Saturday, April 20, 2013
April 20th in 1534, 1584, 1586, and 1602
On April 20, 1534, Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, was executed at Tyburn, London, along with monks and priests named as her co-conspirators.
In Father Philip Hughes' A Popular History of the Reformation, he provides an excellent chronological narrative of events, describing the influence of the Lutheran Reformation in England before Henry VIII's Break from Rome. He then traces the events leading up to the Break, the Reformation Parliament and "the deed of blood" that was a turning point:
The deed of blood was the condemnation by attainder (i.e., by an act of Parliament, without any trial) and the execution at Tyburn of "the Nun of Kent" and four priests condemned as her accomplices. "We now enter on a period which is happily unique in the annals of England, a period of terror. It lasts from [1534 to 1540]. --quoting H.A.L. Fisher's History of England from the Accession of Henry VII to the Death of Henry VIII (1918).
I was impressed by the quotation Father Hughes selected and the use of the term "period of terror" like the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. As Father Hughes goes on to comment by April 20, 1534 Sir Thomas More and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester are imprisoned--even though they escaped being included in the attainder because of their contact with Elizabeth Barton.
Blessed James Bell and Blessed John Finch were martyred in Lancaster on April 20, 1584:
When condemned and sentenced Blessed James Bell said to the Judge: "I beg your Lordship would add to the sentence that my lips and the tops of my fingers may be cut off, for having sworn and subscribed to the articles of heretics contrary both to my conscience and to God's Truth"--because he had conformed to the Church of England for a time. The priest was hung, drawn, and quartered, while the layman Finch was hung to death. They were both beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.
Blessed Richard Sargent and Blessed William Thomson both have a connection to St. Anne Line, and were both hung, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn in London on April 20, 1586--they are among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1987.
Blessed Thomas Tichborne, Blessed Robert Watkinson, and Blessed Francis Page (another connection to St. Anne Line, as he was the priest ready to celebrate Mass when pursuivants broke into the safe house Anne Line managed for Father John Gerard, SJ) were all executed at Tyburn on April 20, 1602. They also were beatified in 1987.
I don't know what overall significance we should ascribe to this coincidence that seven beatified martyrs and six attainted conspirators against the monarch's religious and marital policies all died on April 20 in four different years. The links among St. Anne Line, Blessed Francis Page, Blessed Richard Sargent, and Blessed William Thomson certainly make sense: the recusant Catholic community was small and connected through the underground system of safe houses, etc.