Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hobbes, Robert

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HOBBES, ROBERT (d. 1538), the last abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Woburn in Bedfordshire, held the office in 1529 (Dugdale gives the date of appointment as 1524). Hobbes was summoned to convocation in November 1529, and in the following January received a license to hold two annual fairs in the town of Woburn. In 1532 he, with four other abbots, was commissioned by the king to hold a visitation of the whole Cistercian order, in place of the abbot of Chailly, who had been charged to undertake this duty by the head visitor and reformator of the order, but was not allowed to perform it personally, being a Frenchman. In 1534 he not only himself acknowledged the king as supreme head of the church, but by advice and threats prevailed upon many of his monks to do the same. The deed of acknowledgment does not happen to have been preserved, but the fact is clearly proved by his confession. Subsequent events, however, such as the execution of the Carthusians and the suppression of monasteries, led him to repent of his action, and to maintain that ‘the part of the bishop of Rome was the true way,’ and ‘the king's part but usurpation desiderated by flattery and adulation.’ In time this became known at court. In May 1538 Hobbes and some of his monks were examined in the Tower, and his confession showed that he had failed to advocate the royal supremacy in his sermons, and that he did not believe in the existence of episcopal authority except as derived from the pope. Accordingly he was sent down to Lincoln to be tried, together with two of his brethren, Laurence Blonham, alias Peck, and Richard Woburn, alias Barnes, and the three, as well as the vicar of Puddington, were executed at Woburn. In 1818 there was still standing before the gate of the abbey an oak tree which was said to have been used as the gallows on that day.

[Cal. of Letters and Papers, Hen. VIII, iv. v. vi. vii. x. xi.; Gasquet's Hen. VIII and English Monasteries, ii. 192; Froude's Hist. of England, iii. 244; Dodd's Woburn, p. 38; Dugdale's Monasticon, v. 478; Wright's Suppression of the Monasteries (Camden Soc.), p. 145; Stow's Annales, p. 573.]

C. T. M.