Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Question from Kaity - Punishments for heretics and additional resources

I am completing a project for our major year 7 english grade
(70% ) called IRP (independent research project)- its based on historical fiction.

My question and area of research is based around Tudor Religion and Heresy and if the treatment of heretics was morally justified.
During the process I am gathering several different branches of information.
The main thing that I am focusing on at the moment is the punishments for heretics. I know mostly about burnings and hangings,executions but was wondering if there were any other forms of punishment and if anyone knew any information that is specifically relevant to my topic or think that could be of use!

Thanks so much!



Marilyn R said...


I’ve copied a piece from the web site of the National Archives at Kew. It is from their Learning Curve series and is called ‘Crime and Punishment: Heresy and Treason - Case Study 2 – were heresy and treason the same thing?’

"Heresy means holding a religious belief which the Church disagrees with;
Treason means trying to overthrow the government."

"During this period, religious unity was thought necessary to keep a country together. Religious tolerance was therefore out of the question. Furthermore, the religion of the country depended on the religious views of the monarch. Disagreement with the monarch's religion was inseparable from treason, and many paid the price as England in the 16th century went through a series of religious about-turns."

"When Elizabeth became queen in 1558 a new, Protestant, religious settlement was made. Elizabeth herself was unwilling to persecute people for their beliefs, and many Roman Catholics continued to worship freely for a while. However, by the 1580s relations between England and Roman Catholic Spain were moving towards open war. The Pope authorised Roman Catholics to rebel against Elizabeth. Her ministers, some of whom, such as Sir Francis Walsingham, were determined Protestants, became worried about the danger to the queen and the country. Roman Catholics were arrested and about 250 were executed, not for heresy, but for treason."

Looking at the last paragraph I think you might be allowed to include the treatment of Margaret Clitherow in your project, but check with your tutor or supervisor first. I briefly mentioned Margaret in my post on 19th September concerning butchers’ shops. You can find lots of information about her online but basically, in 1586 she was accused of having harboured a Roman Catholic priest in her home in York, was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be pressed to death. A sharp stone was placed in the small of her back, then a door placed across her body and loaded with stones. She was ‘lucky’ and died in about 15 minutes, but this was a terrible death that could drag out for a day or more. I believe it was a method of execution later used in witchcraft trials in America.

Hope this helps

Kaity said...

Thankyou so much!
This really does help!


Marilyn R said...

I have just looked at another reference and it seems that Margaret was pressed to death for refusing to plead - so pressing was not a punishment specifically for heresy/treason. I still think you could quote the case, but your tutor will be able to advise.