Martyrs of Henry VIII: Repression, Defiance, Sacrifice
When Henry VIII passed through Canterbury in 1532, a young woman in her mid-twenties named Elizabeth Barton, widely revered as a visionary and prophetess, burst into his presence and warned him that he was ‘so abominable in the sight of God that he was not worthy to tread on hallowed ground’. Two years later, the self-same ‘Holy Maid of Kent’ would suffer a grisly fate at Tyburn and trigger a wave of bloody repression that consumed not only Sir Thomas More, but two other less widely-known individuals, whose exceptional sacrifices were, arguably, even more compelling. One was a combative cleric as renowned for his integrity as his intellect, prepared to sacrifice both life and country in defence of Queen Catherine of Aragon and the old religion; the other a courtier-turned-ascetic, plucked from the shelter of the cloister by a religious and political revolution, in which he had little stake beyond the dictates of his own conscience. For these three unique individuals of widely contrasting backgrounds, temperaments and motives, drawn together at a critical watershed in English history by a common cause and destiny, the path to Tyburn was a long and painful one, paved with fear, hardships, vilification and intrigue.
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