August 11 – Henry VIII’s awful treatment of friars

Aug11,2022 #Carthusian Monks

On this day in Tudor history, 11th August 1534, or shortly before, Henry VIII and his government expelled the friars observant from their religious houses.

The expulsion was due to the friars’ support of Catherine of Aragon, the king’s first wife, and their refusal to accept the king as supreme head of the Church in England.

These men were treated abominably by Henry VIII and his government and you can find out about their treatment and their fates in this video and transcript…


On this day in Tudor history, 11th August 1534, or shortly before, the friars observant were expelled from their religious houses due to their support of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, and their refusal to accept the king as supreme head of the Church in England.

In “The observant friars of Greenwich”, in A History of the County of Kent, which draws on contemporary accounts, it explains that the expelled friars were distributed in different places, generally in houses of the Grey Friars, where, wrote Chapuys to Charles V, ‘they were locked up in chains and treated worse than they could be in prison.’ It goes on to say that some, including Friar John Forest, who had acted as confessor to Catherine of Aragon and who “organized the opposition to the king in the provincial chapter”, were imprisoned in London. Some also managed to flee into exile abroad.

Those who remained in England were treated abominably, and we know from a record in Letters and Papers of Henry VIII’s reign that out of the one hundred and forty friars who were expelled in August 1534, at least thirty-one died soon after.

Thomas BOW-chuh, a friar in Mary I’s reign, wrote of further deaths. He mentioned Anthony Brockby, who was strangled with his own cord after being imprisoned and tortured so badly that “for twenty-five days he could not turn in bed or lift his hands to his mouth”; Thomas Cortt, who died in Newgate prison and Thomas Belchiam, who died of starvation in the same prison.

As I mentioned, Catherine of Aragon’s former confessor, John Forest, was imprisoned. He was said to have been sixty-fours years of age at this time, and had apparently spent 43 of those years in the religious life. “The observant friars of Greenwich” account gives details of what happened to him following his imprisonment:
“At the Grey Friars he enjoyed considerable liberty; from well-wishers he received small sums of money for fuel and other necessaries, and was allowed to celebrate mass and hear confessions. Suspicion arising, Forest was cast into Newgate, and in examination admitted that he induced men in confession ‘to hold and stick to the old fashion of belief.’ On 22 May, 1538, he was roasted alive as a traitor and heretic.”

You might remember that I talked about John Forest’s martyrdom in my “on this day” video for 22nd May, so I’ll give you a link to that.
By the way, Catherine of Aragon left instructions for her remains to “be buried in a convent of Observant Friars”, but the dissolution of the monasteries meant that by the time of her death in January 1536 there were no monasteries of Observant Friars left. She ended up being buried in Peterborough Abbey, now Peterborough Cathedral.

Of course, the Observant Friars were not the only order to suffer Henry VIII’s wrath, you might remember by videos on the Carthusian monks of London Charterhouse. I’ll give you links to those too.

May 22 – Blessed John Forest and a prophecy fulfilled –
May 11 -Two Carthusian Monks –
June 19 – More Carthusian monks meet their sad ends –

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One thought on “August 11 – Henry VIII’s awful treatment of friars”
  1. Henry’s treatment of the Observant Friars and the Carthusian monks really sealed his reputation as a tyrant at home and abroad, their punishment was really their devotion to his forsaken queen but the act of supremacy also made it treason not to accept him as such, John Forest once Katherines confessor undoubtedly had the most terrible ending of all, was it not simply enough that he had their homes sacked so they were forced to wander in the wilderness? No this King also had to make them suffer both mental and physical torture, many escaped abroad most fortunate for them and those who did not were destined to earthly doom, even Katherine of Aragon could not have her desired resting place, and Henry V111’s own sister the Princess Mary’s was destroyed in the dissolution and her body was therefore moved to the Abbey at St Edmunds in Suffolk, many beautiful religious houses were sacked and left to crumble into ruins, many of them lie dotted over England, just empty shells of their former glory, they represent the martyrdom of all the hundreds of Catholic monks and friars who perished during King Henry V111’s reign, may they knew eternal glory when they left their earthly torment behind and passed from this world to the next, Amen may you all be at peace.

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