Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Bl.Edward Powell - an Oriel martyr

July 30th was the feast day of one of Oriel's Catholic martyrs, Bl.Edward Powell. With being away I could not put this pieces up on the exact day, but hope it will be of interest. I have slightly edited, and extended, the entry from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.

Edward Powell, priest and martyr, was born in Wales about 1478; M.A. Oxon.; Fellow of Oriel, 1495; D.D. 26 June, 1506 and styled perdoctus vir by the University. He paid for the roof of the Old University Library above the Old Convocation House in St Mary's.

He became rector of Bleadon, Somerset, and prebendary of Centum Solidorum in Lincoln cathdral, which he exchanged for Carlton-cum-Thurlby in 1505, and the latter for Sutton-in-Marisco in 1525. He also held the prebends of Lyme Regis, Calstock, Bedminster, and St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol in Salisbury cathedral, and the living of St. Edmund's Salisbury. In the 1520s he was living in Salisbury.

A court preacher in high favour with Henry VIII, he was ordered to publish a reply to Luther ("Propugnaculum summi Sacerdotii Evangelici, ac septem Sacramentorum, aeditum per virum eruditum, sacrarum literarum professorem Edoardum Poelum adversus Maratinum Lutherum fratrem famosum et Wiclifistan insignem", London, 1523, three books in the form of a dialogue between Powell and Luther). The University of Oxford commended this work, and styled Powell "the glory of the University" in a letter to the king. Powell was one of the four theologians selected to defend the legality of the marriage of Catherine of Aragon, in connection with which he wrote the very rare "Tractatus de non dissolvendo Henrici Regis cum Catherina matrimonio" (London).

In March 1533, Powell was selected to answer Hugh Latimer in a series of sermons at Bristol, and was alleged to have disparaged his moral character. Latimer complained to Cromwell, and Powell fell into further disfavour by denouncing Henry's marriage with Anne Boleyn. He was discharged from the proctorship of Salisbury in January 1534.

In November of that year he was attainted, together with St John Fisher, for high treason in refusing to take the oath of succession, deprived of his benefices, and imprisoned in the Tower of London. His confinement was very rigorous, the keeper himself was sent to the Marshalsea Prison for allowing Powell and Thomas Abel, one of Queen Catherine's chaplains, out on bail. A letter survives from Powell in which he complains of the theft whilst he was in prison of his chalice and pax.

The sentence was not carried out until 30 July, 1540. Three Catholics (Powell, Abel, and Richard Featherstone, who had been Princess Mary's tutor) and three Protestants, the preachers Robert Barnes, William Jerome, and Thomas Garrard. suffered together. There is a full account of the Protestants in Foxes' Acts and Monuments. Their fall from the favour they had recently enjoyed was part of the process whereby the more conservative faction in government undermined the position of Cromwell.

The victims were dragged on hurdles from the Tower to Smithfield, a
Catholic and a Protestant on each hurdle. Powell's companion was Robert Barnes, the Protestant divine. A dialogue in verse was published shortly after, "The Metynge of Doctor Barnes and Dr. Powell at Paradise Gate and of theyre communicacion bothe drawen to Smithfylde fro the Towar" (London, 1540), in the British Library. The Catholics were hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors; the others were burned as heretics. The preacher at this ecumenical event, designed in part to impress foreign ambassadors with Henry's committment to his own brand of orthodoxy was Hugh Latimer, who had written to Cromwell asking if he was required to go and "play the fool" - I think, from memory, those were his words - on the occasion.

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