The Tudor Society
  • 22 June – The Execution of Bishop Fisher

    On 22nd June 1535, in the reign of King Henry VIII, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was executed.

    Why was Fisher executed and how did the pope try to save him?

    Find out in this #TudorHistoryShorts video...

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  • John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1469-1535)

    John Fisher was born in the town of Beverley in North Yorkshire and was the son of Robert Fisher who was a mercer of Beverley and his wife, Agnes. Although not a lot is known about the childhood of John Fisher, we do know that when John was eight years old, his father died and his mother married a man named William White. During his mother’s marriage to William White, she had five more children, and John appeared to maintain a close relationship with all of his siblings. It is believed that John was educated in the school attached to the church in Beverley, but we do not know for certain.

    Regardless of where he spent his early education, we know that in the 1480s Fisher went to the University of Cambridge where he graduated from his BA in 1488 and his MA in 1491. Fisher also became a fellow of Michaelhouse during his time at Cambridge and was ordained as a priest in 1491 in York, receiving papal dispensation for this as he was under the canonical age at the time. (Fisher also became the Vicar of Northallerton in North Yorkshire.

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  • 20 May – A cardinal’s hat for a headless man

    On this day in Tudor history, 20th May 1535, Pope Paul III made John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Cardinal-Priest of San Vitale, and arranged to have his cardinal’s hat sent to him.

    The pope hoped that this would save Fisher, who was imprisoned at the time, from further punishment, but it made the king even more determined to behead Bishop Fisher. Oh dear!

    Find out more about what happened in today’s talk.

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  • 22 December – Bishop Fisher begs for a shirt

    On this day in Tudor history, 22nd December 1534, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, who was a prisoner in the Tower of London, wrote to Thomas Cromwell.

    In his letter to Cromwell, the poor bishop begged him for a shirt, sheet, food and books, as well as asking him to intercede with King Henry VIII on his behalf.

    It is so sad that a man who had served the king so loyally in the past had come to this, and, of course, the king’s mercy would only stretch to commuting his method of execution to beheading.

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  • 12 May – Martin Luther’s books are burned in London

    On this day in Tudor history, 12th May 1521, reformer Martin Luther was proclaimed a heretic by Bishop John Fisher and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey at St Paul’s in London, and his works were burned.

    Hear a contemporary account of what happened on this day in 1521 in today’s video:

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  • 7 May – John Fisher is tricked

    On this day in Tudor history, 7th May 1535, after a year of imprisonment in awful conditions at the Tower of London, John Fisher, former Bishop of Rochester, was visited at the Tower of London and tricked into saying something that would lead to his brutal end.

    I explain what led to Fisher’s imprisonment, what happened on this day in 1535 and what happened next.

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  • 21 April 1509 – The Death of Henry VII

    At around 11 o’clock on the night of 21st April 1509, King Henry VII died at Richmond Palace. It was not a sudden death, the king had been ill for some time and had shut himself away at Richmond since January.

    John Fisher, the future Bishop of Rochester, recorded details of Henry VII’s last days for a sermon. The king died a good Christian death but his last days were far from peaceful, they involved confession, prayer, weeping and a dying man trying to bargain with God, pleading with God that he would be a changed man if God sent him life.

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