On this day in 1555 – Robert Samuel was burned at the stake

Robert Samuel was an English priest with the parish church of East Bergholt in the Stour Valley during King Edward VI’s reign. Edward had allowed priests to marry and so Samuel lived peacefully with his wife within his parish.

When Queen Mary I took the throne she issued a law forbidding priests to be married and that any priest that was already married had to put aside their wives and return to a life of celibacy, Samuel’s wife went to live in Ipswich.

Samuel’s was a Protestant and believed in the reformed faith and therefore gained the attention of William Foster, an anti-reformist from Copdock, Foster was a Justice of the Peace. Foster was known to go after priests when he first found John Averth, celebrating mass in the home of Dr Rowland Taylor. Foster had Taylor arrested and deemed a traitor and after interrogation was burnt at the stake. Foster then set his sight on Samuel.

Samuel was removed from his parish but continued to secretly visit the homes of his congregation who still adhered to the reformed faith. Spies were sent to investigate these claims and a trap was laid out to catch him whilst visiting his wife, he was captured and dragged away from his wife’s home. Samuel’s was first imprisoned in the Ipswich town gaol.

Samuel wrote two letters to the Christian Congregation and his fellow sufferers saying;

Be constant in obeying God, rather than men. For, although they slay our sinful bodies for God’s verity, yet they cannot do it but by God’s sufferance and goodwill, to His praise and honour, and to our eternal joy and felicity. For our blood shed for the Gospel shall preach it with more fruit, and greater furtherance, than did our mouths, lives and writings, as did the blood of Abel, Stephen, with many others more.”

Samuels was moved to Norwich and then a prison within Norwich Castle to await the inquisition by Bishop Dr Hopton, it was here Samuel was subjected to torture where he was chained upright in a position where only the tips of his toes could touch the floor whilst only being fed a couple of mouthfuls of bread and water daily. After a few days of this Samuel claims that he was visited by Christ and he did not eat or drink again until he was sent to his death.

Samuel was sentenced to death by burning at the stake with the date set for 31st August 1555 on Corn Hill, Ipswich.

woodcut of Robert Samuel burningA woodcut depicting the burning of Robert Samuel

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