Burial of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester

Bishop GardinerOn this day in history, 28th February 1556, Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor of England, was buried in a chantry tomb at Winchester Cathedral.

Gardiner had been taken ill at the end of October 1555 with what is thought to have been jaundice and dropsy, and he died on 12th November 1555. His bowels were removed and buried in St Mary Overy, Southwark, London, and a requiem mass was sung by Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, on 14th November. A chantry chapel was built for him in 1556 in the south presbytery aisle of Winchester Cathedral and daily masses would have been said for his soul. His chantry chapel can still be seen by visitors to the cathedral today.

You can read more about Gardiner in my article Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.

Pictures: Portrait of Stephen Gardiner, Corpus Christi College, Oxford; Photo: “Bishop Gardiner barred from getting out and about at Winchester Cathedral” cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Basher Eyre – geograph.org.uk/p/1163913.

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10 thoughts on “Burial of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester”
  1. Very interesting image. I have never seen this. Though Bishop Gardiner is certainly not one of my favorite people I do feel bad for him that after so many years of loyal service to Henry he was not mentioned in the King’s will. I understand the reason why but…

  2. Something that bugs about him is when he was trying to gather evidence against Elizabeth to implicate her in Wyatt’s Rebellion it seemed more like a personal vendetta to him than to protect Queen Mary or the state. Unfortunately there are still law enforcement officials all over the world that still act like this today

  3. I have never warmed to Stephen Gardiner, as he has always been portrayed as a cold blooded person who tried to bring Catherine Parr to the block and who was involved in the awful racking of Anne Askew but this is only what iv read in Jean Plaidys ‘ The Sixth Wife’, so please someone correct me if its not true, however I did read lately that he did turn the rack himself as Askew refused to involve the queen and others in the charges of heresy to which she was accused, however in ‘The Tudors’ he was also shown as the arch villian who castigated one of Askews friends for going to her execution and throwing gunpowder onto the stake, thus making her end much quicker, no woman had ever been racked in England and it was something I think even Henry V111 was appalled by on hearing the news, the queen and king were together in the gardens when Gardiner and an armed guard arrived to arrest the queen, Henry was furious and started hitting Gardiner called him a knave and was It Wroithesley too? However Gardiner must have been furious that his plot had failed and soon scurried away with his tail between his legs, all his hard work had been for nothing, Catherine was on good terms with her husband and though he had Anne Askew under lock and key he wanted the queen in the Tower to, it seems that Henrys failure to include him in the governing of the realm after his death meant that he mistrusted him, however his daughter queen Mary did not and he was to prove to her a valuable servant, his long career was quite successful and he was one of the lucky ones that died in his bed.

    1. If I remember correctly Richard Rich also turned the rack on Anne Askew though this was against protocol. From what I’ve read he even enjoyed it. Sick man

  4. You either love or hate Stephen Gardiner because of his reputation and connections to the case against Katherine Parr. Like Thomas Cromwell he was a man who simply did the job in front of him. He had a hand in the arrest of Anne Askew, who had been in trouble before for heresy charges and who was a radical reform supporter and had even climbed into a pulpit to preach. He had gathered up a number of people after a heretical plot involving the Kings musicians and choir, later known as the Windsor Heretics because they were all connected to the Royal Household, then he had extended his search for members of the Queens Household and several of her ladies were questioned. Katherine Parr was a nightmare when it came to having a preaching wife at home and being in pain. Her sowing circles were covert Evangelical meetings and many leading figures supported reform, including Anne Seymour, Lady Suffolk and Lady Sussex and even Mary Howard. The men came to search for radical books and the entire staff were questioned but nothing found and most people were in fact released. It was all very distressing but it was also aimed at the Queen. One of the reasons the unusual step of giving an order to torture Anne Askew as mostly it was not used in such cases, no matter what the television shows, because it’s aim was to find out who else was involved, not merely as a means to an end, was that she knew who was in favour of radical reform and who was not. She was allowed to be questioned and given the ‘milder’ tortures if she didn’t talk. There was no official order to rack her. This was beyond the scope of the interrogation and Gardiner had nothing to do with the horrors which followed. Whether either Rich or Writhosley did actually turn the rack themselves is a controversial subject but here it is in an account by Bale who insisted it was her own testimony. It is, however, problematic, but there is no doubt this poor woman was racked and more than once because of the nature of the damage done to her physically. Her bones were shattered and she had to be carried to the fires in a chair. Also nobody denied it and it was a very distressing case ever since. The majority of the people arrested were either let go for lack of evidence or recanted or had milder punishment. Only a few were executed. The case that started it all, the six musicians, ended with two or three being released and it came to light that they had been denounced on false evidence. Perjury could be punished with the same punishment as the person accused. The accusers were lucky. They got away with a fine and a flogging in public. Poor Anne had a terrible death with her colleagues.

