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Reynolds, Richard (d.1535) (DNB00)


REYNOLDS, RICHARD (d. 1535), martyr, studied at Cambridge. It is certain that he was for some time at Christ's College, and it may be that he was elected fellow of Corpus Christi in 1510. The statement that he was university preacher in 1509 is doubtless due to some confusion. In 1513 he was admitted to the degree of B.D., without being bound to scholastic acts and residence, on the ground that he was about to enter the monastic order before St. Barnabas's day, and that he would have authority to preach by papal bull. Afterwards he was apparently advanced to the degree of D.D. He became one of the thirteen monks of the Bridgettine or Brigittine Monastery of Sion, who had a wing of the building to themselves, the inmates of the rest being nuns. He was one of the foremost scholars of the day. Cardinal Pole, who knew him familiarly, says that not only was he a man of most holy life, but he was the only English monk well versed in the three principal languages (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew), ‘quibus omnis liberalis doctrina continetur.’ A foreigner who had conversed with him in England writes of him as a man with the countenance and spirit of an angel (Guil. Covrini Nucerini Epistola, in More's Latin works, p. 349, Frankfort, 1689).

In April 1535 he was accused of having said a year before that Catherine of Arragon was the true queen, notwithstanding the king's marriage with Anne Boleyn, and of having talked with a neighbour of the scandals about Anne and her sister Mary. At this time he seems to have been ‘the father of Sion’—that is to say, superior of the monks there. He was examined about the same time as his fellow-martyrs, the Carthusians, before Thomas Cromwell at the Rolls, as to whether he would accept the royal supremacy over the church; and, on his refusal to do so, he was committed to the Tower. On 28 April he was put on his trial before a special commission at Westminster, along with Prior Houghton and the three Carthusian priors, and pleaded not guilty. He was asked by Lord-chancellor Audeley why he persisted in an opinion condemned by the judgment of so many lords and bishops and of the whole realm in parliament. He replied in an impressive speech that he had intended to keep silence, like our Lord; but, in discharge of his own conscience and those of others, he would say that he had all the rest of Christendom in favour of his view, besides the testimony of general councils and fathers of the church; and he was sure that the greater part of England at heart agreed with him. He was ordered to say no more. ‘Well then,’ he replied, ‘judge me according to your law.’ A jury was summoned next day to try him and the Carthusians, and they were urged in vain to recant. The jury, however, could not agree to condemn them, as their denial of the king's supremacy had not been malicious, and the word ‘maliciously’ was in the statutory definition of the crime. But the judges expressly told them that that word in the statute was superfluous, and whoever denied the supremacy did so maliciously. Still the jury declined to find them guilty till Cromwell threatened that, if they did not convict, they would be in danger themselves. A verdict of guilty was then brought in, and sentence pronounced. Reynolds begged the judges to obtain for him two or three days to prepare for death; this, they told him, rested entirely with the king. He obtained his desire. On 4 May, in company with the three Carthusians and John Hale, he was dragged through the Tower to Tyburn, where they were all executed with special barbarity and—what was unprecedented—in their ecclesiastical habits, without having been degraded.

[Vie du bienheureux Martyr Jean Fisher, ed. Van Ortroy; Cal. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vol. viii.; Maurice Chauncey's Historia aliquot Martyrum, ed. 1888; R. Pole de Unitate, f. 103 b, 1st ed.; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr.; Dep.-Keeper of Public Records, 3rd Rep. App. ii. pp. 237–9; Aungier's Hist. of Syon Monastery.]

J. G.