19 June 1535 – The Executions of Three Carthusian Monks

Posted By on June 19, 2013

Carthusian martyrsOn 19th June 1535, Sebastian Newdigate, William Exmew and Humphrey Middlemore, three Carthusian monks from the London Charterhouse, were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church.

Chronicler and Windsor Herald Charles Wriothesley recorded their executions in his chronicle:

“The 19th day of June, beinge Saterday, the 3 muncks of the Charterhowsse, afore written, were drawne from the Tower to Tyborne, and there were executed accordinge to their judgment, and their heades and bodies hanged at diverse gates aboute the Cittie.”1

They had been found guilty of high treason when they appeared in front of the King’s Bench at Westminster of 11th June 1535 and condemned to death. They were not the only Carthusian monks to suffer in this way; between May 1535 and August 1540 eighteen Carthusian monks were put to death for the same crime. Letters and Papers has the following record of their deaths:

“In 1535 eighteen of the Charterhouse were condemned for defending the liberty of the Church. Seven of them, viz., John Houghton, Robt. Lawrence, Austen Webster, Humfrey Middellmore, Wm. Exmeu, Sebastian Newdegate, and Wm. Horne, were drawn on hurdles through the city of London to the open place of execution, and there hanged, quartered, &c. Three of them, Humfrey, William, and Sebastian, had stood in prison upright, chained from their necks to their arms, and their legs fettered with locks and chains for 13 days. Their quarters were hanged on the gates and walls of the city and on the gate of the Charterhouse. Two of the eighteen, John Rochester and James Walwercke, remained hanging. The other nine died in prison with stink and miserably smothered, “the which were these that follow.”…”2

All eighteen Carthusian monks have been recognised by the Catholic Church as martyrs.

Back in May, I visited La Cartuja in Granada, Spain, the Carthusian monastery which has a series of paintings by Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán of the various persecutions of the Carthusian order. In this series, there are a number of paintings of the London Charterhouse monks – Sánchez Cotán depicts the monks being brought before Cromwell, some of the monks being imprisoned and chained in an upright position and others being hanged, drawn and quartered. Here is a slideshow of those paintings:

[slideshow id=533 w=400 h=400]

You can read more about the Carthusian monks in a previous article I wrote on the subject – click here.

Notes and Sources

  1. Wriothesley, Charles. A Chronicle of England during the reigns of the Tudors, from A.D. 1485 to 1559, Volume I, p29
  2. LP viii. 895

12 thoughts on “19 June 1535 – The Executions of Three Carthusian Monks”

  1. Ann Russell says:

    I remember seeing a picture of the martyrdom of the Carthusians when I was in Europe during a summer break from university. It must have been in Spain, but we didn’t go to Grenada. We were in Madrid and Toledo. We went to the Prado and to the Escorial, and saw some Goyas in Toledo. I remember being surprised by the picture because I had always looked at the period from the English perspective, and, at that time, never really thought of them as martyrs.

  2. BanditQueen says:

    Blessed be God forever for the courage of the holy martyrs of Christ: the brothers of the Charterhosue and the religious orders.

    It goes to show how well educated these men where when one was a member of the Privy Council and how clearly they could see through Henry’s need to be Supreme Head of the English Church. It was obviously just so as he could marry Anne Boleyn and divorce himself from Katherine of Aragon. And the title played to Henry’s growin ego. It was recognise all of the Kings titles and speak or write nothing against them or pay the consequences. It was not accepted just to recognise the succession as the King’s business.

    It also shows that Henry was starting to show some of the tyranical cruelty that quickened after the fall from his horse in 1536. Men that take over protective measures to protect their inheritance and those of their family as well as their control over those around them, often go too far.. This was part of the thinking in the Act of Supremacy and Henry was to brook no opposition to it. It is interesting, however, that with those closest to him that opposed him that he went further and attempted to do all in his power to personally persuade them to change their mind. What faith they had to hold out and give their lives as holy martyrs.