    Stephen Gardiner had a long and colourful career and has inherited some interesting rumours about him. He was once apparently, according to a couple of websites, thought to have been the illegitimate grandson of Jasper Tudor. That’s right, I haven’t been at the whisky just yet, I did say Jasper Tudor, via his illegitimate daughter Helen. Recently this has been shown to be incorrect. He was also a lawyer and he gained his degree and early practice in Paris, leading according to an earlier comment that he had a mistress and six kids. I haven’t seen anything to either contradict that or confirm it but he obviously wasn’t the only young lawyer with a shady past. Thomas Cromwell was a soldier of fortune and a petty criminal and possibly he had at least one illegitimate child. Thomas Wolsey had an open secret mistress, in that everyone knew about her, he lived with her, had two kids by her, educated and supported both of them and he hid her when visitors arrived. Gardiner is known to have enjoyed the fruits of his office as a Bishop and as a member of the Council and later Chancellor, because during the time of Henry Viii, the King visited him often as he kept a good table.

    Gardiner had been one of the lawyers who supported the divorce and took the King’s case to Rome. He also took the Oath of Supremacy but a family member, his nephew, Germaine Gardiner was accused of treason for not respecting the Oath and he was also involved, as was Stephen G in a plot against Thomas Cranmer and possibly the King. It was a wide spread conspiracy if it was true with some 200 priests and 60 lay people arrested. Obviously most were not implicated fully, but his nephew was and the axe also fell back on Stephen G, who cleared himself by going to the King and confessing his once wayward views. His nephew was martyred soon afterwards.

    Gardiner’s acts against Queen Katherine are particularly baffling because he had once been on good terms with her. However, his role had become more isolated and he was being pushed out by the supporters of Thomas Cramner and the reformation party. As the King became far more traditional again in his marriage, with the introduction of the Six Acts under which many new practices were outlawed, his relationship with the Queen cooled. Katherine, who liked to debate with Henry, who appeared to enjoy their theological talks, went too far one night and over ruled the King on a subject to do with translations in the presence of several others. Henry felt a bit put out, but it was others, the Bishop of Winchester included, who suggested that the Queen may not have acceptable religious views. Katherine was investigated and a warrant issued for her arrest. However, she got wind of this and saw the warrant. She took herself off to the King and told him that she was a foolish woman who had only women’s opinions and that she had only spoken because she believed Henry enjoyed their talks and in order to learn from his great wisdom. Flattery will get you everything and Henry forgave his wife. The next day, the poor chap who brought the guards to arrest Katherine got a flea in his ear and a right old telling off.

