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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 276. ROBERT FERRAR


Illustration -- Bishop Ferrar

The history of Dr. Robert Ferrar, bishop of St. David's in Wales, who most constantly gave his life for the testimony of the truth, March the thirtieth, A. D. 1555.

HE day after Laurence's death, which was the thirtieth of the month of March, followed the worthy and constant martyrdom of the bishop of St. David's in Wales, called Robert Ferrar, who was the next bishop in this catalogue of Christian martyrs, that suffered after Master Hooper. This aforesaid Ferrar, by the favour and good will of the lord protector, was first called and promoted to that dignity. This man I may well call twice a martyr, not only for the cruel death of the fire, which he suffered most constantly in the days of Queen Mary, unto the shedding of his blood, but also for divers other injuries and molestations in King Edward's time, which he no less firmly than unworthily sustained at the hands of his enemies, after the fall of the duke of Somerset. Of these his vexations and troubles, with the wrangling articles and informations laid against him, to the number of fifty-six, and of the malice conceived against him by certain covetous canons of the church of Caermarthen, and what were the proceedings of both parts, as well of the innocent, as of the crafty adversaries, and what were their names, in their articles against him, in order here followeth.

            George Constantine; David Walter, his servant; Thomas Young, chanter of the cathedral church, who was afterward archbishop of York; Rowland Meyrike, doctor of law, who was afterward bishop of Bangor; Thomas Lee, and Hugh Rawlins, &c.

            Through the procurement and instance of these his adversaries, joining and confederating together, one Hugh Rawlins, priest, and Thomas Lee, brother-in-law to the said George Constantine, did exhibit to the king's most honourable council certain articles and informations, conceived and devised by the persons before named, to the intent to blemish the bishop's credit, and utterly (as they thought and made their boast) to pull him from his bishopric, and to bring him in a prĉmunire.

            After answers exhibited by the virtuous and godly bishop against the quarrelling and frivolous articles of his foresaid adversaries, to wit, Hugh Rawlins and Thomas Lee; then came in for witness, upon the said articles and informations, George Constantine, and the chanter of St. David's: against whom the bishop laid first exceptions, then also exhibited matter justificatory.

            During all this time of the examination of the witnesses, the said bishop was stayed at London, upon the allegation of the said adversaries; which was, that if the said bishop should depart into his diocese, he would let them of their proofs.

            And at the return of their commission it was signified unto the council what a great number of witnesses they had examined, viz. sixscore and seven; which sounded very heinous in the council's ears.

            And about three weeks after, publication of their witnesses was granted; and after that it was a fortnight ere the bishop could get a copy written of their depositions, because the book thereof is so huge and monstrous.

            Then the bishop desired time, first, to inquire of what condition the persons were, that had witnessed against him, and to make exceptions and matters to justify direct contrary, and to have a commission for the proof thereof; which was then granted. And now it is objected, that the bishop was appointed so to travail with the expedition of his matter, that he should have sued out his commission, and have made return thereof at All-Hallowtide last past; but there was no such decree put in writing. And it was not possible for the bishop to do it in so short a time, these causes considered which he could not avoid, as followeth.

            First, It was the latter end of July ere he came home to St. David's where he began his visitation, which before was appointed.

            Secondly, He was by force of law constrained to answer at the bar daily, during all the time of the great sessions at Caermarthen, in defence of his just cause against the pretended matter of prĉmunire, which his adversaries of mere malice have procured against him.

            Thirdly, The said adversaries, to molest him further, did privily pack a quest of ignorant persons of no reputation, and indicted him upon the words of Rawlins' information, as appeareth by a copy of the indictment; intending thereby to make the matter sound more heinous; notwithstanding that the same cause dependeth before the king's high council undetermined.

            Fourthly, He was appointed by the commissioners, before his departure from London, to pay two hundred pounds (which was arrearages) into the court of First-fruits and Tenths, at Bartholomew-day then next following; which payment he made accordingly, notwithstanding that his adversaries wrought means to have made him break his day; namely, one Edward Harbert, gentleman, who hath a parsonage of his to farm, kept back his rent to the very last day, because that money should not help to serve his turn; and so, by crafty cavillation, detaineth it still in his hand with a year's rent and an half more: for the said Edward Harbert is an adherent of the said bishop's adversaries.

