Anne of Bohemia and The Lollards

This paper opens a door that has been closed for so very long – that was first opened when I was looking at my genealogy! I promised my grandson, Tyler Hunt, a kingdom. Well, here it is – with knights! I suspect the Puritans rose from the Lollardy movement that lay the groundwork for the Reformation. The Wilson family suddenly found themselves with land and wealth and living at Windsor Castle. Then, they are the head of the Church of England, and alas, John Wilson is the leader of the Massetheuchets Bay Colony, and the co-founder of Harvard College – that may be the Lollardy dream come true in the New World!

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Anne’s bones were secretly removed from her coffin by a hole cut in the side. This suggests she was venerated. A DNA test should be conducted on the remaining bones. I doubt she died childless. Were some secreted away to Bohemia? Here is the tree of the Wilson-Schwarzenberg connection.

Lady Ada Antoinette Erasmus (1425-1460) » Genealogy Heynen Hanson Baumberger Bartling and more » Genealogy Online (

Are we looking at the roots of Bohemianism because there exist a culture/religion within a culture/religion, where intolerance is practiced, but, in a transitional way. Here are lessons for today. How easy it was for Trump to create a new orthodoxy that outlawed the opposition. There is my straddling of the fence and switching of sides. If my posts are repetitive, I am faced with the same dilemma. If I try to give both arguments at the same time, my posts may not be readable but to a few. I am also using my posts to store notes on a subject – as I go. I get to use my own search engine.

The question I already put forth, are the Knights Templar in the mix? This would explain a mixed toleration that leaves certain Lollard knights, be.

John Presco

President: Royal Rosamond Press

Copyright 2021

Sir Thomas VII “Talbot” Wilson, Earl of Cuper, Baron Wilson of Temple 1401-1475 – Ancestry®

Born in Ravenscraig Castle, Cupar, Fifeshire, Scotland on abt 1401. Sir Thomas VII “Talbot” Wilson, Earl of Cuper, Baron Wilson of Temple married Lady Elison Bull, Countess of Cuper, Baroness Wilson and had 3 children. He passed away on 1475 in Middle Temple, London, Middlesex, England.

Was Baron Wilson A Knights Templar? | Rosamond Press

Most intriguing is the relationship of the Archbishop of York with his Lollard brother: even though the king did not persecute him, it is extraordinary that the prelate Alexander also shut his eyes to his brother’s openly advertised heretical commitment. Another member of Richard’s associates, Sir William Beauchamp, in the high position of the captaincy of Calais, is also known to have owned a library of Lollard tracts and devotional pieces and he gave shelter to Oxford-educated Lollards in his estate of Kemerton, visited by Czech scholars looking for Latin copies of Wyclif’s works in the early 1400s. He was the head of King Richard’s chamber from 1378 to 1381. Another, Sir Lewis Clifford was appointed councillor in 1389 and retained his position until his death.”

Sir Lewis Clifford, Kt. is William Thomas Rosamond’s 13th great uncle’s great grandfather.

William Thomas Rosamond

Samuel Rosamond
his father

show 16 relatives 

Benjamin Rosamond
his father

James Rosamond
his father

Sarah Wilson Rosamond
his mother

Thomas Wilson
her father

Jane Lee
his mother

Sir Thomas Lee, 1st Baronet
her father

Elizabeth Ingoldsby
his mother

Mary Bennett
her mother

Sir Thomas Bennet, Lord Mayor of London
her father

Ann Bennet
his mother

Ann Molyns
her mother

Sir Alexander Culpeper, Kt.
her father

Sir John Culpepper, Kt., of Bayhall, Hardreshull & Bedgebury
his father

Margaret Culpeper
his sister

Alexander De Clifford, Esq
her husband

Lewis Clifford
his father

William de Clifford
his father

Sir Lewis Clifford, Kt.
his father

John Wilson
Also Known As:“Robert”
Birthplace:Cupar, Fife, Scotland
Death:1475 (50)
Cupar, Fife, Scotland (also known as Robert)
Immediate Family:Son of Thomas Wilson and Elizabeth Robinson
Husband of Antoinette Erasmus and Antoinette Erasmus
Father of Sir John Wilson, Kt., Burgess of Fife
Managed by:Dalest Wendy Bruce
Last Updated:December 19, 2018

Enter – The Clifford Dragon | Rosamond Press
Many Mansions Put Before Me | Rosamond Press