    After the death of King Henry Gardiner’s role continued to be controversial. Up to 1549 he conformed and was on good terms with the moderate reform party. However, he was himself arrested and spent time in the Tower. While as with others he was one of a number of top Bishops whose job it was again to enforce the heresy laws under Mary, he was more moderate and preferably he encouraged time to recant and reconciliation and milder sentences. Contrary to popular myth, the majority of trials for heresy were always conducted at a local level, with communities being closely involved in any denouement or complaint. To save time and create a deterrent some condemned were moved from place to place to more central locations for the secular authority to carry out the sentence, which is why in this period there are large numbers of people executed at the same time. It doesn’t reflect the level of people accused or a concentration of heretics in any one place. Yes, by now, certain areas had higher concentrated reform based populations, the capital in particular. However, the new learning also represented a wide number of beliefs from Europe and due to freer study of Scripture in English. Each Bishop was also responsible for his own jurisdiction. Secular magistrates were also involved in the trials and a Lord Chancellor was overall legally bound to uphold the laws against what was considered exceedingly dangerous practices and beliefs. Horrible as the death sentence of burning was and we should be horrified, just as horrible was hanging, drawing and quartering under Thomas Cromwell and later in Elizabeth’s reign of Anabaptist, Catholics and Puritans. Both sides did terrible stuff to the others and I am equally outraged. The role of Gardiner has been exaggerated because he died before the real persecution began, although he did sit in judgement on a few early but high profile cases. I don’t mean to make this sound cold, but that was how it was. If you were raised to believe your land was being attacked by a persistent evil and the only way to get rid of it was to stamp it out, the reality is, you would believe the same thing. All of these men, all of them were the arm of the State, terrible as it is to us, this was their job, on behalf of a Divinely Appointed Monarch. They chose the method of more patience and more moderate means to root out heretics, in some cases, only a handful paid the ultimate price, but in others they were fanatical in the extreme. Thankfully, someone at some point said, wait a minute, killing each other is wrong, we need a better way and understanding, otherwise we would not be free to talk on this in a civil way today.

    May all the victims of the Reformation rest in peace.

    1. Very well said. I’d not heard the erroneous rumor of Gardiner being an illegitimate son of Jasper Tudor. I wonder who started that?

      1. I really don’t know how it began, just came across it on a couple of sites. I thought it was a fictional joke but it was mentioned again and that it had been disproved. What a turn up that would be, another Tudor cousin on the pay roll.

    2. Yes Catherine told Henry she liked to voice opinions with him so he could teach her the error of her ways, that must have stuck like bile in her throat, for she an educated woman to voice such words to the King, but she was well aware that she as a 16th century woman was considered inferior to her husband and had to play the role of a 16th century queen, dutiful and servile, also sheer terror and desperation was at work here to, she must have seen herself lay her head on the block, Henry had killed two wives, was she about to be a third? Skilfully she managed to convince the King that she had meant no harm, Henry was all for education, all of his children were highly educated but it was the controversial opinions she voiced that he wasn’t quite at ease with, he hated heresy for him to know he had married a heretic could not be endured, there was her enemies just waiting to pounce but Catherine was more useful to Henry also, she was a kindly patient woman who like a favourite nanny, would soothe her scowling charge and make him feel at ease, she was wonderful when he was unwell and he loved her for that, deep down I think he knew her religious views were not on a par with his but quietly chose to ignore them as she was useful to him, she was his sixth queen, I do not think he wanted to go down the same route he had with the others, but who knows, had Catherine not seen the fatal warrant for her arrest, Henry could well have been known for having seven wives not six.

