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1539: Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury

November 15th, 2009 Headsman

Letter to Thomas Cromwell from his man in Somerset,* Richard Pollard, a local gentry type making out well under the Dissolution of the Monasteries:

Pleaseth it your lordship to be advertised, that … the same 15th day [of November] the late abbot of Glastonbury went from Wells to Glastonbury, and there was drawn through the town upon a hurdle to the hill called the Torre, where he was put to execution; at which time he asked God mercy and the king for his great offences towards his highness, and also desired my servants then being there present to see the execution done, that they would be meane [communicate] to my lord president and to me that we should desire the king’s highness of his merciful goodness and in the way of charity to forgive him his great offences by him committed and done against his grace, and thereupon took his death very patiently, and his head and body bestowed in like manner as I certified your lordship in my last letter. And likewise the other two monks [John Thorne and Roger James, executed with Richard Whiting] desired like forgiveness, and took their death very patiently, whose souls God pardon.

And whereas I at my last being with your lordship at London moved your lordship for my brother Paulett, desiring your lordship to be a mean that he might have the surveyorship of Glastonbury, which I doubt not but he will use and exercise the said office to the king’s most profit and advantage, and your lordship’s goodness herein to him to be shown he shall recompense to his little power, I assure your lordship he hath been very diligent, and divers others by his means, to serve the king at this time, according to his duty and right…

the late abbot of Glastonbury, afore his execution, was examined upon divers articles and interrogatories to him ministered by me, but he could accuse no man but himself of any offence against the king’s highness, nor he would confess no more gold nor silver nor any other thing more than he did before your lordship in the Tower …

From Wells, the 16th day of November.

Your assured to command,

Rychard Pollard

Once one of the greatest religious houses in England (and the legendary burial place of King Arthur), Glastonbury Abbey today is a picturesque ruin. Cornell University has published some 19th century photos of the abbey’s remains in a less manicured, more gorgeously overgrown situation.

Pollard had just a few weeks before exonerated the monastery of any profligacy, and the abbot seems perhaps not to have even been properly charged or attainted … but as one can discern in Pollard’s cloying appeal to keep the surveying position in the family, the practical henchman had no qualms as events unfolded about taking a commercial position on the end of the Abbot of Glastonbury.

For your public domain perusing pleasure: The last abbot of Glastonbury: and other essays, by Cardinal Francis Aidan Gasquet.

* Pollard had been in the thick of the destruction of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter just the year before.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,20th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Death Penalty,Drawn and Quartered,England,Execution,God,Gruesome Methods,Hanged,History,Martyrs,Murder,Notable Participants,Pelf,Power,Public Executions,Religious Figures,Treason,Wrongful Executions

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8 thoughts on “1539: Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury”

  1. Sarah C says:

    I am related to Richard Whiting! All my family up to my grandmother were from Frome in Somerset, I recently came upon this addition to my family tree and am really saddened to hear how he died! We now live in Ireland but I will not let his legacy be forgotten!!!!

    I want to find out where his resting place is now because I know a man wrote a book about him, the same man found what was believed to be Richards bones. Where they are now, I don’t know! :(

  2. Nigel S says:

    Sarah C, I have a book, Short story I am happy to copy and send to you which I’m sure will be of great intrest to you :)

  3. lichtegel60 says:

    The last Abbot of Glastonbury

    By January 1539, Glastonbury was the only monastery left in Somerset, and on 19 September of that year the royal commissioners, Layton, Richard Pollard and Thomas Moyle, arrived there without warning on the orders of Thomas Cromwell.

    Voice Kay Wych

    Record May 2011 Abbots Kitchen Glastonbury

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