            Fifthly, The book of their depositions is so great, that it asketh a long time to peruse; and also the greatest part of their witnesses were utterly unknown of the bishop and all his: and also dwelling in so many sundry places of the diocese, among the mountains and elsewhere, scarcely within the circuit of two hundred miles.

            Item, Another great sessions was holden at Caermarthen in the month of October last, during which time he was attendant there, as is aforesaid. All which causes considered, being also in the time of his ordinary visitation, which he did execute himself, he could not make ready his exceptions in shorter time.

            The said bishop despatched his man towards London the twenty-third day of October, who ever since hath been and is attendant in the same suit, for the obtaining the commission for proof of this matter against his adversaries.

            And thus you have heard the first trouble of this blessed martyr of the Lord in King Edward's days, with the whole discourse thereof; which we thought the rather here to express, to give other good bishops warning to be more circumspect, whom they should trust and have about them. Briefly, in few words to conclude this process, Bishop Ferrar, partly upon the importunate suit of his adversaries, partly upon the sinister and unfortunate fall of the good duke of Somerset, by whom he had been before promoted and maintained, having but small favour showed, was detained in prison till the death of King Edward, and the coming in of Queen Mary and popish religion, whereby a new trouble rose upon him, being now accused and examined for his faith and doctrine: the process of which his trouble here likewise followeth.

            After that the foresaid Master Ferrar, bishop of St. David's, had been long detained in custody under sureties, in the reign of King Edward, not for any just cause for his part deserved, but by reason that he had been promoted by the duke of Somerset; and now after his fall he found fewer friends to support him against such as hunted after his bishopric, at length, after the decease of King Edward, by the coming in of Queen Mary the state of religion began to be changed and altered: whereby a new trouble rose upon him, being now accused and examined, not for any matter of prĉmunire, but for his faith and doctrine. Whereupon, he was called before the bishop of Winchester, with Master Hooper, Master Rogers, Master Bradford, Master Saunders, and others aforesaid, the fourth of February. On the which day he should also with them have been condemned; but, because leisure or list did not so well then serve the bishop, his condemnation was deferred, and he sent to prison again, where he continued till the fourteenth day of the said month of February. What his examinations and answers were, before the said bishop of Winchester, so much as remained and came to our hands I have here annexed in manner as followeth. At his first coming and kneeling before my Lord Chancellor, the bishop of Durham, and the bishop of Worcester, who sat at the table, and Master Rochester, Master Southwell, Master Bourne, and others, standing at the table's end, the lord chancellor said unto him on this sort:

            Winchester.--"Now, sir, have you heard how the world goeth here?"

            Ferrar.--"If it like your Honour. I know not."

            Winchester.--"What say you? Do you not know things abroad, notwithstanding you are a prisoner?"

            Ferrar.--"No, my Lord, I know not."

            Winchester.--"Lo, what a froward fellow is this?"

            Ferrar.--"If it please your Lordship, how should I know any thing abroad, being a prisoner?

            "Winchester.--"Have you not heard of the coming in of the lord cardinal?"

            Ferrar.--"I know not my Lord Cardinal; but I heard that a cardinal was come in: but I did not believe it, and I believe it not yet."

            Worcester.--"I pray your Lordship tell him yourself, that he may know what is done."

            Winchester.--"The queen's Majesty and the parliament have restored religion into the same state it was in at the beginning of the reign of King Henry the Eighth. Ye are in the queen's debt; and her Majesty will be good unto you, if you will return to the catholic church,"

            Ferrar.--"In what state I am concerning my debts to the queen's Majesty, in the court of exchequer, my Lord Treasurer knoweth: and the last time that I was before your Honour, and the first time also, I showed you that I had made an oath never to consent or agree, that the bishop of Rome should have any power or jurisdiction within this realm: and further, I need not rehearse to your Lordship; you know it well enough."

            Bourne.--"You were once abjured for heresy in Oxford,"

            Ferrar.--"That was I not."

            Bourne.--"You were"

            Ferrar.--"I was never; it is not true,"

            Bourne.--"You went from St. David's to Scotland."

            Ferrar.--"That I did not."

