Bocking, Edward (DNB00)

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BOCKING, EDWARD (d. 1534), Benedictine, was the leading supporter of Elizabeth Barton, the nun of Kent [q. v.] He probably belonged to the family of Bocking settled at Ash Bocking, Suffolk, some members of which held property at Longham, Norfolk, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (Carthew, Hundred of Launditch, pt. ii. 422-4). A John Bocking was one of Sir John Fastolf's clerks; he is repeatedly mentioned in the 'Paston Letters,' and much of his correspondence is printed there. He died in 1478, when Sir William Bocking, his brother, administered his effects (Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner. iii. 228). A Nicholas Bocking was also in Sir John Fastolf's service. Edward Bocking proceeded B.D. at Oxford on 16 June 1513 and D.D. in June 1518. He is stated to have been educated at Canterbury College, Oxford, which was afterwards absorbed in Christ Church, and (before 1513) was appointed warden there. About 1526 he had retired from Oxford to the Benedictine priory, Christ Church, Canterbury. In that year he (with a brother-monk, William Hadley) was sent by his prior, Thomas Goldwell, to Addington, Kent, to report on the alleged divine revelations of Elizabeth Barton, a maidservant of the village, who was popularly believed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost. He fulfilled his mission dishonestly. He found the girl recovering from an hysterical disorder; but he induced her—and for some years with complete success—to feign her manifestations, and to declare herself an emissary from the Virgin, sent to overthrow the Lutherans, and(subsequently) to prevent the divorce of Queen Catherine. In 1527 Bocking caused Elizabeth to be removed to the priory of St. Sepulchre's, Canterbury, and informed Archbishop Warham that 'a voice had spoken in her in one of her trances, that it was the pleasure of God that he should be her ghostly father.' About the same time he caused a collection of the nun's oracles, drawn up under his direction, to be widely circulated in manuscript. He continued in Elizabeth's service for nearly six years, and led her to follow his example of railing and jesting 'like a frantic person against the king's grace, his purposed marriage, against his acts of parliament, and against the maintenance of heresies within this realm.' A few months after Henry VIII's marriage with Anne Boleyn (28 May 1533), the nun's continued denunciations of the king's conduct led Cromwell to arrest her on a charge of treason. On 25 Sept. Bocking and her other associates shared her fate. Booking soon confessed to the imposture, and he, with six others, was hanged at Tyburn on 20 April 1534, in accordance with the terms of the act of attainder drawn up against all the nun's immediate supporters in the previous January. Cranmer, writing to Henry VIII, 13 Dec. 1533, described the powerful and baneful influence that Blocking exerted over the novices in the priory of Christ Church, Canterbury (Cranmer, Letters, Parker Society, 271). Sir Richard Morison very fiercely attacks Bocking, whom he misnames Joannes, in his 'Apomaxis Calumniarum … (juibus Joannes Cocleua … Henrici Octavi … famam impetere … studuit,' 1538, ff. 74-5.

[Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Wood's Fasti (Bliss), i. 36, 47; Oxf. Univ. Reg. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), i. 83; and the authorities quoted under Elizabeth Barton.]

S. L. L.