30th July 1540. Visionary or Imposter?
Thomas Abelle (Abel), a Catholic priest was imprisoned in The Tower of London in 1534 for concealing knowledge concerning the treason of Elizabeth Barton known as the Nun or Maid of Kent. (1)
Abelle was charged with disseminating propaganda about the prophesies of the Maid of Kent and as chaplain to Queen Catherine of Aragon [making her] ‘obstinately to persist in her wilful opinion against said divorce and separation’.
Whilst incarcerated in the Beauchamp Tower, Abelle inscribed a rebus on a wall consisting of a bell with an ‘A’ above it, after which for his sins he was to be executed by Hanging Drawing and Quartering Today in 1540 at Smithfield, London.
Elizabeth Barton noted for her sanctity, and so many related deaths at the time, must have been a formidable and influential ‘visionary’, in those supernatural times. Coming to the attention of Henry VIII in 1528 she managed to retain his favour as long as her prophesies were pleasing to his ear.
However her downfall was her stance against Henry’s Reformation and having the temerity in 1532 to prophesy that if he divorced Catherine, his days as king were numbered and ‘he would die a villain’s death’.
In 1533 Thomas Cromwell, the King’s Chief Minister, took steps against her and she along with Dr. Bocking her Confessor were examined by Archbishop Cranmer and dispatched to the Tower, condemned as impostor after being forced to make public penance at St.Paul’s, London and Canterbury when she supposedly confessed to deception and fraud.
She was condemned for treason by Act of Attainder (without trial) with 13 sympathisers and along with five supporters, included Bocking , Masters Rich and Risby was sentenced to death at Tyburn in 1534.(2)
Other supporters including John Fisher, late Bishop of Rochester, and five others were condemned to imprisonment and forfeiture of goods, though Fisher was eventually to be executed for opposing Henry’s supremacy of the church.
(1) Imprisoned on 24th February 1534. Abelle continued to support Catherine regarding the validity of her marriage to Henry and in 1532 his invicta veritas was: ‘An answere, that by no manner of law, it may be lawfull for the most noble King of England, King Henry the eight said divorce and separation to be divorced from the queens grace his lawfull and very wife’. (sic)
(2) On 20th April 1534.