Most of these Lollards served in the innermost sanctum of the king’s chamber and received
large life annuities from the King. Sir Thomas Clifford was granted a total annuity of 500
marks per annum,
equivalent to a small baronial landed income. Others were retained for
life; some, like Stury, were very active councillors and formal/informal members of the
Royal Council. Several of the knights were employed in foreign embassies. Sir John
Cheyne, despite his affiliation to Lollardy, was elected Speaker in 1399, and despite the
fact that he was denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury as an established enemy of
the church,

Anne of Bohemia – Wikipedia

The coppersmiths’ contract stipulated that the effigies were to be made of gilded copper and latten and to lie under canopies. They were to be crowned, their right hands were to be joined, and they were to hold sceptres in their left hands.[20] Their joint tomb is now damaged, and the hands of the effigies are chipped off. The inscription on her tomb describes her as “beauteous in body and her face was gentle and pretty.” When her tomb was opened in 1871, it was discovered that many of her bones had been stolen via a hole in the side of the casket.[21]

Sir John Wilson and Rose of Bohemia | Rosamond Press

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The Crown and the Lollards in Later
Medieval England
Attila Bárány

Attila Bárány
Debreceni Egyetem142 Attila Bárány
Attila Bárány is Lecturer in History in the Department of History, Debrecen University,
Hungary, since 2000. He is also Lecturer in History in the Department of History,
University of Miskolc, Hungary, since 1995. He received his B.A. in History (1995) and
English Language and Literature (1996) from Debrecen University; his M.A. in Medieval
Studies (1995) from the Central European University, Budapest, and his PhD in History
from Debrecen University in 2001. He has been a Research Fellow in the Central European
University’s research project on “Nobility in Medieval and Early Modern Central Europe”; he
is a fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Arts and Sciences; he received the János Bolyai
Scholarship in 2002 and was named Eastern Scholar, Civic Education Project, Budapest in
1999-2001. His fields of research are Anglo-Hungarian and Anglo-Imperial/German relations in the Middle Ages, medieval Hungarian diplomacy, and military history.

This chapter will explore the issue of religious tolerance and
intolerance mainly during the reigns of Richard II (1377-99)
and Henry IV (1399-1413) of England.

Up to the 1970s, the established tradition of English historiography had been to underrate the importance of Lollardy in high places throughout the
reigns of Richard II and Henry IV. Due to the findings of Dr McFarlane, one of current
English historiography’s major arguments about Lollardy is that during the reign of Richard
II it was tolerated by the state and at the court, largely in the early years of the reign, most
probably by the man in charge of the government, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.
Several narrative sources underline that the heretics owed their popularity and success to
the protection of powerful members of the nobility namely Lancaster himself.
Until the first months of Henry V’s reign (1413-22) an influential group of Lollard knights
continued to exist, and notwithstanding a number of anti-heretical measures, they enjoyed
immunity, and were neither molested by the secular nor by the spiritual power. These
prominent supporters of Wyclif were a fairly discrete and closely knit group of men, an intimate association under the patronage of King Richard. The nucleus of the Lollards were
chamber knights and had been in royal household service for 20-30 years, being thus closely attached to the court for a long time. Almost all of them were career-soldiers, rising high
through royal promotion on the battlefield. Sir Richard Stury, for instance, had connections with the Prince of Wales, having spent long periods campaigning in France with him.
Much of their affiliation to Wycliffite doctrines is absolutely clear either on the grounds of
narrative or of documentary sources. Sir Richard Clanvowe, a household knight, was the
first layman to write a homily, a pious treatise on the life of virtue (The Two Ways) with
Lollard overtones, in English. Many of the wills of the household knights of Joan, Princess
of Wales and her son, King Richard, display Lollard sentiments. The most powerful of this
circle was Sir John Montagu, later earl of Salisbury, whose deep association with Lollardism
was not at all held against him by the King.

I do not intend here to discuss the practice of royal patronage under King Richard II, that
is, the way a group of regent-like advisors came to act on behalf of the king, who was of
easily influenced character: this was not a matter simply of royal favourites but rather of acareerist clique of ‘guardians’, a circle of very intimate associates who came to dominate
the government – most of them installed in earldoms and high positions (duketti). There
inevitably emerged a movement of discontent led by the traditional aristocracy (the ‘Lords
Appellant’). The movement against the ‘evil advisors’ succeeded: the principle magistri
were executed by the Merciless Parliament in 1388. However, the system of patronage was
rebuilt, and most of the close associates of Richard’s early years gained ground again in the