            Bourne.--"You did."

            Ferrar.--"That did I never; but I went from York into Scotland."

            Bourne.--"Ah! so said I: you went with Barlow."

            Ferrar.--"That is true; but never from St, David's."

            Bourne.--"You carried books out of Oxford, to the archbishop of York, Edward Lee."

            Ferrar.--"That did I not."

            Bourne.--"You did."

            Ferrar.--"I did not; but I carried old books from St. Oswald's to the archbishop of York."

            Bourne.--"You supplanted your master."

            Ferrar.--"That did I never in my life."

            Bourne.--"By my faith you did."

            Ferrar.--"Forsooth I did not, never in my life; but did shield and save my master from danger; and that I obtained of King Henry the Eighth, for my true service, I thank God there-for."

            "My Lord," saith Master Bourne to my Lord Chancellor, "he hath an ill name in Wales as ever had any."

            Ferrar.--"That is not so: whosoever saith so, they shall never be able to prove it."

            Bourne.--"He hath deceived the queen in divers sums of money."

            Ferrar.--"That is utterly untrue: I never deceived king or queen of one penny in my life; and you shall never be able to prove that you say."

            Winchester.--"Thou art a false knave."

            Then Ferrar stood up unbidden, (for all that while he kneeled,) and said, "No, my Lord, I am a true man; I thank God for it! I was born under King Henry the Seventh; I served King Henry the Eighth and King Edward the Sixth truly; and have served the queen's Majesty that now is, truly, with my poor heart and word: more I could not do; and I was never false, nor shall be, by the grace of God."

            Winchester.--"How sayest thou; wilt thou be reformable?"

            Ferrar.--"My Lord, if it like your Honour, I have made an oath to God, and to King Henry the Eighth, and also to King Edward, and in that to the queen's Majesty, the which I can never break while I live, to die for it."

            Durham.--"You had made another oath before."

            Ferrar.--"No, my Lord; I never made another oath before."

            Durham.--"You made a vow."

            Ferrar.--"That did I not."

            Winchester.--"You made a profession to live without a wife."

            Ferrar.--"No, my Lord, if it like your Honour: that did I never. I made a profession to live chaste -- not without a wife."

            Worcester,--"You were sworn to him that was master of your house."

            Ferrar.--"That was I never."

            Winchester.--"Well, you are a froward knave: we will have no more to do with you, seeing that you will not come; we will be short with you, and that you shall know within this seven-night."

            Ferrar.--"I am as it pleaseth your Honour to call me; but I cannot break my oath which your Lordship yourself made before me, and gave in example, the which confirmed my conscience. Then I can never break that oath whilst I live, to die for it."

            Durham.--"Well! he standeth upon his oath: call another."

            My Lord Chancellor then did ring a little bell, and Master Ferrar said, "I pray God save the king and queen's Majesties long to continue in honour to God's glory and their comforts, and the comfort of the whole realm; and I pray God save all your Honours;" and so departed.

            After these examinations thus ended, Bishop Ferrar so remained in prison uncondemned. till the fourteenth day (as is aforesaid) of February; and then was sent down into Wales, there to receive sentence of condemnation. Who then upon the twenty-sixth of February, in the church of Caermarthen, being brought by Griffith Leyson, esquire, sheriff of the county of Caermarthen. was there personally presented before Henry, bishop of St. David's, and Constantine, the public notary: which Henry there and then discharged the said sheriff, and received him into his own custody, further committing him to the keeping of Owen Jones; and thereupon declared unto the said Master Ferrar the great mercy and clemency, that the king and queen's Highness' pleasure was to be offered unto him, which he there did offer unto the said Master Ferrar; that is to say, that if he would submit himself to the laws of this realm, and conform himself to the unity of the universal catholic church, he should be received and pardoned, After that, seeing the said Master Ferrar to give no answer to the premises, the said bishop ministered unto him these articles following,

            "First, Whether he believeth the marriage of priests lawful by the laws of God and holy church, or no?

            "Item, Whether he believeth, that in the blessed sacrament of the altar, after the words of consecration duly pronounced by the priest, the very body and blood of Christ is really and substantially contained, without the substance of bread and wine?

