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BURNING TIME: Henry VIII, Bloody Mary
Bibliophile price: £7.00
A tablet on the wall of the Great Hall of Guild Hall in the City of London reads "Anne Askew: A Protestant martyr was tried in 1546 for Heresy. Afterwards she was tortured on the rack in the Tower of London, carried in a chair to Smithfield and burned aged 25." Who else was involved in Anne's story, and why were the beliefs of this young woman of such concern to her contemporaries that they were prepared to set her on fire for them? She was burned alongside John Lascelles, a lawyer and Gentleman of the King's Privy Chamber, John Hadlam, a tailor from Essex, and John Hemsley, a former Franciscan friar, on 16th July 1546. Dignitaries watched the burning in comfort. Anne was described as smiling throughout her torment and looking like an angel. Why was being a 'Protestant' or 'Reformer' considered so heinous, and what was this 'heresy' with which she was charged? One of the most important religious disputes of the time concerned what was believed to take place during celebrations of the Eucharist, or the Mass or what Protestants referred to as Holy Communion. In the mid 1540s to declare in the wrong quarters that the Eucharist was a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ, rather than a sacrifice in itself, was to risk one's life. Sir Thomas More was convinced that a relaxation of ecclesiastical authority and of inherited systems of belief would unleash mayhem on the world and would lead to the entire collapse of the entire social orders. The book is the harrowing story of the Smithfield martyrs. Jesters and crowds flocked for the medieval St Bartholomew's Day celebrations, tournaments were plentiful, and Smithfield became the location of London's most famous meat market. Yet in Tudor England it had a more sinister use - the public execution of heretics. The book is a vivid insight into the era in which what was orthodoxy one year might be dangerous heresy the next. The first martyrs were Catholics who cleaved to Rome in defiance of Henry VIII's break with the Papacy. But with the accession of Henry's daughter Mary, Bloody Mary, the charge of heresy was levelled against devout Protestants who chose to burn rather than recant. At the centre of this extraordinary account is Richard Rich, Thomas Cromwell's protégé, who almost uniquely remained in a position of great power, influence and wealth under the three Tudor monarchs. He helped send many devout men and women to their deaths. The second is John Deane, Rector of St Bartholomew's who was able somehow to navigate the treacherous waters of changing dogma and help others to survive. It is also the story of the hundreds of men and women who were put to the fire for their faith. The brilliant research of Virginia Rounding understands the Reithian principle of edification via titillation. 460pp, well illus, some colour. Remainder mark.

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