Tag Archives: Smithfield

On this day in 1538 – John Forest was burned at the stake

John Forest was born in 1471 and became a Franciscan Friar Minor of the Regular Observance at Greenwich in 1491. He was later the confessor to Queen Katherine of Aragon who was a Third Order Franciscan.

The friars were well rewarded by the King but they were opposed to his divorce from the King and the Protestant movement that was taking the King’s interest. In November 1532, Forest was the Guardian of the Greenwich friary and he spoke out about the plans to suppress the Order in England and a year later he denounced the King’s plans for his divorce. Due to Forest speaking out against the King he was imprisoned in 1533 at Newgate prison and sentenced to death.

With the suppression of the Observant friars Forest was released from prison in 1534 but four years later he was imprisoned once again in a Conventual Franciscan friary at Smithfield but was sent to a convent in the north after his sentence was not carried out. Forest recanted but remained in Newgate prison in confinement. Forest’s confinement was not strict as he was still allowed to here confessions and from here he wrote a paper entitled ‘De auctoritate Ecclesiae et Pontificis maximi’ (On the Authority of the Church and the Supreme Pontiff), which defended the papal authority in England. He also refused to take the oath of loyalty that was required by all English subjects to take.

Thomas Cromwell began proceedings against John Forest with the aid of Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer and Forest was burned at the stake on 22nd May 1538 at Smithfield, London.

John Forest