            Unto the which articles the said bishop required the said Master Ferrar to answer upon his allegiance. To which he said, he would answer when he saw a lawful commission; and would make no further answer at that time, Whereupon the said bishop, taking no advantage upon the same answer, committed him to the said keeper, to be kept in prison until a new monition, and in the mean time to deliberate with himself for his further answer to the premises.


Another examination of the bishop of St, David's, before Henry Morgan, the pretended bishop of St, David's, George Constantine, his registrar, and others, the last of February, A. D. 1555.

            This day and place, Morgan, the pretended bishop of St, David's, sitting as judge, ministered unto Bishop Ferrar, there personally present before him, certain articles and interrogatories in writing: which being openly read and ministered unto him, the said Bishop Ferrar refused to answer, till he might see his lawful commission and authority, Whereupon the aforesaid pretended bishop of St, David's did pronounce him as contumax, and for the punishment of this his contumacy to be counted pro confesso, and so did pronounce him in writing: which being done, he committed the said bishop to the custody of Owen Jones, until Monday next, being the fourth of March, then to be brought again into the same place, between one and two.


Another appearance of the said Bishop Ferrar, before Morgan, the pretended bishop of St. David's.

            Item, The day and place appointed, the said bishop appearing again before the pretended bishop, humbly submitting himself as ready to answer to the articles and positions above-mentioned, gently required the copy of the articles, and a competent term to be assigned unto him, to answer for himself: which being granted unto him, and the Thursday next being assigned unto him between one and three to answer precisely and fully; so he was committed again to custody, as above.


Another appearance of the said bishop.

            On Thursday, as was appointed, which was the seventh of March, the said bishop personally again appeared; where he exhibited a certain bill in writing, containing in it his answer unto certain articles objected and ministered unto him before. Then after, Henry, the pretended bishop of St, David's, offered him again the said articles as before; the tenor whereof tendeth to this effect:

            "First, That he willed him, being a priest, to abrenounce matrimony.

            "Secondly, To grant the natural presence of Christ in the sacrament, under the forms of bread and wine.

            "Thirdly, That the mass is a propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead.

            "Fourthly, That general councils lawfully congregated never did, nor can err.

            "Fifthly, That men are not justified before God by faith only: but that hope and charity are also necessarily required to justification.

            "Sixthly, That the catholic church, which only hath authority to expound Scriptures, and to define controversies of religion, and to ordain things appertaining to public discipline, is visible, and like unto a city set upon a mountain for all men to understand."

            To these articles thus objected to him, he refused to subscribe, affirming that they were invented and excogitated by man, and pertain nothing to the catholic faith. After this, the bishop above-named delivered unto him the copy of the articles, assigning him Monday next following, to answer and subscribe to the same, either affirmatively or negatively.


Another appearance of Bishop Ferrer.

            Upon the which Monday, being the eleventh of March, he, appearing again before the bishop, and the aforesaid notary, George Constantine, exhibited in a written paper his mind and answer to the fore-said articles, which the bishop had twice now objected against him before, to the which articles and answers he did so subscribe -- adding these words, as tenens se de ĉquitate et justitia esse Episcopum Menevensem -- that the bishop assigned the next Wednesday, in the forenoon, to hear his final and definitive sentence.


The last appearance of Bishop Ferrar.

            The which day and place the said bishop and true servant of God, Master Ferrar, personally there appearing, was demanded of Henry, the pretended bishop of St, David's, whether he would renounce and recant his heresies, schisms, and errors, (as he called them,) which hitherto he had maintained, and if he would subscribe to the catholic articles, otherwise than he had done before.

            After this the said godly bishop, Master Ferrar, did exhibit a certain schedule written in English, and remaining in the Acts; appealing withal by express word of mouth from the bishop, as from an incompetent judge, to Cardinal Pole, &c. All which notwithstanding, the said bishop, proceeding in his rage, pronounced the definitive sentence against him, contained in writing, and there left in the Acts: by the which sentence he pronounced him as a heretic excommunicate, and to be given up forthwith to the secular power; namely, to the sheriff of the town of Caermarthen, Master Leyson.

