Legate, Bartholomew (DNB00)

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LEGATE, BARTHOLOMEW (1575?–1612), the last heretic burned at Smithfield, was born in Essex about 1575. He was probably of the same family as Robert Legate, an English merchant at Emden, East Friesland, in 1549. He does not seem to have had a learned education, or to have acquired any classical knowledge. He was a dealer in cloth lists, a business which took him to Zealand. Here, very early in the seventeenth century, he became a preacher among the 'Seekers,' an offshoot from the Mennonite baptists. Expecting a new revelation, by 'myraculous apostles.' He held that meanwhile there was no true church or true baptism now to be found, nor any 'visible Christian.' He rejected the Mennonite tenet of the celestial origin of our Lord's body as an 'execrable heresy.' By 1604 he had reached the opinion that Christ was 'a meere man, as were Peter, Paul or I; onely . . . borne free from sinne,' and termed God, in scripture, not from ' his essence but his office.' He differed from the Socinians in rejecting the invocation of Christ, and in retaining the doctrine of his propitiatory sacrifice. He was probably in London in 1608, when he is described, as above, by Henoch Clapham [q. v.], who treats him as a representative sectary, the 'Legatine-arrian,' opposed to the anabaptist, the flyer (seeker), ana the familist.

In 1611 proceedings were taken against Bartholomew Legate and his brother Thomas in the consistory court of London, and both were committed to Newgate on charges of heresy. Thomas Legate died in Newgate. Bartholomew, perhaps in consequence of this, obtained liberty to leave his prison in the daytime. Brought several times before the consistory, he repudiated the authority of the court, and threatened an action for false imprisonment, an 'indiscretion' which, Fuller thinks, 'hastened his execution.' James I interested himself personally in Legate's case. He had Legate ' often' before him, and tried to convince him of his errors. Fuller relates, on the authority of Ussher, who had the story from James himself, that on one occasion, finding that Legate no longer prayed to Christ, ' the king in choler spurn'd at him with his foot; Away, base fellow (saith he), it shall never be said that one stayeth in my presence, that hath never prayed to our Saviour for seven years together.'

At length, on 21 Feb. 1612, Legate was convened before the consistory of London, which was strengthened by the presence of Bishops Andrewes, Neile, and Buckeridge, with several clerical and legal assessors, so that, says Fuller, 'it seemed not so much a large court, as a little convocation.' Thirteen articles of heresy were laid against Legate. Sentence was pronounced by John King [q. v.], bishop of London, and Legate was handed over to the secular power by significavit dated 3 March. The king's letter under the privy seal, dated 11 March, required the lord chancellor, Sir Thomas Egerton, baron Ellesmere [q. v.], to make out a writ 'de hæretico comburendo' under the great seal for the execution of Legate. The writ, directed to the sheriffs of London, was iasued on 14 March, and the warrant for the execution on in March. Legate refnaed all overtures for his recantation, and about midday on 18 March 1612 he was burned at West Smithfield amid a vast 'conflux of people.' His age, according to Fuller, was 'about fourty years;' it was probably less, since Clapham in 1608 puts into his mouth the expression 'such youth as I am.' He was comely and swarthy, fluent and confident, 'excellently skilled in the scriptures,' and in character 'very unblameable.'

[Clapham's Errovr on the Right Hand, 1608, pp. 28 sq.; Cal. of State Papers. Dom, 1612; Truth brought to Light: an Historicall Narration of the first XIV Yeares of King James, 1651. pt. iv. (gives the warrants); Fuller's Church Hist. of Britain, 1655, x. 62 sq.; Greenshields' Brief Hist. of the Revival of the Arian Heresie, 1711, pp. 1 sq. (reprints the warrants); Brook's Lives of the Puritans, 1813, i. 66; Howell's State Trials, 1816, ii, 727 sq. (from Narrative Hist. and Fuller, with notes); Diary of Walter Yonge (Camd. Soc.), 1848. pp. 25 sq.; Wallace's Antitrinitarian Biog. 1850, ii. 530 sq.; Barclay's Inner Life of Religious Societies of the Commonwealth, 1878. pp. 173 sq., Christian Life, 26 Feb. 1887, pp. 103 sq.; Notes and Queries. 1st ser. i. 183; Strype's Cranmer, 1812, ii. App. 50 (for Robert Legate). Miss Florence Gregg's Bartholomew Legate, the last Smithfield Martyr, 1886, is not a biography, but a religious romance.]

A. G.