22 December 1534 – Bishop John Fisher’s letter to Cromwell


John_Fisher,_Bishop_of_Rochester_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerOn the 22nd December 1534, an imprisoned John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, wrote to Thomas Cromwell beseeching him to provide him with a shirt and sheet (neither of which he had), some food, some books “to stir his devotion more effectually” and a priest to hear his confession. He also asked Cromwell to intercede with the King and to “move” him to release Fisher. Fisher had been imprisoned for denying the King’s supremacy.

Here is the record of his letter from Letters and Papers:

“John [Fisher] Bishop of Rochester to [Cromwell].

Does not wish to displease the King. When last before him and the other commissioners he swore to the part concerning the succession for the reason he then gave, but refused to swear to some other parts, because his conscience would not allow him to do so. “I beseech you to be good master unto me in my necessity, for I have neither shirt nor sheet nor yet other clothes that are necessary for me to wear, but that be ragged and rent too shamefully. Notwithstanding, I might easily suffer that if they would keep my body warm. But my diet also God knows how slender it is at many times. And now in mine age my stomach may not away but with a few kind of meats, which if I want I decay forthwith, and fall into coughs and diseases of my body, and cannot keep myself in health.” His brother provides for him out of his own purse, to his great hindrance. Beseeches him to pity him, and move the King to take him into favor and release him from this cold and painful imprisonment. Desires to have a priest within the Tower to hear his confession “against this holy time;” and some books to stir his devotion more effectually. Wishes him a merry Christmas. At the Tower, 22 Dec.”

Bishop Fisher was executed on 22nd June 1535, over a year after he had been arrested and taken to the Tower. Although he had been condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, the King, in his ‘mercy’, commuted his sentence to beheading.

Notes and Sources

  • Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 7, 1534: 1563.

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