            Thus this godly bishop, being condemned and degraded, was committed to the secular power, who not long after was brought to the place of execution in the town of Caermarthen, where he, in the market place in the south side of the market-cross, the thirtieth day of March, being Saturday next before Passion Sunday, most constantly sustained the torments and passion of the fire.

            Touching the which constancy of this blessed martyr, this is moreover to be added and noted, that one named Richard Jones, a knight's son, coming to Master Ferrar a little before his death, seemed to lament the painfulness of the death he had to suffer: unto whom the bishop answered again to this effect, saying, that if he saw him once to stir in the pains of his burning, he should then give no credit to his doctrine. And as he said, so he right. well performed the same; for so patiently he stood that he never moved, but even as he stood, (holding up his stumps,) so still he continued, till one Richard Gravell with a staff dashed him upon the head, and so struck him down.


Letters of Dr, Ferrar, bishop of St. David's.

S touching the letters of Master Ferrar, we do not find many that he did write. And peradventure in Queen Mary's time his imprisonment was so strait, that at no time it was permitted him to write. Albeit in his other troubles, in King Edward's time, certain letters he wrote to the archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, and to the earl of Warwick: which letters, although they might be well referred to the first edition of this story; yet because in the said letters is contained briefly, and in few lines, the whole discourse of his unjust vexation at that time wrought by his adversaries, I thought good not to pass them over, but to communicate them unto the reader, for the better understanding both of the innocency of that blessed bishop, and of the crafty iniquity of his conspired enemies; as in the said letters here following to the indifferent reader may easily appear.


The copy of a certain letter of the bishop of St. David's, written belike to the lord chancellor, Dr. Goodrick, bishop of Ely.

            "Most humbly showeth unto your Honour, your poor orator, Robert, bishop of St. David's, that whereas one Thomas Lee, (by the procurement of Thomas Young and Rowland Meyrike, being both canons of St, David's, and George Constantine, registrar to the said bishop,) hath exhibited unto your Honour against him certain articles, in the which are mentioned many trifling things, unworthy to he declared in your honourable audience, and also their pretended weighty articles (as they have alleged there) are utterly untrue: for proof whereof the said Thomas Lee, hath had commissions into the country: therefore it may please your Honour, of your favourable goodness, to grant unto your said orator a like commission for the examination of witnesses, in defence of his truth and honesty against the aforenamed Thomas Lee, George Constantine, Thomas Young, Rowland Meyrike, and all other persons, with their unjust articles, attestations, and savings, deposed against him. And in tender consideration that your said orator standeth bounden, and sureties with him, in the sum of a thousand marks, to appear before the king's justice, in the sessions at Caermarthen, in July next coming, to answer to a forged matter of prĉmunire, by the procurement and counsel of his forenamed adversaries, maliciously surmised against him to his utter undoing: and furthermore that your orator, being in debt to the king's Majesty, by reason of the malicious vexation of the foresaid adversaries, cannot (if he remain here) satisfy the same: for whereas there be arrearages to a great sum, (as well of the king's money as of his own rents,) he can receive none thereof, his adversaries have made such ill report to his discredit, bearing the people in hand, that he shall come no more thither. By reason of which bruit, neither his own tenants will pay their rents and arrearages, nor the priests their arrearages due to the king's Majesty, as well for anno secundo and tertio, as for quarto and quinto. In consideration of all which things, it may please your honourable goodness to license your said orator to depart into the diocese, for these affairs and others, And he shall be ready at all times, at your honourable commandment and pleasure, to repair again, and ever to pray to the Lord Jesu for the perpetual conservation of your Honour, to his glory."


Another letter written by the bishop of St, David's, to the chancellor aforesaid.

