« ZurückWeiter »
publicly profess and advocate his religious principles, even at the hazard of encountering the rack and the flames, he crossed the sea and took his accustomed place in the pulpit at St. Paul's Cross. It was the last sermon which he was destined to preach. In the course of a fearless and animated delivery he reminded the astonished bystanders of the pure and wholesome doctrine which had been preached to them from that pulpit in the days of Edward the Sixth, at the same time solemnly warning them against the pestilent idolatry and superstition of the age in which they lived. His doom was of course fixed; and accordingly, after a tedious imprisonment, frequent examinations, and repeated attempts to convert him to the ancient faith, he was brought to trial. He listened calmly to the frightful sentence which was passed upon him, merely requesting that his poor wife, being a stranger in a foreign land, might be allowed to remain with him to the last, or at all events that he might be allowed to embrace her before he died. “She hath ten children," he said, “that are hers and mine, and somewhat I would counsel her what were best for her to do.” Bishops Gardiner and Bonner, however, with inconceivable cruelty refused these requests. Nevertheless, painful as were the circumstances of their last interview, the husband and wife were destined once more to meet. As the martyr passed on his way to Smithfield, his wife met him with her ten
children, one of whom was at the breast.
the breast. They were not, indeed, permitted to converse with each other; but the last look of her beloved husband rendered almost sublime by its expression of calmness and resignation - gave her the hope of meeting him again in a better world, where bigotry and persecution would cease any longer to have power over the virtuous and the brave. In regard to the martyr himself, neither the affecting sight of his wife and children, the vast multitude of people which surrounded him, nor the terrible paraphernalia of death, had the least effect upon him in his great extremity. Pardon was offered him at the stake if he would consent to sign his recantation, but, like many others, who had suffered for the sake of the truth, he not only rejected the boon which was offered to him, but died with a constancy and serenity which elicited the admiration even of his persecutors.
It was through Smithfield that Bishop Latimer was led, in 1553, on his way to the Tower. Alluding to the fate of former martyrs, and to his own approaching and terrible death, “Ah,” he said, “Smithfield has long groaned for me!" Scarcely could Latimer have failed to remember that it was at this very spot, a few years previously, that he himself had preached fortitude to Friar Forrest, when agonising under the torture of a slow fire for denying the supremacy of Henry the Eighth.
The horrors of which Smithfield was the scene in the reign of Queen Mary were unhappily repeated during the milder rule of her Protestant successors. During the reign of Elizabeth, for instance, two Dutchmen were burned to death at Smithfield for professing the principles of the Anabaptists. Here, too, as late as the reign of James the First, we find one Bartholomew Legatt perishing at the stake for rejecting the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. He was the last person who suffered in the flames in England on account of his religious principles.
It has been mentioned, to the credit of our English monarchs, that not one of them — not even Philip the Second of Spain, when he became the husband of Queen Mary — was ever known to attend in person those terrible autos-da-fé which anciently took place in Smithfield.
These remarks, however, scarcely apply to the Princes of Wales, inasmuch as, in 1410, we find unquestionable evidence that, at the burning of one Badby, a Lollard, the Prince of Wales, afterward Henry the Fifth, was a voluntary spectator. “He arrived," says Rapin, “to be present at the execution; and as the poor wretch gave sensible signs of the torture he endured, he ordered the fire to be removed, and promised him a pension for life provided he would recant; but Badby, recovering his spirits, refused to comply with the offer, and suffered death with heroic courage.” As late as the year 1652, Evelyn mentions his seeing a woman
who had murdered her husband being burned to death in Smithfield.'
One of the most remarkable events which have taken place in Smithfield was the interview, on the 15th of June, 1381, between Richard the Second, then in his fifteenth year, and the rebel leader, Wat Tyler. The young king was attended only by a small band of devoted men, while the other appeared as the leader of thirty thousand lawless and infuriated followers. The metropolis had for many days been at the mercy of the rebels, during which neither life nor property were safe. The Temple, the Duke of Lancaster's palace in the Savoy, the palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Hospital of the Knights of St. John at Clerkenwell, as well as the houses of the judges and of the more powerful and obnoxious citizens, had recently been attacked and levelled with the ground. It was, in fact, a fearful struggle between poverty and wealth, — between order and misrule.
'In March, 1849, during excavations necessary for a new sewer, and at a depth of three feet below the surface, immediately opposite the entrance to the church of St. Bartholomew the Great, the workmen laid open a mass of unhewn stones, blackened as if by fire, and covered with ashes, and human bones charred and partially consumed. This I believe to have been the spot generally used for the Smithfield burnings, the face of the sufferer being turned to the east, and to the great gate of St. Bartholomew, the prior of which was generally present on such occasions. Many bones were carried away as relics. The spot should be marked by an appropriate monument.
Consternation was depicted on every countenance, and terror reigned in every heart. The last daring acts of the rebels had been to force the gates of the Tower, to cut off the heads of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the lord chancellor, and the lord treasurer, and even to pillage the royal apartments.
It was at this formidable crisis that the young king consented to an interview with the rebel chief at Smithfield. Tyler, having ordered his companions to keep in the background till he should give a preconcerted signal, presented himself fearlessly on horseback among the royal retinue, and entered familiarly into conversation with the king and his advisers. Among other privileges which he demanded for the lower orders, he insisted that all the warrens, streams, parks, and woods should be common to every one, and that the right of pursuing game should be equally free. More than once during the interview, he drew his dagger in a threatening attitude, insolently throwing it into the air, and then catching it in its descent. At length he went so far as to seize hold of the bridle of the king's horse, when Sir William Walworth, Lord Mayor of London, unable any longer to repress his indignation, felled the rebel to the ground with his sword, on which he was immediately despatched by the king's attendants. At that moment, but for the extraordinary presence of mind which Richard displayed on the occasion, the king and his attendants must in