Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/81

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CHAPTER III


The Holy Maid of Kent


The story of Elizabeth Barton, known as the "holy maid of Kent," must form a part of any detailed account of Henry's dealings with the English monasteries.

In 1525 Elizabeth Barton[1] was a domestic servant with one Thomas Cobb, a farmer of known respectability. She lived in the parish of Aldington, some twelve miles from Canterbury. About Easter time of that year, when she would have been about eighteen years of age, she was seized with a severe illness. During the progress of the sickness, which continued for seven months and more, she appeared to have frequent ecstasies, or trances. Whilst in one of these and apparently unconscious of all around her she spoke of things taking place at a distance and foretold coming events. At a subsequent date it was declared, by those who condemned her to death, that "she was brought in such debility and weakness of brain because she could not eat nor drink for a long space, that in the violence of her infirmities she seemed to be in trances and spoke and uttered many foolish and idle words."[2] But at this period, and for years after, no such suggestion was made. Certainly those who knew her best did not look upon her sayings as "foolish and idle." Amongst other things, she is said to have foretold the death of one of her master's children, who was ill, and the event followed shortly after her prediction. In one of her trances she declared that the Blessed Virgin had directed her to go to the chapel at

  1. This account is from W. Lambard's Perambulation of Kent, written in the year 1570. The author says he took the facts from a little pamphlet "containing four-and-twenty leaves," which was written by Edward Thwaites in 1527. It was called "A miraculous work at Court of Street, in Kent, published to devout people of this time for their spiritual consolation." As all books connected with Elizabeth Barton were destroyed under a provision in the act of her attainder, the pamphlet is known only in Lambard's book.
  2. Rot. Parl., 25 Hen. VIII. (No. 142).