            "Right honourable, and my very special good Lord, with humble service and hearty thanks to God, and to you for your godly favour towards me at all times, as right plainly appeareth by your fatherly letters, most lovingly admonishing me to incline unto that which is very necessary, as charitable concord and unity: this is furtherly to beseech your Lordship, for the Lord's sake, not to be grieved, but benignly to hear and gravely to ponder that weighty matter, which, appearing to others but a light grief, to me is, in very deed, a right grievous offence to God, with no little hinderance of his holy word, and disturbance of the king's godly proceedings; and may be a great occasion of much inobedience and disorder of good life, Wherefore I am straitly bounden, for the true zeal that I ought to bear unto God's word of life, Christian religion, the king's Majesty's honour, and the godly quiet state of his people, not faintly to let fall the burden of diligent redress to be sought at his Majesty's hands by the godly wisdom of his most honourable and upright council, but with hearty affection to bear it up against those high-minded, arrogant, stubborn, ambitious, covetous canons, trusting in their biting tongues, with crafty prevention and utterly untrue surmises, to stop the light, that their ungodly misdoing in darkness shall either not be seen, or at the least may have a colourable appearance of right;insomuch that I do not a little marvel at these qualities in Master Chanter the canon, and the dean of Worcester, whose ungentle and untrue behaviour I have not only known, but expertly proved, and sensibly felt, in two of the first, to my great losses, whereof I make no complaint.

            "But I wonder in my mind, and lament in my heart, the strange alteration and wilful going backward of my old faithful brother George Constantine, the which (knowing them all three to have been in times past either obstinate enemies to the true bearers of the cross of Christ, or at least privy lurkers, under pretence of favour towards the gospel, to sting the poor followers thereof; seeking but their own lucre and pleasure in all their doings) would so earnestly cleave unto them in their wrong deeds, as to betray me with his tongue, become untrue of his promise, and a bearer of filthy sin for lucre's sake, even yet stiffly persisting in the same, namely, in things manifestly known unto many, although he would deny it, and that I might not be credited.

            "And as for their prĉmunire, both George and they, at my first coming, ungently detaining from Master Farlee his commission for the chancellorship, would have faced me down with prĉmunire, because it was written in my own name according to the statute: yet was I fain, for the zeal of unity, not to see their uncourteous deeds, departing with Master Farlee for the avoiding of their malice and envy, and gave that office, for the amity of George, unto Master Chanter his son-in-law, and to Master Meyrike, the office of Cardigan, But, seeing afterward their covetous respect to their own glory and lucre, not regarding the reformation of sin, and specially of shameless whoredom, I was compelled to remove them, sore against their wills: and whereas I desired many and sundry times charitable redress of their wrong doings in the vacation-time, I obtained many fair words, and nothing in deed.

            "Also desiring to have sight of the book of Statutes of the Church, for the knowledge of my duty and theirs, I could not obtain it. Desiring to have a key of the chapter seal, as my Lord of Bath had, they would not deliver it but upon conditions; yet was I content to be bridled, receiving it as pleased them to give it. And further, requiring the sight of necessary evidences, for the declaration of divers things in traverse of my right, they would in no wise grant it. And thereupon, considering their ungentleness, I moved the Quo warranto, knowing right well, that if they should show any substantial grant under the king's seal for their corporation, it must therein appear the bishop to be the head, and ever hath been under the king; for other they never have, nor had, except they would return to Rome again; as I trust they will not. And yet, perceiving afterward that they had no special grant to show, or else such as they would not show, I myself, for the respect of unity, wrote my letters to the king's attorney, by reason whereof the Quo warranto was stayed, and so yet remaineth.

            "But touching the certificate, the king's subsidy being due at Michaelmas last, and forborne till after Christmas, and lawfully demanded afore, they did utterly refuse to pay it both to my vice-chancellor and to myself, except I would take it of them in portions, not knowing where to ask the rest, and it is committed to me in the king's roll a whole sum in gross, to be received of the canons residentiary for their dividend: who, because they cannot agree in dividing, would have the king's Majesty to tarry for his money, till they can agree to make division; and I cannot demand it of any particular person, nor at any particular place.

            "Wherefore I most humbly beseech your fatherly goodness, for the Lord's sake, to persist and continue my good lord and friend unto such time as ye find me either desiring to be defended in my wrong, or not willing to put the judgment of my right cause into your hands. And because that the residue of matters touching them and their ungentle, untrue, and ungodly doings is too long, and I have molested you too much with this my tedious letter, I shall now surcease; humbly beseeching your good Lordship to accept in good part this my boldness, proceeding of necessity, and to pardon it for the love of our Lord Jesus, who save and keep you in health, comfort, and honour long to endure, for the advancement of his glory.-- Written at Aber Gwili, this ninth of March,
            "Your Lordship's to command during life,
            ROBERT FERRAR."


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