The Lollard-patron and heretic Montagu – also a celebrated poet at court – was able to stay
in royal favour for nearly two decades, despite the noncomformity of his observances. He
was one of the most influential men in the Königsnähe. He was granted the earldom of
Salisbury in 1397, at a time when his association to the Lollards was a known fact. He was
granted the lordship of Denbigh while the King was completely aware of his heretical connections and his protection towards the ‘officially’ persecuted Lollards.
Sir William Neville, a close associate of the Lollard chamber knights, was a member of
a family that rose high in Richard’s patronage: his brothers, Ralph Neville, elevated to
the earldom of Westmoreland, and Alexander, installed in the archbishopric of York,
were both the king’s friends. Most intriguing is the relationship of the Archbishop of
York with his Lollard brother: even though the king did not persecute him, it is extraordinary that the prelate Alexander also shut his eyes to his brother’s openly advertised
heretical commitment. Another member of Richard’s associates, Sir William
Beauchamp, in the high position of the captaincy of Calais, is also known to have owned
a library of Lollard tracts and devotional pieces and he gave shelter to Oxford-educated
Lollards in his estate of Kemerton, visited by Czech scholars looking for Latin copies of
Wyclif’s works in the early 1400s. He was the head of King Richard’s chamber from 1378
to 1381. Another, Sir Lewis Clifford was appointed councillor in 1389 and retained his
position until his death.

