Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blessed John Beche, The Last Abbot of Colchester

John Beche (alias Thomas Marshall) was executed for treason on December 1, 1539--the last abbot of Colchester's Benedictine abbey. He had previously been the abbot at St. Werburgh's abbey in Chester. In 1534, he took Henry VIII's Oath of Supremacy, but after the executions of the Carthusians, Thomas More, and John Fisher in 1535, he began to speak of them as martyrs of the Faith. His comments were reported to Henry VIII and when he refused to surrender the Abbey of St. John in Colchester, he was arrested and held in the Tower of London. John Beche was returned to Colchester to face charges of treason against Henry VIII's role as Supreme Head and Governour of the Church in England and found guilty. He was hung, drawn, and quartered in Colchester on December 1, 1539. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895

The Abbey of Colchester was dedicated to St. John the Baptist and was founded in the 11th century. This site has more detail about the questioning the abbot endured and his fate--and that of the abbey: 

The abbot was in the Tower of London on 20 November. (fn. 86) Soon afterwards he was sent down to Colchester to be tried by a commission (fn. 87) consisting of the earl of Essex, Sir Christopher Jenny, Sir Thomas Darcye, Sir Giles Capell, Sir John Seynclere and Sir William Pyrton; with a jury of sixteen to inquire and seventeen to try. In view of the evidence given above there can have been no possible doubt as to the result of the trial, but we only know that the abbot was found guilty and hanged (fn. 88) at Colchester on 1 December, 1539. Sir Christopher Jenny, writing(fn. 89) soon afterwards to Cromwell, says 'The prisoner after his judgment axed the kyngs highness, yr lordeshippes and my lord chauncellors forgiveness and knowlegid hymself in substaunce to be giltie accordynge to theffect of the indictmente and shewyd hym self to be very penytent, savynge he stoode somewhat in his own conceyte that the subpression of abbeys should not stonde with the lawes of God, and therby and by other circumstances I thought hym an evill man in myn own concyensand opinion yf ther had apperyd noo more but his own confesion.'

By this attainder the abbey and all its possessions came into the hands of the king. Pensions were, however, granted to the monks; John Fraunce receiving £6 13s. 4d., and William Ryppner £5 yearly in 1553. Sir Thomas Audeley endeavoured to get a grant of the site from the king, but failed; though he held it for a time at farm. On 20 August, 1546, it was leased (fn. 90) to Sir Thomas Darcy for twenty-six years, and the lease was afterwards sold by him to John Lucas. The reversion of the site was granted (fn. 91) on 22 June, 1547, to John Dudley, earl of Warwick, and later it came into the possession of John Lucas.

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