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BURNED AT THE STAKE


 How many other people have a relative who was burned at the stake?  That is, unless it was a Salem witch of course.  Once while visiting in Oxford, England, I was interested to see the memorial to my ancestor, Bishop Nicholas Ridley,  one of the Oxford Martyrs who was burned at the stake in 1555.  The Martyrs Memorial is an imposing stone monument in Oxford at the end of St. Giles Street, commemorating three Anglican bishops who were burned at the stake under Queen Mary, or Bloody Mary as she was fondly called.

Bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer were tried for heresy and burned at the stake just outside city walls.  The execution was the result of King Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church.  Archbishop Cranmer had annulled Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon,  and then married him to Anne Boleyn instead.  Catherine had been Mary’s mother, so understandingly there was a bit of bad blood to begin with.  Of course Henry in turn, chopped Anne’s head off a bit later, so you never want to disagree too strongly with royalty.

The three Bishops went along with Henry when he left the Church and started his own Protestant version, but Mary stuck with the Catholics, and cleared out a great many people who disagreed with her.  An interesting fact, is  that a good high school friend of mine, who became one of the bridesmaids at my wedding, was descended from Archbishop Cranmer.  What a small world.

So much for my ancestor.  Another time we went to a small cemetery in Northern California to find the gravesite of my husband’s Great-Grandather, who had walked across the Isthmus of the Panama Canal before the water went in, on his way to California.  The clerk in the office told us someone else had inquired about this same gentleman a few days before, so she brought out the file and we were amused to find that the fact  he had shot and killed a man had been conveniently omitted from our family history.  Nothing like a rip-roaring Wild West story to liven up the geneology.  It seems that a field hand he had recently fired tracked Grandfather down in the local tavern and drew his knife to forcibly remind him he was still owed some salary.  So Grandfather drew his trusty sidearm and eliminated that problem.  Now Grandfather was a prominent citizen in the town, belonging to the right organizations, and holding public office, so true to “honest” old West law, Grandfather was exonerated, thus assuring there was no messy history to deal with.

Martyr’s Memorial

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7 comments on “BURNED AT THE STAKE

  1. Henry VIII’s politics is all to do with British sovereignty. For centuries it was the struggle with the Pope and there were always two factions. Think of the martyrdom of Beckett. The relation of the UK to the EU is really a continuation of the same story. Remember, too that Charles I lost his head for seeking to rule by divine right. The whole thing is a record of blood and sacrifice in the cause of freedom before the law. Not so different from the Wild West, when you come to think of it.

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