The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Fisher, John

Edition of 1879. See also John Fisher on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

FISHER, John, an English prelate, a zealous opponent of the reformation, born in Beverley, Yorkshire, in 1459, beheaded June 22, 1535. Having become the confessor of Margaret, countess of Richmond, he induced that lady to found St. John's and Christ's colleges at Cambridge. In 1501 he became chancellor of that university, and in 1504 bishop of Rochester. He has been supposed to have written the treatise Assertio septem Sacramentorum, for which Henry VIII. obtained the title of “Defender of the Faith.” Though long favored by the king, Fisher fell under his displeasure by his opposition to the divorce of Catharine of Aragon. On the question of the king's spiritual supremacy being broached in 1531, the bishop firmly refused to acknowledge it. He further fell into disfavor, and was arraigned for misprision of treason, for concealing certain prophecies of Elizabeth Barton, called the holy maid of Kent, respecting the king's death. For this offence he was condemned to imprisonment during the king's pleasure, but was released on paying a fine of £300. Refusing to take the oath of allegiance in 1534, he was committed to the tower, attainted, and his bishopric declared vacant. Pope Paul III. took the opportunity to create him a cardinal; but Henry having sent Cromwell to interrogate him with regard to the appointment, and being informed that he would accept the cardinal's hat, exclaimed: “Mother of God! he shall wear it on his shoulders then, for I will leave him never a head to set it on!” The aged bishop was at once condemned on the charge of denying the king's supremacy, and was beheaded. He wrote a commentary on the seven penitential psalms, sermons, and controversial and devotional treatises. His life has been written by the Rev. J. Lewis (2 vols. 8vo, London, 1854-'5).