      1. Yes, I think Catherine was both intelligent and terrified. Luckily she had heads up or she would have been really stuck. Henry wanted to settle down and probably knew he didn’t have much time left. It was not a love match with Catherine Parr, but Henry had chosen her well and there was probably some affection there. I do believe also that Henry was aware of her religious views, but as long as she kept them to herself he didn’t seem to care. She obviously talked to Henry and theology was his favourite subject, so he may well have enjoyed their private talks as long as they were low key and she didn’t test him too much. Henry and his children found Catherine good company, she had introduced them to many fine translations and they dedicated translations to her. Henry had put his trust in her as Regent when he went to war in France in 1544, just as he had another Katherine, back in 1513, a move supported by Council and Clergy, including Stephen Gardiner, he had commended her rule, he was glad to have her care for him and stand in for him, so it is very odd that he allowed this scenario to develop. Henry hated hersey of any kind and as Head of the Church, he was now partly responsible for defining what heresy was. Gardiner had helped to develop the Six Articles which basically confirmed standard and fundamental Catholic belief because Henry had asked him and others to come up with something for uniformity of the different factions in the Church, but he ended up with six very orthodox statements of faith that a growing number of his subjects, especially the middle nobility, the more educated classes, found difficult to comply with. The last decade had seen an increase in heresy trials and condemnations. Catherine was a published author, but her Prayers and Meditations was a traditional book and women carried such books at their girdle. However, her second more radical book which she published after Henry’s death, Lamentations of A Sinner, was part autobiography, part her lamentations on her life as a sinner who believed in what she now called Romish superstition, and her new learning. It was a book that outlined her reformed views and it was a best seller and a copy exists now with her initials on it. Her friend, Lady Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk encouraged her to publish this work, which contained stuff Henry definitely would not approve of. I also think he was not as bothered by this whole thing as people hoped, until he had someone suggest Katherine was dangerous. He was annoyed and embarrassed by her argument in semi public, her spouting, but in all seriousness, it seems he was not actually planning to get rid of a d in fact there is some evidence he had forgotten about the warrant. Katherine must have been both afraid and quick thinking and as you say, it must have stuck in her throat, but she felt that she had just had a lucky escape. Henry couldn’t be doing with all that new wife stuff anyway, not now, and even with rumours spread by the Delft Ambassador, that Henry fancied Lady Suffolk, that was nothing more than idle gossip.

        1. We also have to remember that it was Anne Boleyns intelligence that was part of his attraction for her, he did as you say loved a debate and it just goes to show what a complex man Henry V111 really was, he valued his first wife for her learning and her ability to help with Spanish Anglo relations, he loved his second wife’s lively mind, though we know queens were for breeding they were also for cementing important alliances and we know Henry like all men were driven by lust, a pretty face and a curvy figure was all he thought of in a mistress but he also knew women could be just as intelligent as men, and in his queen this was not to be endured if she showed him up, he also respected Anne Boleyns reformist leanings, she herself had a copy of Tyndals book which she instructed all her household to read, in the 16th century reform was taking place and although Anne has been largely blamed for this it was already creeping throughout Europe, in England she was the catalyst for the reformation yet she had plenty of supporters in those who were discontented with the old religion, Henrys frustration over the divorce led to the new church being set up and then he was determined to stamp out the orthodox views which was known as heresy, as we see Gardiner was determined to root it out and Askew became a focus for this as she did as mention rather foolishly preach from the pulpit, an outstandingly brave woman and through her, Gardiner hoped to topple the queen, the old Henry could well have sent Catherine Parr to the block but he was ill and ailing, maybe he also knew that he was spoken of as a tyrant throughout the rest of the world as well as in his own kingdom, and to send another queen to the Tower would do his already soiled reputation more harm than good, by the law heretics were burnt so had Catherine been put on trial would she have suffered this severe penalty? I think not, Anne Boleyn was not burnt as according to one source the King was moved by pity, also it was not the right death for a crowned queen to have to endure, for one thing it was not seemly for a queen to have her naked body on view as the flames would surely have exposed her flesh, for a queen to be bound at the stake and have the crowd gawping at her would have degraded the very essence of monarchy, it was shocking enough to have her beheaded, let alone burnt alive, his search for another bride after his second wife’s execution was rather unlucky, he was turned down by several European nobles, in the end it was only Duke William whose sister Anne was put forward as a potential bride and who was accepted by Henry, I think Catherines saving grace lay in the fact that she was married to Henry when he was too old to bother about what was really happening in his kingdom, although he abhorred heretics and his temper was terrible, his ill health bothered him more I believe and Catherine was there to murmur sweet words in his ear and hand him his wine and grapes, she was too valuable to him for him to let her go, and she cleverly knew this, she may have angered him from time to time but she was a great nursemaid and his children loved her, she had all the wisdom of the mature and knew how to handle his bursts of ill temper, she spoke her way out of a tricky situation when she saw the warrant for her arrest, she was in a sense the perfect wife and had Henry married her when he was a lot younger, theirs could have gone onto be a most successful marriage and one which endured for many years also.

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