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6th October 1536 – Remembering William Tyndale’s Execution

Posted By on October 6, 2011

On this day in history, 6th October 1536…

Traditional date given to the execution of reformer, scholar and Bible translator, William Tyndale. Tyndale, whose works include “The Obedience of a Christian Man” (a book Anne Boleyn shared with Henry VIII), had incurred the wrath of Henry VIII after the publication of his “The Practyse of Prelates”, in which he opposed Henry VIII’s planned annulment from Catherine of Aragon.

Henry VIII was determined to get the man he viewed as a traitor and heretic apprehended and in 1535 Tyndale was betrayed by an Englishman, Henry Philips, and arrested in Antwerp.
According to John Foxe, he was then taken to the “castle of Filford” (Vilvoorde), eighteen miles form Antwerp, and imprisoned there for a year and a half. Tyndale was then tried and “condemned by virtue of the emperor’s decree”. The exact date of his execution is not known but it is traditionally commemorated on the 6th October. Foxe writes of his execution:-

“He was tied to the stake, and then strangled first by the hangman, and afterwards consumed with fire in the town of Filford, A.D. 1536; crying thus at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” “

Foxe goes on to say of Tyndale:-

“Such was the power of the doctrine, and sincerity of life of this amiable man, and glorious martyr, that during his imprisonment, he converted the keeper, his daughter and others of his household. Also all that were conversant with him in the castle, acknowledged, that “if her were not a good Christian, they could not tell whom to trust.”… Suffice it to say, that he was one of those who by his works shone as a sun of light amidst a dark world, and gave evidence that he was a faithful servant of his master and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

RIP William Tyndale. Your work lives on today in the King James Bible, which drew on your earlier translations.

Notes and Sources

  • Book of Martyrs, John Foxe

8 thoughts on “6th October 1536 – Remembering William Tyndale’s Execution”

  1. silvija says:

    I dont get it. Why would Anne Boleyn be a fan of the man who opposed Henry’s annulment? And if Henry so loved his book ‘The obedience of a christian man’ and said it was a book for all kings to read, why was he still set on executing him for opposing his annulment?

    1. Claire says:

      Yes, Henry did say that about Tyndale’s book as it helped him justify his supremacy but we have to remember that Henry was still very much a Catholic and not a Reformist in any shape or form. His Church of England was simply the Catholic Church with Henry at the head of it. Tyndale wrote of how Kings were accountable to God and, therefore, not to the Pope, and that’s what Henry liked. Anne acquired her copy of Tyndale’s book around 1529 and shared marked passages with Henry some time after that. Tyndale wrote his book attacking Henry’s planned annulment in 1530, so probably after Henry had made that comment. Just because Henry liked one idea from it, doesn’t mean that he agreed with Tyndale’s other teachings and theology. Both Henry and Charles V were intent on stamping out heresy at this time and Tyndale was definitely a radical and a heretic, in their eyes.

  2. silvija says:

    O.K got it! Thanks for explaining. Now I want to ask a question that is rather silly, but I’ve thought about it a couple of times and I just have to ask you. Do you think if Kate Middleton had a slightly different nose she might look a lot like anne boleyn?

  3. David says:

    In the series, “The Tudors” was this the book that Anne gave to Henry asking him to read it. A later scene showed him reading the book saying, something like, “This is the book for me…?” Killing a man simply for his beliefs seemed so severe in those times…..why did Monarchs like Henry fear those in the church so much……?? And I agree with what Silvija said….why would Anne push this book at Henry knowing that it was against what the king was pushing….and further, why did Henry like the book so much….what was the turning point in his thinking that cost William his life…..Also, was it procedure to strangle the victim before lighting the fire….was this done in Cranmer’s case and others…..as awful as it is, it would have been more humane…..Hummmmm!!

    1. David says:

      After reading over your reply to Silvija some of my questions are answered….!! I just think it was dangerous to even have an opinion during King Henry VIII’s reign and I think it could go as deep as him lacking self confidence and that constant fear of loosing the throne which was always under attack from the beginning of British History….

    2. Claire says:

      Unfortunately it was not more humane as they were not hanged until they were dead, they were still alive when they were put on the stake to burn. Horrible.

  4. Anna Karin S says:

    maybe here in sweden we should be grateful that King gustav Vasa only made us protestant so he could take the church money. he did not bother much about teology so the reformation became less blody than in England

  5. Anne Barnhill says:

    Henry found ways to use what supported him and stamp out those who disagreed. Tyndale had the unfortunate position of doing both, I think. But I admire him for his English translation. I read in Wolf Hall (fiction, but it did make me wonder) that Francis and Henry feared not only people reading and interpreting the Bible for itself, but that the translators had added their own ideas to the Bible, slanting the meaning of the text. I had not read that before but it seems quite a reasonable fear at that time.

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