirit of reformation—for we fird that almost as soon as he appeared at college, he displayed a disposition to espouse the doctrines of Luther. He first entered at Magdalen hall, Oxford, where, it is said, he very early read theological discourses in private to his fellow students. After this he removed to Wolsey's new college, called Christ's Church. Here he became still more bold, and ventured openly to profess and defend the doctrines of the Reformation. He is said to have been a person, even at this early period, of eminent abilities and of unusual learning. But his opposition to the abuses of the church could not be tolerated in Oxford, and he was, therefore, expelled before he had taken any degree. He next removed to Cambridge, where he was permitted to remain, and take a degree. From thience he went into Gloucestershire or Worcestershire, as a tutor in the family of Sir John Welsh. Here his first literary engagement, of which at least any knowledge has descended to later times, was a translation of the Enchiridion Militis Christiani' of Erasmus. It was intended for the religious benefit of the family in which he resided. During this period of his life, it appears that he found frequent opportunities of preaching, and especially in the city of Bristol. It is recorded that he stood high in the estimation of Sir John Welsh, and of many others in his neighbourhood. Indeed it may well be conjectured, that so learned and zealous a reformer would extensively recommend the truth, in an age of darkness and corruption. But it is no less obvious that, in doing so, he would expose himself to the malice of those whose interests were implicated in the errors and corruptions of the times. We find accordingly, that Tyndale made himself odious to some of the ecclesiastical visitors at Sir John Welsh's, by entering boldly into theological discussion with them. The effect was a general prejudice raised against him as a heretic, and at length, an impeachment by the chancellor of the diocese. Tyndale, however, appeared with great courage to answer to the articles of impeachinent, and defended himself with such vigour and ability that his adversaries were confounded and constrained to release him. This defeat only deepened their resolution of revenge.
Their purpose of crushing him was merely held in check for a time, not abandoned. They resorted to a system of perpetual annoyance and oppression, and at length compelled him to leave the country and repair to London. Here, however, he enjoyed ample opportunities of becoming acquainted with the extensive and insupportable corruptions of the church, as well as with the extreme ignorance and incompetence of the clergy. During this period he occasionally preached at St Dunstan in the West, and often engaged in disputation with the defenders of popery. He was known frequently to challenge, in the boldness and confidence of truth, the blind guides of the day, and to declare that the period was approaching when the rudest peasant with the Bible in his hand, would be superior to the best of them in that knowledge which leads to everlasting life. At this early period, Tyndale had amassed a knowledge of the holy scriptures and of collateral learning possessed by few at that day, and this gave him an amazing advantage in all his controversies with the priestoood, few of whom had ever read the scriptures, and many of whom had never seen a single copy of them in their lives. It was during his residence in London, that he formed the determination of translating the Scriptures into English, and commenced its exec n. He knew well the danger of such an undertaking; he was well aware of the opposition excited against Wickliffe, and the final miscarriage of all his labours in the same project, through the malignity of the bishops and clergy nearly a century before. But he was not to be scared from his undertaking by threats, nor defeated by trifling difficulties. He proceeded to collect his materials with much care and judgment, and to communicate his purpose to his friends. He embraced the object with all the ardour of an enthusiast, and pursued it with the heroism of a martyr. While he was advancing with his translation of the Scriptures, he endeavoured to obtain an appointment under Bishop Tunstal, whom Erasmus had praised as an eminent scholar; and on applying to that prelate for a chaplainship, as a proof of his qualifications, he produced an English translation of an oration of Isocrates. But in this attempt he was unsuccessful, and after his failure retired into privacy for about half a year, to complete his translation of the New Testament. He employed unwearied assiduity in perfecting this great work, in which it will be readily believed, he found little help in the learning of the age, and scarcely a friend who would venture to become a coadjutor or even sanction the undertaking. Having alone accomplished his task, he looked around him for the means of publication, but finding none, and discovering that the attempt would expose him to imminent danger at home, he resolved to seek an asylum among the reformers of the continent. To enable him to effect his purpose, providence raised him up a friend in Henry Monmouth, who supplied him with money, and thereby enabled him to leave London. Abroad, he speedily obtained