John Lambert (1538)

He was born John Nicholson in Norwich and educated at Queen's College, Cambridge. He was made a fellow there on the nomination of Catherine of Aragon. He was converted by Thomas Bilney. After theological disputes he changed his name to John Lambert and went to Antwerp where he served as priest to the English merchants. Here he became friends with Frith and William Tyndale. Upon his return in 1531, he came under the scrutiny of Archibishop William Wareham. He underwent a preliminary examination at Lambeth, and then he was taken to Otford, Kent to Wareham’s palace to reply to 45 different Articles. He was imprisoned, but thanks to the death of Warham in1532 he avoided a death penalty.

With the change of politics with the arrival of Anne Boleyn, Lambert was released and went to London to teach children Latin and Greek. In 1538 he was listening to a Dr Taylor and he sought him out to discuss his doctrine of the Last Supper that Lambert disagreed with. Taylor asked him to write down his views, and on receiving the document Taylor took it to Archbishop Cranmer who considered that the document was in error. Cranmer invited Lambert to a meeting with Dr Barnes, Latimer and Taylor to discuss the matter. The four divines still believed, at this time, in transubstantiation and they tried to persuade Lambert to change his mind. Lambert remained steadfast and decided to appeal to the King.

This was to prove a big mistake. For political reasons Henry VIII decided to hear Lambert’s case himself. The king had already found him guilty in his mind, but he wanted to make a great show of the trial. Lambert was commanded to appear before the king at Westminster Hall. Lambert was excited as he was sure that the noble prince, once he heard the truth, would embrace it eagerly. He was very naïve.

At Westminster Hall, Henry was in his robes of state, surrounded by bishops, judges and nobles. Henry’s antagonistic attitude towards him soon made Lambert realise that he had made a mistake. The arguments and counter arguments went on for five hours and with all the bishops arrayed against him, Lambert did not stand a chance. The king finally asked Lambert if he would live or die. Lambert responded, ‘I commend my soul into the hands of God, but my body I wholly yield and submit unto your clemency.’ Henry never showed mercy to anyone who had offended him, so the sentence was death.

On November 20th, Thomas Cromwell had him brought from prison to his house to tell Lambert that he was going to die that morning. Lambert remained to have breakfast in the house and then was taken to Smithfield. While the flames were around him he was heard to say, ‘None but Christ! None but Christ!’

This was taken from 'The Reformation in England' by Merle d'Aubigne

Related Wells