Most of these Lollards served in the innermost sanctum of the king’s chamber and received
large life annuities from the King. Sir Thomas Clifford was granted a total annuity of 500
marks per annum, equivalent to a small baronial landed income. Others were retained for
life; some, like Stury, were very active councillors and formal/informal members of the
Royal Council. Several of the knights were employed in foreign embassies. Sir John
Cheyne, despite his affiliation to Lollardy, was elected Speaker in 1399, and despite the
fact that he was denounced by the Archbishop of Canterbury as an established enemy of
the church, was not tried at all, but rather seems to have been more active in diplomatic
service under Henry IV than before 1399. Henry IV’s patronage system operated regardless
of religious observance. Besides, the knights were especially well rewarded with landed
estates: e.g. Clanvowe was granted Haverford castle; Stury obtained the custody of
Bamburg castle and was made keeper and surveyor of the lordship of Glamorgan; Clifford
was charged with the custody of Cardigan castle. The presence of this body of knights
already in the household of the Prince of Wales suggests that Richard may have grown to
manhood in a radical religious atmosphere. The Black Prince and his wife Princess Joan
held strongly anticlerical sympathies and had been touched by the anti-papal, moralising,
mysticising, deeply personalizing sentiments of the day; thus he tolerated his knights’
unorthodox ideas. The Prince presided over an assembly where Wyclif’s anti-papal arguThe Crown and the Lollards Tolerance, Intolerance and State Policy 143ments echoed. In 1378 Princess Joan sent a directive to the English bishops ordering them
to halt their proceedings against Wyclif.
The sympathies of the Duke of Lancaster, who had the young king under his influence in
governmental and also ecclesiastical matters, were very eclectic, but before 1381 he was an
overt protector of John Wyclif and was well known for his anticlericalism and his tolerant
attitude towards unorthodox religious opinions. As proved by the Fasciculi Zizaniorum, he
had warm relations with Wyclif’s followers. In 1381 when Wyclif appealed to the king
against the sentence of the chancellor of Oxford, Gaunt travelled there to defend him. A
leading Wycliffite, Philip Repingdon claimed that Gaunt favoured his master’s views. The
Wycliffite Nicholas Hereford travelled to see Gaunt himself to ask for his intervention
against the condemnation of Wyclif’s theses in 1382. The patronage of the intransigent
heretic hermit William Swinderby showed Gaunt’s commitment even more clearly.
However, in the following years there was a shift in Lancaster’s attitudes away from
Lollardy. Although in the 1370s Wyclif became the favourite anticlerical spokesman of the
whole government and his ideas were well suited to England’s anti-papal diplomacy, it
seems that Gaunt and other members of the court found justification in his pronouncements for their own anti-papal sentiments. Wyclif found employment and patronage in a
wide spectrum of people in the highest political quarters. He was also a protégé of the
King’s mother, the Princess of Wales. Most of the noble and knightly strata, disillusioned
with the papacy on political grounds and with the church on moral grounds, were susceptible to Wycliffism – but rather to a vague anticlerical sentiment than to the specific doctrines on the Eucharist, which might explain why they were tolerated in the 1390s and
1400s. In his later years the Duke of Lancaster vehemently rejected Wycliffite doctrines,
which, nevertheless, did not keep him from launching assaults on clerical wealth and pretensions. He took Wyclif’s strictures on the clergy as possessors of goods as a convenient
political weapon. Nonetheless, even after Gaunt changed sides, the apostles of heresy continued to enjoy protection in high places. Lollardy remained enormously popular among
the lesser nobility and the gentry: at the local level Lollard knights spread and defended
Wycliffism. Even in the 1390s, when the court was overtly waging war against heresy, it
could not make its policies felt at the local level.
Richard II, having grown up in a radical religious atmosphere, in the company of leading
Lollard heretics – the three main personages among the Lollard chamber knights (Stury,
Clanvowe and Clifford) were named executors of the Princess Mother’s will – must have
been sympathetic to these revolutionary issues. This might explain why the King, up to the
1390s, took no disciplinary action against the Lollard ‘knights of the crown’. Richard was
much more than merely lenient towards the prosecution of the Lollards; and he gave no
assistance to the ecclesiastical arm in its fight against heresy. Some English historians argue
that over and above the tolerant attitude in high circles Lollardy was actually a court-centred movement, with the King being deeply influenced by it at least in the 1380s. The
church was left alone in its anti-heretical efforts; the Crown was silent.
Even the church was not unanimous in striving to exterminate heresy: there were several
cases where leading clergymen, probably favourable to some of the Wycliffite theses, protected Lollards from prosecution. Not all of the clergymen, to say the least, and not at all
the lay authorities were to be expected to act as partners in heretic-hunting, sharing the
144 Attila Bárány uncompromising views of Archbishop Thomas Arundel of Canterbury. Some prelates were
absolutely indifferent, some were submissive towards heretics, or towards those critical,
anti-papal voices or evangelistic dreams that they themselves may have shared to some
extent. A number of the clergy saw no cause for alarm, and it was not until Sir John
Oldcastle’s rebellion that they became alienated. The hermit William Swinderby was supported by the Leicester Austin canons of St. Mary’s. Nicholas Hereford, having long been
excommunicated for contumacy, was hiding in Nottingham, Leicester and Derbyshire, in
the province of the Archbishop of York. Though he was arrested in Nottingham, through
the intervention of the Lollard constable of Nottingham, Sir William Neville and his
brother, Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York, he could freely move between
