Today on 1555 Robert Samuel was executed. He was one of the famous Ipswich Martyrs, and John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs ensures his place in history. He was a minister of a parish church in Suffolk, and during the reign of Edward VI priests were allowed to marry. He got married, but then under Mary, priests had to return to celibacy. And so his wife went to live in Ipswich. Still, he was marked as a reformer, and he attracted attention for that. He was removed from his post, but still kept visiting the Protestant members of his flock and performing services for them privately. Spies were sent after him, and trapped him while visiting his wife in Ipswich. His wife’s house was surrounded, and he was dragged out and taken to jail in the middle of the night. There were other Protestants in jail with him, and Robert wrote letters to his flock urging them to keep their spirits up as he was.
Samuel transferred to Norwich, to the prison then within Norwich Castle, for inquisition by the Bishop Dr Hopton, who had 'reclaimed' several heretics. He was subjected to tortures of atrocious cruelty, being "chained bolt upright to a great post, in such sort, that standing only on tip-toe he was fain to stay up the whole poise or weight of his body thereby." At the same time he was fed only two or three mouthfuls of bread daily, and three spoonfuls of water.
Perhaps as a result of this starvation and torment, after two or three days, "he fell into a sleep as it were one-half in a slumber, at which time one clad all in white seemed to stand before him, who ministered comfort to him by these words, 'Samuel, Samuel! be of good cheer, and take a good heart unto thee, for after this day shalt thou never be either hungry or thirsty.' Which thing came to pass accordingly," for he felt neither hunger nor thirst again till he was led away to be burnt. He told his friends that he had received many other such comforts from Christ, but that he would not relate them from modesty. Angels ministered to him, and there was the form of some Other that lightened the gloom of the dungeon.
He related a dream to his friends, which later interpreted as prophetic. He seemed to see three separate ladders set up to heaven, one of them longer than the others, but all at length joining together, and becoming one. Robert Samuel died by burning at the stake as a judicial execution, in public in Ipswich on 31 August 1555
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.
Link: Check out the episode on Mary from Reformation Month.