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Oldcastle
Oldcastle
90

the end of his first examination. If the church had determined that the consecrated bread was bread no longer, it must have been since the poison of property had infected her. As to confession to a priest, it was often salutary, but he could not hold it essential to salvation. There followed an argument of which Bale gives a much fuller account than Arundel, partly based on Walden's writings, and in the main, perhaps, trustworthy. Both sides quoted scripture freely in support of their views, and grew so warm that at length Oldcastle roundly denounced the pope as the head of anti-christ, the prelates his members, and the friars his tail. He finally turned to the bystanders and warned them against his judges, whose teaching would lead them to perdition if they listened to it (ib. pp. 443-6 ; Bale, pp. 264-72). Arundel then delivered sentence. Oldcastle was declared a heretic, and handed over to the secular arm. But the king, if not the archbishop, was anxious to save his life if possible, and a respite of forty days was allowed him in the hope that he would recant (Gesta Henrid, p. 3; cf. Walsingham, ii. 296). Nevertheless, the Lollards were driven desperate by the prospect of what awaited them if the king's own friend were only spared on such conditions, and a hundred thousand men were declared to be ready to rise in arms for the lord of Cobham. The government is said to have replied by publishing the abjuration purporting to be made by Oldcastle, which IS printed in the 'Fasciculi Zizaniorum' S). 414 ; cf. Ramsay, i. 178, n, 6). It is undated, and may only be a draft prepared for a signature which was withheld.

Henry's chaplain, who wrote before 1418, says that Oldcastle was relieved of his fetters by promising to recant and submit to the judgment of the convocation which was to meet in November, and seized the opportunity to escape from the Tower. His escape, which some of his enemies ascribed to demoniacal agency, was certainly, rather mysterious (Elmham, Liber Metricus, p. 99). One William Fisher, a parchment-maker in Smithfield, in whose house he secreted himself, was hanged in 1416 on a charge of arranging the escape (Ramsay, i. 180; Chron. ed. Davies, p. 183). Sir James Ramsay gives evidence to show that it was effected on 19 Oct. ; but a royal prohibition to harbour Oldcastle, dated 10 Oct., the very day on which Arundel finally ordered the sentence to be publislied throughout England, points to nn earlier date (Fasciculi Zizantorum, p. 449 ; Tyler, Life of Henry V, ii. 373). That a widespread lollard conspiracy was presently on foot, and that the fugitive Oldcastle was engaged in it, cannot be seriously doubted, though the evidence is imperfect, and their treason is perhaps painted Blacker than it was. The official indictment afterwards charged them with plotting the death of the king and his brothers, with the prelates and other magnates of the realm, the transference of the religious to secular employments, the spoliation and destruction of all cathedrals, churches, and monasteries, and the elevation of Oldcastle to the position of regent of the kingdom (Rot. Parl. iv. 108). A plan was laid to get possession of the king at his quiet manor of Eltham under cover of a 'mommynge' on the day of the Epiphany, 6 Jan. (Gesta Hen. p. 4 ; Gregory, p. 108). But it was detected or betrayed beforehand, and Henry removed to Westminster. News had reached him that twenty thousand armed lollards from all parts of the kingdom were to meet in the fields near St. Giles's Hospital on the western road out of London, and little more than a mile from the palace, on Wednesday the 10th (Rot. Parl. iv. 108 ; Gesta Hen. p. 4). The night before the king ordered the city gates to be closed, thus cutting off the London lollards from those who would presently be flocking from the country into St. Giles's Fields, and drew up his force either in the fields themselves, or, as the mention of Fickett's Field, now Lincoln's Inn Fields, may seem to imply, between St. Giles and the city (Elmham, Vita, p. 31 ; the editor of the 'Liber Metricus' is probably wrong in translating 'In Lanacri luce' (p. 97) by 'In Longacre.' It occurs in the passage relating the Eltham attempt, and the glossator renders it 'in festo Epiphaniæ'). The darkness, which caused several bodies of lollards to take the royal force for their friends, and the absence of the London contingent, which no doubt would have been the largest of all, made the task of dispersing a force which was never allowed to consolidate itself an easy and almost a bloodless one (Walsingham, ii. 298). The greater part, perhaps, heard of what was happening in time to turn and hasten homewards. Many, however, were taken prisoners, and at once brought to trial, but Oldcastle was not among them.

Oldcastle had been lying concealed in London since his escape from the Tower. The day after the collapse of the rising (II Jan.) a thousand marks was offered by proclamation to any one who should succeea in arresting Oldcastle. If the capture were effected by a corporate community, it should be granted perpetual exemption from taxation (Fœdera, ix. 89; Bale, ed. 1729, App. p. 143). Redman (p. 17), who wrote under Heniy VIII, says