Nottingham and Shenley, the manor of another Lollard, Montagu. Montagu was famous
for his puritanical iconoclasm: he stripped the estate chapel of all Catholic insignia and
cleared out all orthodox images – as well as harbouring Lollard preachers.
Before 1388 only one legislative initiative was taken against heresy. In 1382, largely as a
response to the threat created by the Great Revolt, sheriffs were empowered to arrest
unorthodox preachers. However, their new authority was very rarely put into practice and
it was not until the Merciless Parliament of 1388 that anti-heretical policies were significantly tightened. The Crown’s orientation can at least be discussed. The reason for the
lenient and permissive policy toward Wycliffite ideas might be their strength amongst the
administrative personnel. Members of the county organization, justices of peace, jurors etc.
were greatly imbued with sympathies for anticlerical and moralistic ideas, a fact which
undoubtedly played a critical role in the spread and endurance of heresy.
The Merciless Parliament ordered that Wycliffite writings be seized and that those who
handled such material be imprisoned. The Lords Appellant aimed their complaints at the
heretical knights of the Chamber and ardently criticized the king and his sympathies
towards heretics as well as the failure of the state to fight vigorously enough against the
The Crown and the Lollards Tolerance, Intolerance and State Policy 145
Fig. 1
John Wyclif.enemies of the faith. Again, it was not the Crown that introduced uncompromising measures, it was only compelled to do so by the Appellants; the severer anti-heretical measures
were issued when the Appellants and Thomas Arundel, at that time bishop of Ely, had control of government. It was the king’s council, ruled at that time by the Appellants, before
which Lollard writings were to be examined; offenders were to be imprisoned at the king’s
pleasure, which, in the years following the crisis, meant according to the wishes of the
Appellants’ government.
The only Lollard courtier against whom action was taken personally by the Appellants was
Sir Thomas Latimer, a former member of the Princess of Wales’ entourage. There is no
direct evidence about King Richard’s personal religious observances; his sympathies for the
Lollard theses must have been based on his father’s mysticism and moral puritanism, rather
than on more radical issues. It is difficult to make a distinction in a number of cases
between the English exponents of the devotio moderna and the followers of anticlerical
movements; or between a moralistic-spiritualistic-evangelistic idealism and reformist
thinking, and an innate doctrinal and eucharistic Wycliffism. In addition, on ideological
grounds Wyclif’s ideas enhanced and enlarged royal authority over the clergy; thus they
encountered the sympathies of the Duke of Lancaster and perhaps of Richard himself, especially during the period of his ‘tyranny’. Richard was even admired by 16th-century
Protestant historians as an innocent youth “seduced by the … bloodthirsty popish
prelates”. John Foxe for instance tried to claim that Richard was a would-be supporter of
Wyclif and the Lollards, or at least that he was “no great disfavourer of the way and doctrine of Wickliff”. In this view, the bishops’ desire for blood, contrasted with royal lenity,
was responsible for the anti-heretical statutes. This is legend – a tolerant, Lollard-supporting young prince that the cruel Lancastrians failed to follow – which is far from reality, but
it is true that Richard himself was not of a fierce disposition towards the heretics, at least
in the 1380s. Richard was not by nature a blood-letter, he was not ill-disposed toward some
of the Wycliffite ideas which the Church wanted to exterminate ruthlessly. It is possible
that he was not convinced that these unorthodox ideas were seditious or heretical or that
they constituted a threat to the state and society.
However, a change in Richard’s attitude can be observed at the end of the 1380s, when he
became a vigorous and articulate defender of orthodoxy and, as did his uncle, John of
Gaunt, he seemed to abandon his interest in the Wycliffites. Nevertheless, though it might
be suggested that this concern ebbed away once a connection between Lollardy and social
unrest appeared to be a frightening possibility and the Crown was alarmed about the unsettling effects of Lollard preaching, it is also true that most of King Richard’s Lollard
favourites continued to be retained, keeping their positions and influence at court (Sir
Robert Whitney remained harbinger of the household, even though it must have come to
the king’s knowledge that he lent support to the humble Lollard missionary William
Swinderby). Also in the 1390s there were a great number of minor officials in the government who were suspected of Lollard sympathies, though only few were tried. Thus, we
might assume that the change of attitude did not touch the relationship of Richard with
the Lollard knights and even though the king was orthodox and conservative in public, at
least towards the outside world, religious matters did not affect his system of patronage. On
the grounds of Richard’s letters it seems that he turned totally against heresy in the 1390s:
146 Attila BárányThe Crown and the Lollards Tolerance, Intolerance and State Policy 147
he called for combating Lollardy, the maintenance of the orthodox faith and the destruction of damnable opinions. In one letter he urged the bishops to arrest all the Lollards and
other heretics, speaking with contempt of their ‘damnable errors repugnant to the Faith’.
No matter how intolerant his attitude towards the Lollards, the king continued to be tolerant towards the leading Lollard knights, all of whom retained their wealth and position
at the court (e.g. Sir Richard Stury remained royal councillor up to his death in 1395; and
Sir William Neville and Sir John Clanvowe regularly attended council sessions in the
1390s). As a zealous defender of the Catholic faith, the king more vigorously deployed the
secular arm against heresy in the 1390s. The University of Oxford was required to expel all
those who were found to be of heretical sympathies. Although Richard was vigilant against
