25 September 1413 A.D. John Oldcastle, a Wycliffian, Arrested and Arraigned before the Archbishop of Canterbury and his Bishops.
Dr. Rusten tells the story.
Rusten, E. Michael and Rusten, Sharon. The One Year Christian History. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003. Available at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Year-Christian-History-Books/dp/0842355073/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393302630&sr=8-1&keywords=rusten+church+history
Before the Reformation, John Wycliffe was born in 1329. He received his doctorate from Oxford. He was a lecturer and Rector. He taught sola scriptura. He opposed the indulgence and penance system including the treasury of the saints and accumulated merits. He opposed Papal supremacy and infallibility. He tried to abolish religious orders. Wycliffe died in 1384.
Wycliffe was influential and had followers. And, he had enemies amongst reprobates and advocates of the false gospel. They came to be known as Lollards or “mumblers,” a term adopted by the enemies. Something of an organization had developed with spokesmen including sympathizers in Parliament.
The De heretico comburendo (2 Hen.4 c.15) was a law passed by Parliament under King Henry IV of England in 1401, punishing heretics with burning. A Provincial Council of Oxford, 1407, and Canterburian Canons, 1409, were passed advancing the Comburdendo ruling and identifying Wycliff and followers as heretics…aiming at their extirpation.
John Oldcastle was a follower of Wycliffe. He had been a solider. He fought in the Welsh Wars. Be became a friend of Henry IV’s son, Henry, Prince of Wales. (Shakespeare’s Falstaff in Henrvy IV was modelled after Oldcastle.) He married into nobility and in 1409 was made a baron and a member of the House of Lords.
His old friend acceded to the throne as Henry V. Canterbury and his bishops went to Henry V to plead against Oldcastle. Henry V turned on his old friend in support of Canterbury and the bishops. Henry V gave the ecclesiastics authorization to prefer charges on Oldcastle.
On 25 September 1413 A.D. Oldcastle was arrested and brought to trial before Canterbury and his bishops.
Canterbury said to Oldcastle:
“Lord Cobham, we once again require you to have none other opinion than the universal belief of the Holy Church of Rome.”
“I will none otherwise believe in these pint than I told you afore. Do with me what you will…though ye judge my body…yet am I certain that ye can do no harm to my soul. He that created that will of his infinite mercy save it; I have therein no manner of doubt. Concerning these articles, I will stand to the very death by the grace of God.”
Oldcastle was sentenced to death and imprisoned in the Tower of London, but he escaped. The Archbishop of Canterbury died. Four years later, Oldcastle was rearrested a second time.
He was hanged.
1. While the question may appear odd, it is not. Given that God is atemporal, above time, transcendent to time and eternal wherein—as it were—several hundred years are but a yesterday and the Second Coming is but a tomorrow, how will Henry V be adjudged? Oldcastle? Canterbury?
2. What is the current value of telling this story? For the Church?
3. Did Oldcastle feel betrayed by Henry V? Would he or might he have experienced a sense of betrayal and abandonment? A sense of revenge towards Henry V?
4. What was the content of the earlier inquiries with Oldcastle by Canterbury and his bishops?
5. Did Shakespeare fairly represent Oldcastle in his character Falstaff?
Clouse, Robert G. “Lollards.” NIDCC. 601-2.
------. “Wycliffe, John (c. 1329-1384).” NIDCC. 1064-65.
Douglas, J.D. “Oldcastle, Sir John (Lord Cobham) (c.1378-1417).” NIDCC. 724.
Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. 6: 354.
Williamson. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. 1-44.