John Bradford

John Bradford

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John Bradford was a prebendary
Prebendary
A prebendary is a post connected to an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon. Prebendaries have a role in the administration of the cathedral...

 of St. Paul's
Old St Paul's Cathedral
Old St Paul's Cathedral is a name used to refer to the medieval cathedral of the City of London which until 1666 stood on the site of the present St Paul's Cathedral. Built between 1087 and 1314 and dedicated to St Paul, the cathedral was the fourth church on the site at Ludgate Hill...

. He was an English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 Reformer
English Reformation
The English Reformation was the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church....

 and martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

 best remembered for his utterance "'There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford". These words were uttered by Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

 when he saw a criminal on his way to execution; however, the attribution has been questioned. Bradford was in the Tower of London for alleged crimes against Mary Tudor
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 for his Protestant faith.

Life


Bradford was born in Blackley, Manchester in 1510. Owing to his financially stable family, he was educated at a good grammar school. Talented with numbers and money, he later served under John Harrington of Exton in Rutlandshire as a servant. Through his good influence and abilities in auditing and writing, he gained favour and trust with his employer and at the siege of Montreuil in 1544, occupied the office of paymaster of the English army during the wars of Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

. Later, he became a law student at the Inner Temple
Inner Temple
The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple, commonly known as Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court in London. To be called to the Bar and practise as a barrister in England and Wales, an individual must belong to one of these Inns...

 in London. Through the contact and preachings of a fellow student, he became acquainted with and converted to the Protestant faith. This caused him to abandon his legal studies and in 1548, he took up theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 at the Catharine Hall (now St Catharine's College
St Catharine's College, Cambridge
St. Catharine’s College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1473, the college is often referred to informally by the nickname "Catz".-History:...

), University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 and then later a fellowship at Pembroke College, Cambridge
Pembroke College, Cambridge
Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college has over seven hundred students and fellows, and is the third oldest college of the university. Physically, it is one of the university's larger colleges, with buildings from almost every century since its...

.

At this institution he was often referred to with the nickname "Holy Bradford" not from malice but out of respect for his dedication to God and his unselfish attitude. In 1550, during the reign of Edward VI of England
Edward VI of England
Edward VI was the King of England and Ireland from 28 January 1547 until his death. He was crowned on 20 February at the age of nine. The son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Edward was the third monarch of the Tudor dynasty and England's first monarch who was raised as a Protestant...

, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Nicholas Ridley
Nicholas Ridley (martyr)
Nicholas Ridley was an English Bishop of London. Ridley was burned at the stake, as one of the Oxford Martyrs, during the Marian Persecutions, for his teachings and his support of Lady Jane Grey...

 to serve as a roving chaplain
Chaplain
Traditionally, a chaplain is a minister in a specialized setting such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, or imam or lay representative of a religion attached to a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, military unit, police department, university, or private chapel...

, preaching mainly in Lancashire and Cheshire. Following Edward VI's early death in 1553, the Catholic Mary Tudor
Mary I of England
Mary I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death.She was the only surviving child born of the ill-fated marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded Henry in 1547...

 ascended to the throne.

In the first month of the new monarch's reign, Bradford, who had become somewhat well known for his devotion to the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

, was arrested and imprisoned on a seemingly trivial charge of "trying to stir up a mob". Whilst confined to the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

, it was known he would not be released. During his time in prison, he continued to write religious works and preach to all who would listen. At one point, he was put in a cell with three other reformers, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from...

, Bishop Nicholas Ridley (the same Bishop who had ordained him), and Hugh Latimer
Hugh Latimer
Hugh Latimer was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, Bishop of Worcester before the Reformation, and later Church of England chaplain to King Edward VI. In 1555, under Queen Mary, he was burnt at the stake, becoming one of the three Oxford Martyrs of Anglicanism.-Life:Latimer was born into a...

. Their time was spent in careful study of the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

, all of which including Bradford were to become martyrs.

Phrase attribution


At some time during his imprisonment it is said Bradford witnessed a group of prisoners being led to their execution and remarked, "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford," the phrase for which he is best remembered, and which has survived in common parlance in its variant, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."


Death


On 31 January 1555 Bradford was tried and condemned to death with all the others, and on 1 July he was brought to Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison
Newgate Prison was a prison in London, at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey just inside the City of London. It was originally located at the site of a gate in the Roman London Wall. The gate/prison was rebuilt in the 12th century, and demolished in 1777...

 to be burned at the stake
Execution by burning
Death by burning is death brought about by combustion. As a form of capital punishment, burning has a long history as a method in crimes such as treason, heresy, and witchcraft....

. A large crowd delayed the execution, which had been scheduled for 4 o'clock in the morning as many who admired Bradford came to witness. He was chained to the stake at Smithfield
Smithfield, London
Smithfield is an area of the City of London, in the ward of Farringdon Without. It is located in the north-west part of the City, and is mostly known for its centuries-old meat market, today the last surviving historical wholesale market in Central London...

 with a young man, John Leaf. Before the fire was lit, he begged forgiveness of any he had wronged, and offered forgiveness to those who had wronged him. He subsequently turned to his fellow and said, "Be of good comfort brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night!" A century later, in his Worthies of England, Thomas Fuller
Thomas Fuller
Thomas Fuller was an English churchman and historian. He is now remembered for his writings, particularly his Worthies of England, published after his death...

wrote that he endured the flame "as a fresh gale of wind in a hot summer's day, confirming by his death the truth of that doctrine he had so diligently and powerfully preached during his life." Bradford was buried at the Marian Martyrs' Monument in Smithfield, London.

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