heresy, when his friend Sir Richard Stury was openly charged with heresy, he was satisfied
when Stury had sworn an oath to abjure. Stury, however, could keep on using his influence
at court to protect heretics from prosecution and provide a shelter for them in his home
Even when the King and the court deliberately took radical action against heretics, great
quantities of vernacular Lollard writings, folk catechisms and theological handbooks which
spread seditious ideas continued to be published in a network of organized scriptoria, under
the protection of municipal councils or administrative officials. Until 1401 the Oxford
dons freely discussed translating the Bible, and vernacular versions were distributed without any restraint. Oldcastle, the riot-leading Lollard, had established a scriveners’ office at
least a decade before he was arrested, and one might wonder how he had been able to go
on producing anticlerical writings for years after the De heretico comburendo statute of 1401
was promulgated, without any authority knowing about it. This is hardly imaginable after
the radical declaration of Henry IV against heresy when he ascended the throne in 1399.
One is forced to ask how Oldcastle could have organized a secret network of heretical societies throughout the country without the government, busily searching for antiLancastrian coups-d’état, being aware of it.
In the 1410s too there was a well-organized underground of safe-houses and manors for
heretics, like that of Sir Thomas Latimer in Northamptonshire. In 1388-89 Latimer, using
his rights as the lord of a small market town, protected a famous Lollard preacher, John
Wodard of Knebworth, preventing the bishop of Lincoln from citing him to appear before
the court of the church. Latimer as landlord not only refused to hand the heretic over to
the bishop but also let him preach to the assemblage on market-days. When seven citations
from the church failed to produce any effect, the bishop invoked the lay power. The king
ordered the sheriff to arrest the preacher. We do not know the end of the story, but we suggest that Wodard may not have been sentenced and probably escaped under Latimer’s protection, without the royal power showing any serious intention of interfering. Even more
astonishing, when seen alongside the king’s outward attitude against heresy and commitment to orthodoxy, is the continued existence of heresy at Latimer’s manor of Braybrooke,
even after Richard’s reign had ended, throughout the first quarter of the 15th century.
The story reveals how little Lollard knights had to fear. Latimer’s responsibility was never
taken into account by the court. He felt so secure that he did not hesitate to bring an
action against the bishop’s summoner, but the Crown did not interfere. Latimer enjoyed
complete immunity. Even though he was summoned to the council to be examined for his148 Attila Bárány
possession of Lollard books, he formally submitted and promised to abjure his heretical
concepts. But in vain: a year later he was brave enough to fight the bishop of Lincoln.
Latimer was able to retain his Lollard church, served by a notorious Lollard rector, Robert
Hook. Braybrooke remained a centre of Lollardy during the reign of Henry IV too: the secular power did little to molest the rector. It was only in 1414 he was charged with heresy.
He formally abjured his false opinions, but even though he was charged again in 1425 with
having continued the practices he had abjured, he was unbelievably lucky to escape with
the penalty of reading a recantation. The notorious Lollard preacher John Purvey was not
disturbed and spent some twenty years from the early 1380s on spreading his master’s doctrines – although he recanted in 1401 – and was even offered a benefice.
There were towns where pious burgesses offered tacit security for Lollards (e.g. Leicester
and Northampton), and all this could not have happened without the court knowing
something about it. When royal favourites or associates was found to be of Lollard sympathies, the king was content if they formally submitted and renounced their heretical beliefs.
We do not know the king’s role in the parliament of 1397 when a petition was submitted
by the clergy asking for heresy to be made a capital offence and sentenced in all cases with
capital punishment, but it did not pass. The king postponed the decision.
Although measures were taken at Oxford as early as in 1382 and then in 1395 and 1407 to
extinguish and suppress Wyclif’s writings, enough still survived three years later to make a
bonfire. Thus, the efficiency and steadfastness of royal government in persecuting
Wycliffism must be questioned. The survival of heretical writings on so large a scale and
for such a long time might have been due to compliant and tolerant administrative personnel. About three hundred Wycliffite sermons survive up to the present day, and even in
the second half of the 15th century the heresiarch’s teachings were widely circulated.
The announcement of Henry IV’s anti-heretical policies and the passing of the De heretico
comburendo for the burning of heretics, however, did not mean that a vigorous war had
started against the enemies of the Faith. Henry promised the convocation of 1399 “to
destroy heresies, errors and heretics as far as he could”, and to fight “certain evil disposed
preachers, holding diverse … detestable … opinions repugnant to the canonical decisions
of the Holy Mother Church”. A few months later he issued a mandate that no chaplains,
except parochial ones in their own parish churches were to preach without episcopal
licence. One might feel, however, that Henry’s program of making reprisal against heretics
was primarily caused by his political concerns and lasted only until he was able to stabilize
his hold on the throne. In contrast to his declared enthusiasm for extirpating heresy, Henry
was reluctant to effect retaliation in practice: only two Lollards, William Sawtry and John
Badby, were burned. There was a change, nevertheless, respect to the 1380s-90s, when
only recidivous and obstinate heretics were sentenced, usually to imprisonment and forfeiture, though the change was slighter than one would have expected on the grounds of the
king’s declarations, which in this light seem most pragmatic. Badby’s and Sawtry’s public