    I have seen a representation on the wall of the martyrdom of the friars on the wall in a hotel that I stayed at in Italy. Watching that every night for 14 nights imprinted the scenes of their martytdoms and sufferings onto my mind and soul. I will never forget it. Some parts of the painting are like the one that you showed above, and others have even more detail.

    Blessed be the martyrs: their blood is the seed of the Church. Amen

  3. M'Lady says:

    Hi Claire,
    Just want to see if I understand this right. Hung is your hung, drawn is dragged through the streets from a horse, and quartered is when you are then cut up? Do I have this right? And where did your body parts go, besides the head. Are you hung til your dead? Or are you dimly aware of what’s going on? This is a gruesome punishment isn’t it? So many innocent people, dying for only what they believed in. People back then must have had such a strong trust and belief in God.

    1. Dawn 1st says:

      Hi M’lady,
      I’m afraid it wasn’t as quick a death as that, it was as gruesome as you could get;

      The convicted person/s were dragged to the place of execution, then hung until nearly dead cut down when they were still conscious (drawn), then they would be then emasculated (castrated), and/or disembowel, (cut open and have their bowel/abdominal area organs removed), and burnt or boiled in front of their face, they were still alive at this point, the executioners were very skilful in making them feel the full punishment, finally this terrible ordeal was brought to an end for them with being beheaded. The executioner then proceeded to cut the body into 4 pieces which were put on display in various destinations….

      Apparently this form of execution developed in the mid 1300s, heavens knows who came up with such an imaginable, torturous form of execution, but who ever they were they must have had the mind of the worst of any serial killer….

      Hope I haven’t put you off your food… 🙂

      1. Dawn 1st says:

        YIKES…sorry typo, should of read ‘unimaginable’ not imaginable, sounds like I was giving them praise for being clever, and that I certainly wasn’t doing….

  4. Kaz says:

    So Anne Boleyn would have known about all of these unjust deaths happening because of an issue between God and Henry????? If I was Anne and knew my husband was killing people because they loved God, I’d bolt as fast as I could – I would be questioning why he wrote in my Book of Hours and wanted to be illuminated with Tyndale’s texts etc – they are not excuses to be a killer tyrant!!! Twisting everything to suit him and not God….disgusting.

    The comments above are beautiful, I agree 🙂

  5. Mary Heneghan says:

    Killing in the name of the Lord has always been with us, and still is. We only have to look around at this moment to see that it still continues. I suppose it is because religion is so often tied up with politics and nationality and the fact that God is claimed by one side to the exclusion of the other. These monks were, indeed, martyrs and died for their faith. On the other side there was Anne Askew who was killed as a heretic because she worshipped God in a different way – all of them good, God-fearing people. It will never make sense to me.

    1. Dawn 1st says:

      It’s so true what you say Mary H., ‘God is on our side’. not theirs…

      It is the negative side of some human beings that can take something that gives so much spiritual support, comfort and contentment to millions of people, and turn it into something greedy, bloody, destructive and all controlling, what ever the religious belief is. Religions are manipulated truly out of context by those few with their own agenda, at the sacrifice of many. Some things never change, and I doubt they ever will.

  6. Holly says:

    You should be burnt for treason

      1. Ann Russell says:

        The official punishment for treason was hanging, drawing and quartering. Unless, of course, your body was too noble for such rude treatment when you could be beheaded. Burning was for heretics; and I think women were burnt for some causes; I think there was some discussion of whether Anne Boleyn should be burnt. In Elizabeth’s reign, all the Catholics were hanged, etc. because they were executed for treason, since the Pope in his Bull Regnans in Excelsis, said that Catholics should not support her. I’m a little fuzzy right now, just got back from a 16 hour overnight train trip. But, I came home to my nice, new Anne Boleyn hoodie. Wearing it now. All my Anglophile friends will be so jealous!

  7. Ana Gomez says:

    I do think this is a terrible stain on the Tudor King Henry the Viii – ir is amazingly awful and violent and cruel –

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