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Latimer and Ridley Burned at the Stake

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October 16th, 1555

A cross in the road in Oxford’s Broad St marks the site of the execution. Workmen had discovered part of a stake and some bits of charred bone there, in what had once been part of the town ditch. Whether, as the flames were kindled, Latimer really said, ‘Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out’ is uncertain. The remark, if Latimer made it, came ultimately from the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp in the second century given by the historian Eusebius, an author he knew well. It was in the 1583 edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, but not in the earlier edition of 1563. John Foxe was unusual among intellectuals at the time in thinking that burning people to death for their opinions was not an altogether commendable idea.

 


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