execution, well-organized on the vast open place at Smithfield, was solely set up as a showcase. Theoretically England adopted the death penalty by fire at the stake, but it did little
in practice to expunge heresy from the land, since execution was not strict: it was used only
against those convicted heretics who refused to recant or who were caught twice. Many
were simply ‘forgotten’ after they had been caught the first time, even by local clergymen.The Crown and the Lollards Tolerance, Intolerance and State Policy 149
Many simply abjured since Lollards had a contempt for oaths in general, and it was acceptable for them to recant formally. It doubtful that many of the recantations were at all genuine. Nevertheless, while this was well-known to the government, no severer measures
taken: thus, a great number of heretics were able to escape capital punishment and simply
go on preaching. The clergy had no administrative means to detect and capture heretics.
The simplest way to escape capture was to go to a neighbouring diocese. This was also pretty well known in government circles, yet no action was taken to remedy the situation.
Those who preached without licence or spread unorthodox ideas were supposed to be
purged by the church and abjure; however, if captured by the sheriff, after paying a fine to
the King, they were free to leave, even before the canonical trial had begun. The flight
from the diocese was ignored at court. The king was only interested in Lollardy as far as he
could benefit from being able to have his political enemies stigmatised by it. Some historians argue that it was only because he needed legitimacy, manpower and money, being
unsteady on the throne, that Henry conceded capital punishment. The statute was something other than the altruistic response of a dutiful Christian king.
Even after the outburst of anti-heretical feelings in 1401, Lollard teachings were widely
preached and discussed. In the 1420s missionaries like William White or William of
Thaxted were left more or less undisturbed to spread Lollardy in the countryside. Several
of the centres and territories deeply infected with religious dissent (e.g. Leicestershire,
Derbyshire; Reading and Coventry) survived all persecutions until the Reformation. No
Lollard community, with the exception of, perhaps, Oxford, was extinguished completely
by the rigour of the law. One might argue whether the repressive measures taken were vigorous enough, or the whether the kings’ determination to expel Lollardy was firm.
Even leading Lollards like Sir John Cheyne were employed throughout the reign of
Henry IV. Sir John’s diplomatic skills were much more appreciated than his old commitment to heresy condemned. He was deployed in a number of embassies in the 1400s and
indeed it was not until 1431 that he was condemned as a heretic and finally executed,
despite the fact that during the Oldcastle rebellion he had harboured the Lollard preacher Thomas Drayton. Philip Repingdon, himself a devoted Lollard and follower of Wyclif,
having abjured Lollardy in 1382, was able to become an abbot in Leicester and then
Bishop of Lincoln from 1405 to 1420. There is no evidence that he was a harsh persecutor of Lollards, rather we are told of his gentleness. He granted permission to all theologists of Oxford to preach anywhere within his jurisdiction in Lincoln, regardless of any
affiliation with Wycliffism. On top of all that, his will is full of Lollard sentiments! There
were Lollards amongst Henry IV’s and Henry V’s servants: the Archbishop of Canterbury
also complained that Lancastrian courtiers turned their backs on the sacraments!
During Henry IV’s reign there was only one other statute dealing with Lollardy; it was
introduced in 1406 by the Prince of Wales, more perseverent in hunting heretics. It proposed that Lollards be arrested and tried in the next parliament, not in the diocesan canonical courts. The King, rather astonishingly, decreed that the bill be enforced only until the
next parliament. The measure was short-lived since a few months later it was not renewed.
It took three years, for instance, for the articles issued by Archbishop Arundel at Oxford
in 1407, restricting teaching at the university and limiting those who could teach doctrine,
to gain the King’s support, and for those who maintained false doctrines to be arrested withthe help of the Crown. The King’s compromising and submissive action here justifies a tolerant attitude towards Lollards had a considerable background support also at the court and
in parliament in the 1400s, too. The archbishop himself asserted that there was a strong
party of parliamentary knights who, if not all Lollards, were fiercely hostile to the church.
In fact, they disapproved of the bishops’ rigid interpretation of their duty to suppress heresy.
Moreover, Henry had to struggle with the Commons all through his reign. As a matter of
fact, the disendowment of certain ecclesiastical properties (e.g. alien priories) was understandably popular amongst the gentry, and the King needed the Commons’ support to
obtain a vote favourable to the royal seizure of the church’s temporalities for a year in 1404.
Even the chronicler noted that Wyclif’s preaching was “pleasing to the powerful and the
rich, namely the withholding of tithes and … the removal of temporalities from the clergy”. Some church lands had already been seized by the Crown and even notorious Lollards
like Sir John Cheyne could acquire extensive landed properties from the ‘alien priories’.
This cooperation between MPs and the Crown resulted in the King’s lenient behaviour to
heresy. On the grounds of the 1401 statute a great number of gentlemen and squires could
have been legally sentenced to death. In 1404 at the Worcester council, the King being
short of supplies, some knights and squires whose Lollard sympathies were apparent – and
yet were employed by the Crown for the Welsh campaign – suggested that they should take
the prelates’ horses and money and send them home on foot. A most intriguing example
of the gentry’s anticlerical and subversive ideas was aired at the parliament of 1410. In the
light of anti-heretical measures it seems astonishing that it was in any way possible to
