The Tudor Society

Remembering Richard Whiting – Glastonbury Abbey

Glastonbury Abbey in Tudor times was a majestic powerhouse of monastic prayer nestled in ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. Second only to Rome, a place of unrivalled learning, the final resting place of King Arthur and considered by many to be the cradle of Christianity in these isles. Glastonbury Abbey was the spiritual heart of England and at the heart of the abbey was the Abbot.
glastonbury abbey

The last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey was Richard Whiting who was educated there before moving on to Cambridge to obtain his MA and doctors degree. He was ordained as a deacon and priest before returning to Glastonbury Abbey as Chamberlain. Richard Whiting was known as a good man, a thoughtful and kind brother who, following the death of Abbot Beere in 1525 when the monks were unable to decide amongst themselves, was selected as abbot by Cardinal Wolsey.

Under the devotional guidance of Abbot Whiting the abbey prospered and the local community thrived, disrupted only by the looming Dissolution of the Monasteries. When King Henry VIII’s men came to ‘investigate’ the abbey they found everything in good order ‘the brethren being so straight kept they can not offend’. Probably in a desperate attempt to save the abbey, Abbot Whiting and all 51 monks there signed a letter to the Pope distancing themselves from Rome. Believing the Abbey to be ‘safe’ daily life continued peacefully until…

The King’s men inevitably returned in 1539 to ransack the abbey and arrest the Abbot. By now an elderly gentleman in his 80’s, Abbot Whiting was taken to the Tower of London to be interrogated by Thomas Cromwell. Despite Cromwell being a meticulous record keeper no evidence of the interrogation or charges against him survives. Cromwell’s handwritten ‘remembrance’s’ merely state ‘the abbot of Glaston to be tried and executed there!’

Abbot Whiting was condemned to death. He was transported back to Wells where a mock trial found him guilty. We are unsure what of, as again, all evidence is lost to us.

Sadly we do know that on a cold and dark November day Abbot Whiting and 2 brothers, Roger James and John Thorne, were brutally murdered. They were fastened upon hurdles then dragged through the streets of Glastonbury to the Tor ~ a sacred hill that rises over the Somerset landscape ~ where they were hung, drawn, and quartered. The Great Church and Abbey of Glastonbury was reduced to the ruins you can still visit today.

Amanda Marshall is a mother of 3 and a grateful Glastonbury resident, who has been inspired to petition Her Majesty The Queen for a Royal Pardon for Abbot Whiting as part of Her Majesty’s Jubilee celebrations. You can see Amanda's petition here, and she would be thrilled if you were to sign it

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