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Tudor Minute April 20, 1534: Elizabeth Barton’s Execution

Hey, this is Heather from the Renaissance English History Podcast, and this is your Tudor Minute for April 20.

Today in 1534 Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent, was executed by hanging at Tyburn, along with her spiritual advisors and supporters. Barton was a normal girl who was a servant. At easter time 1525, probably only a few weeks after having been hired, Elizabeth fell greatly ill. Her throat would swell so much so that she would need to struggle for breath, and it seemed as if she had, “suffered the pangs of death itself.” Everyone was afraid that the swelling would keep her from being able to breathe. Other times her illness seemed subdued. It seemed to come in waves. She was moved from the servants attic to one of the children’s rooms. The baby was also ill, so it was easier to nurse them together.

In November she was still very ill, and Thomas Cobb, her employer, had been paying for her even though she couldn’t work, and she must have been very afraid that her employment was going to end when the year was up, which was coming up soon. She was also probably very bored, having been sick for months, and she would start to mutter to herself when in delerium. Sometimes she would talk about the Seven Deadly Sins, the Ten Commandments, and other Biblical verses she had heard. People began to listen to her, and as soon as she was well enough, Cobb said that she should be able to sit at the dinner table with him and his wife.

Out of that, of course, came her famous visions about what would happen if Henry VIII left Catherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn. She became a political force, a rallying point for those against the marriage to Anne, meeting such luminaries as Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, and Thomas More, among others. After her prophecies were proven false (Henry did live after marrying Anne) charges were brought against her, and those who supported her.

That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.