11 August 1534 – The end of the Friars Observant

Catherine of Aragon, the queen they supported
On this day in history, or shortly before, the Friars Observant (Observant Friars of Greenwich) were expelled from their monasteries due to their support of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, and their refusal to accept Henry VIII as the supreme head of the Church.

Some were sent to houses of the Grey Friars where, according to Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, “they were locked up in chains and treated worse than they could be in prison”. Others were imprisoned in London and a few fled abroad.

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2 thoughts on “11 August 1534 – The end of the Friars Observant”
  1. Henry saw these men as rebellious traitors yet now they are deemed as matyrs, Katherine and many of her supporters must have wept at the way in which they died, years later when she was not far from death she had a discussion with Chapyus that maybe she had taken the wrong decision to stand against Henry as perhaps a lot of bloodshed could have been avoided, was she thinking of these poor men who had so valiantly defended her marriage and their own beliefs?.

  2. The Observant Friars at Greenwich had meant a great deal in the early life and marriage of Henry Viii and Catherine of Aragon. Was it not here that they were married? What a terrible and sad sight it must have been to see these holy and educated men driven from their homes and calling, some arrested and starved in Newgate prison, some into poverty, some to a martyrs death, because of the pride of a King. Henry was starting on the road to being regarded as a Tyrant. O.K his laws said he was Head of the Church and only his marriage to Anne was lawfully valid, but he was aware that these were clever and well respected men who had studied texts which showed his position was not right. They couldn’t agree to a title the King claimed which for them was contrary to the rest of Christendom. Remember Thomas More would be tricked into the claim that Parliament is not qualified to make a secular King Head of the Church because it was against the theological beliefs of the Universal Church. These men wouldn’t be able to accept for similar reasons. They had also supported Katherine, who sadly took responsibility for their suffering because of her stand on the divorce. Yes, her going quietly may have prevented this, with hindsight, which is a wonderful thing as people say, but it may not. Henry needed money and his divorce and title was just an excuse to attack these friars. Katherine may have blamed herself, but Henry made these decisions and he didn’t need to ‘punish’ these religious houses quite as he did.

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