obtain such a petition in parliament. A group of knights, clearly Lollards or at least enthusiastic sympathizers, outlined a plan for confiscating the bishops’ lands in order to provide
the king with a large extra sum for defence costs. It had no chance of success, but it is
strange that according to some sources the King prevaricated and deferred his decision for
a moment.
Despite the policy of repression expounded in high places, Lollardy still had substantial
support in the country up until the suppression of Oldcastle’s rising. Henry V’s ascension,
however, did bring about a real change in the Crown’s attitude. The new king presented
himself as a keen defender of the faith. When Oldcastle’s heresy was revealed, the king had
to face the fact that one of his friends, a most intimate member of his household, was leading a double life. Oldcastle was not a humble gentleman: as Lord Cobham he held substantial landed estates. He was Henry’s companion-in-arms. The presence of a heretic in
the princely retinue for more than a decade raises questions about the Prince’s own attitude
towards religious unorthodoxy. Henry V may well have shared some of the antagonism to
the clergy which was felt by many of the knights who served under him. How could the
Prince, known to have lived with his soldiers, not have learned anything about his closest
associate’s unorthodox ideas? The King might have had some knowledge of the matter
since he insisted that an innocent explanation for Oldcastle’s connection to Lollards was
possible. Some sources state that his Lollard opinions were well-known before, and he was
publicly regarded as the acknowledged leader of Lollardy in the early 15th century. It was
a known fact that Oldcastle’s castle at Cooling was a refuge for heretics. Even after
Oldcastle was condemned for heresy, Henry was still reluctant to disown him and ordered,
rather surprisingly, that 40 days should elapse before death penalty be exacted. Before the
40th day, the prisoner mysteriously escaped from the Tower. The revolt was suppressed, but
150 Attila BárányOldcastle eluded capture, and, unbelievably, a pardon was issued for him, which he
spurned. In the end, he was executed after retrial in 1417.
It is not true that from 1414 public executions started on a large scale, or that crowds of
heretics were burnt. Of the 70 who were tried only 45 were promptly executed, and only
seven were burnt as heretics, the others being found guilty of treason. Those who were condemned and sentenced to death, but not executed, were only detained for a year, then they
were handed over to the bishops to be purged of heresy. A good number of the participants
in the rebellion were able to leave freely after a few years’ time. The rising was shocking
and alarming for the Crown, but a certain level of tolerance was still observed. The statute
of Leicester in 1414 is a milestone not in the sense that heresy started to be suppressed persistently, but in the sense that the Crown became aware that it could gain prestige and
political capital if it were to assume the role of the defender of the Faith. This was a turning point from the point of view of the King’s pragmatic political concerns, rather than
with regard to ecclesiastical or theological issues. Henry was the ruler elected by God to
suppress the enemies of the Church. He was directed by God’s hand to erase heresies and
fortify Christian faith. No wonder the Lollards dubbed him the prince of priests (princeps
presbiterorum). Henry V was a master of royal propaganda, whose machinery was working
very well and by the mid-1420s there was no doubt that Lollardy was on a par with treason and felony. Lollards were considered equivalent to seditious traitors: Henry V was able
to make the public believe that heresy was a threat to the whole society and that all
Lollards wished to kill the prelates. This picture is best preserved in the extraordinarily
biased histories written by Protestant preachers in the 16th century, where Lancastrians are
depicted as bloodthirsty mass murderers, enjoying tortures and “shedding Christian blood
at their pleasure”.
Lollardy did not bring the Inquisition to England. Even notorious Lollards were able to survive the whole of Henry V’s reign. Clearly, Lollardy was not dead, even though convocation was busy hearing heresy cases after 1414, a wide network of cells, schools and secret
activists survived well into the 1430s and 1440s. However, Henry V’s reign marks the
beginning of a new age: the treatment of heretics became a political question. Lollardy was
to be subordinated to the King’s diplomatic schemes, to Henry’s search for European
grandeur. There were choices to be made: if Henry had decided not to punish his friend,
Oldcastle, he could not have stepped forward with the capital of being one of the most
ardent defenders of Catholicism and could not have played a decisive role at the Council
of Constance as a legitimate member of the European power system and maker of an ‘imperial’ policy. This might be the reason why Oldcastle’s condemnation started just after King
Henry negotiated with Sigismund, King of the Romans, and agreed on co-operation in
ecclesiastical matters at the Council that opened that year (1414). As Henry showed himself steadfast in his new policy against heresy, Sigismund could have found in him a new
ally in his efforts to unify the church. Both rulers were dreaming of the diminution of
French influence over the Church and in Europe. Sigismund’s future hope meant a restoration of Imperial supremacy in Christendom – a new front in the European power system
leaving the French out and creating an axis between Sigismund and Henry V, the newly
found athleta Christi, the champion of the crusade against heresy. In the summer of 1414
proposals for an alliance were brought from Sigismund to Henry. As the Lollards were supThe Crown and the Lollards Tolerance, Intolerance and State Policy 151pressed in an exemplary way, Sigismund, having been informed of Oldcastle’s revolt and
Henry’s uncompromising steadfastness, applied for England’s assistance in achieving the
unity of the church. Now England grew up to become an equal member on the European
political scene.
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152 Attila Bárány

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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