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THE PRIORS' VISIT TO CROMWELL-IN THE TOWER-THE

TRIAL CRANMER RECOMMENDS MERCY.

FATHER ROBERT LAWRENCE, Prior of the Beauvale Charterhouse, who succeeded John Houghton in that office on his return to London,' is described as a truly religious man and full of piety. He was a professed monk of the London Charterhouse, and, knowing that the times were troublous, he determined to pay a charitable visit to the house of his profession. He little thought what was in store for him..

Prior Lawrence had only been in London two days when another, also quite ignorant of the issue of his visit, came, as he thought, to transact some business for the monastery over which he presided. This was Father Augustine Webster, Prior of the Charterhouse in Axholme, and professed monk of Sheen.

1 Supra, p. 85.

The two guests found the community engaged in preparing for the worst by prayer and mortification. They learnt that the danger was daily becoming more imminent; for the king, having been told of the intended refusal of the Carthusians to accept his new laws, was extremely angry. They therefore agreed to accompany Prior Houghton, who thought that a visit to Thomas Cromwell, now the king's first secretary, might prove useful.

Though the three Priors were received roughly, and must have seen that there was but little hope of success, Blessed John Houghton begged leave to ask three questions of Cromwell and two doctors who happened to be with him. And first, seeing that our Lord gave power to men upon earth by the words, “And to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven," which no doctor understood to be addressed to any other than St. Peter alone, then to the Apostles, and through them to the Popes and Bishops, how could the king, a layman, be head of the Church of England? The secretary replied, 'You would make the king a priest, then?" and commanded him to speak no further. The two other questions, through Cromwell's impatience, were never asked. He immediately ordered the three monks to be arrested on a charge of treason; and, without any further evidence against them, they were hurried off to the Tower.1

1 Chauncy's Historia, pp. 27 and 99.

AT THE ROLLS."

139

It was about the middle of April, 1535,' when the three holy Priors were cast into prison; and after suffering for some days all the hardships which prison meant in those days, two of them were summoned to the "Rolls." Father Houghton's question regarding the supremacy was doubtless considered an insufficient pretext for the detention of his two companions in the Tower; so Cromwell thought proper, not indeed to set them free, but to find a cause against them. The original document still in the Public Record Office is as follows :—

"Interrogatory ministered by the right honourable Mr. Thomas Cromwell, chief secretary to the king's highness, unto Robert Lawrence, Prior of Beauvale, and Augustine Webster, Prior of Hexham [Axholme], and to either of them, with their answers to the same.

Whether they or either of them would be content obediently to obey the king's highness as supreme head in earth under Christ of the Church of England, called Anglicana Ecclesia, and him so to repute, take, and accept; and to refuse all other potentate and powers, God's only power except, according to the statute in that behalf made.

"Robert Lawrence, Prior of Beauvale, answered

1 Probably Tuesday, the 13th; Chauncy says it was a Tuesday. 2 The repeated placing of Hexham for Axholme in old documents has led to the erroneous belief that there was a Charterhouse at Hexham, Northumberland.

to the said question, that he could not consent nor believe that the king's highness is supreme head of the Church of England according to the statute in that behalf made.

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Augustine Webster, Prior of Hexham, answered likewise to the said question, that he could not consent nor believe that the king's highness is supreme head of the Church of England according to the statute in that behalf made."

The remainder, which is in Latin, is to this effect: "All and each of these things took place as above described and recited, on the 20th of April, 1535, 26 Henry VIII., in the presence of the aforesaid honourable Thomas Cromwell, in his ordinary court, called the Rolls, London. Being present also Messrs. Edward Foxe, the king's almoner; John Bell and John Tregunwell, doctors in laws; Thomas Bedyll, Archdeacon of Cornwall; Richard Rich, the king's solicitor; and Ralph Sadler." The deed is attested by John ap Rice, the notary.'

The two prisoners, having thus boldly refused to renounce their religion, returned to the Tower, where they were joined by Father Richard Reynolds, the Bridgettine. A few days later, Cromwell and the Royal Commissioners visited the prisoners. They brought with them a copy of the Act of

1 P.R.O., State Papers, Henry VIII., mentioned in Letters and Papers, vol. viii. 565.

2 Supra, p. 128.

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