Turn or Burn



Queen Mary believed that heretics people who did not agree with her Catholic religion had to be burned.  The fire would be a punishment, but it would also burn away their sin.

Two of the Protestants who were burned were Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.  Latimer was a preacher who criticised rich people, as well as the Catholic religion.  Ridley was the Bishop of London.

John Foxe (1516-87) was a Protestant writer.  His Book of Martyrs (1563) described Mary's persecution of the Protestants in great detail.  It is a very biased source it strongly favours the Protestants and is very critical of Mary.



After you have studied this webpage, answer the question sheet by clicking on the 'Time to Work' icon at the top of the page.


The following websites will help you research further:


The Marian Martyrs:

A list of all 312 Marian martyrs

The death of Cranmer in Foxe's Book of Martyrs


A dense webpage about Foxe's Book of Martyrs


The historiographical debate about the burnings.

Eamonn Duffy argues that Mary was not a failure, but the beginning of the Catholic fight-back in Europe (VERY difficult).

Essay by Stephen Lee on people's reactions to the changes (starts at the bottom of the page)


1  The Death of Latimer and Ridley, 16 October 1555

This woodcut showing the death of Latimer and Ridley comes from Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563). 

In the woodcut, Latimer (left) is crying out: 'Father of heaven receive my soule', and Ridley: 'In manus tuas domine' (Latin, meaning: 'Into your hand O Lord').  Catholic preacher Dr Smith is quoting in Latin a passage of the Bible which says: 'if I give up my body to be burned, and have not love, I gain nothing'.  Lord Williams, promises Ridley 'I will remember your suit' (i.e. that he would look after various poor men, and Ridley's sister, as requested).  In the background, Archibshop Cranmer (who would himself be burned five months later).


2  The Death of Latimer and Ridley: a Protestant account

This is the account in John Foxe's Book of Martyrs (1563).

Then the smith took a chain of iron, and brought the same about both Dr. Ridley's and Master Latimer's middles.  Then Dr. Ridley's brother-in-law did bring him gunpowder in a bag, and would have tied the same about his neck.  Master Ridley asked what it was.  His brother said, 'Gunpowder.'  'Then,' said he, 'I take it to be sent of God; therefore I will use it and have you any,' said he, 'for my brother;' so his brother-in-law went and carried of the same unto Master Latimer...

 Then they brought a faggot, kindled with fire, and laid the same down at Dr. Ridley's feet.  To him Master Latimer spoke in this manner: 'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man.  We shall this day light such a candle in England, by God's grace, as I trust shall never be put out.'

And so the fire being given to them, when Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him he cried, 'Into Your hand, O Lord, I give my spirit'; Master Latimer crying as earnestly on the other side, 'O Father of heaven, receive my soul!'

Master Latimer received the flame as it were embracing it.  After he had stroked his face with his hands and, as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (so it appeareth) with very little pain or none...

But Master Ridley, by reason of the evil making of the fire unto him, because the wooden faggots were laid about the gorse, and over-high built, the fire burned first beneath, being kept down by the wood; which, when he felt, he desired them for Christ's sake to let the fire come unto him.  Which, when his brother-in-law heard, intending to rid him out of his pain, as one in sorrow not well-advised in what he did, heaped more faggots upon him, so that he clean covered him, which made the fire more vehement beneath, that it burned clean all his lower parts, before it once touched the upper.  Therefore he leapt up and down under the faggots, and often desired them to let the fire come unto him, saying, 'I cannot burn.'  Which indeed appeared true; for, after his legs were consumed, he showed one side to us clean, shirt and all untouched with flame.

Yet in all his torment he forgot not to call upon God still, having in his mouth, 'Lord have mercy upon me,' intermingling his cry, `Let the fire come to me, I cannot burn.' I n which pain he laboured until one of the standers-by with a bill-hook pulled off the faggots above, and where he saw the fire flame up, he pulled himself unto that side.

And when the flame touched the gunpowder, he was seen to stir no more.