Page:Henry VIII and the English Monasteries.djvu/87

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41
The Holy Maid of Kent

not revealing them. He specially blamed the two Observant friars, " that under the shadow of the said superstition they had suborned and seduced their companions to maintain the false opinion and wicked quarrel of the queen against the king." 1 From this public penance, which was performed in "as great a presence as was seen there (at the Cross) this forty winters," 2 the nun and her companions were again con- ducted " unto the Tower of London, and much people (were gathered) through all the streets of London" 8 to witness the sight. Before leaving the platform over against the preacher's pulpit, the nun was required to hand a form of confession to Dr. Capon, who read it to the people. A great deal was subsequently made of this so-called confession of hypocrisy and deceit. It requires, however, very little knowledge of these times to see that, after all, it proves exceedingly little. On the face of the document it is not her own; but was written for her by those in whose power she had been for the four months previously, and its terms are exceedingly vague and general. The fact is that some acknowledgment that Elizabeth Barton had been for years wilfully deceitful was at the time a matter of vital necessity, and, with Crumwell to manage the affair, that confession would not be difficult to procure. In fact, the draft of a letter exists, with corrections in Crumwell's own hand, by which the Marchioness of Exeter is made to ask pardon of Henry VIII. for putting such belief "in the most unworthy and deceivable woman called the holy maid of Kent." 4 What he did in this case he may, with better reason, have used every effort to do in regard to the nun herself. According to the act of attainder, indeed, the poor woman is said to have confessed her duplicity and falsehood before " divers of the king's counsel." Such evidence, however, may reasonably be suspected, more espe- cially when it was noised abroad that the confession attri- buted to her was a calumny, 6 and extreme measures were taken to prevent the spread of such an unwelcome report.

  • Calendar, vii. No. 72. 2 Ibid., No. 72.
Grey Friars Chronicle, Camd. Soc., p. 37. 
Calendar, vi. No. 1464. 
Burnet, ed. Pocock, i. p. 251, says: "It is very probable that the 

reports that went abroad of her being forced or cheated into a confession made the king think it necessary to proceed more severely against her."