The murder of  Richard Hun.
[ Foxes Acts and Monuments
vol iv, p 183-205 etc ]

Richard Hun was a freeman and merchant
tailor in London who
habitually spent time each day reading his Bible. To all intents and
purposes he was a good man and a conforming Christian who carried his beads (rosary) with him at all
times. However, at the death of one of his children, a five week old boy
named Stephen, Thomas Dryfield, the parson of St Mary Matfilon in
demanded an exorbitant mortuary fee ( being a bearing sheet or mort-cloth). Hun
refused to pay since the dead son had no ownership of the cloth. Hun was summoned to
appear before a church court. Aggrieved at their grasping nature and
indignant at a summons before a foreign tribunal, he issued writs of praemunire
against Dryfield and his counsel. This prompted great concern 
among the clerics as it struck at the heart of their control of the people
and  set an unwanted precedent ; up went their plaintive cry

these proud citizens are allowed to have their way every layman  will
dare to resist a priest.”

Hun became a marked man, against whom there
had to be retribution. The obvious path chosen for revenge was to make a
charge of heresy against Hun to Richard Fitzjames, Bishop of London [a
noted pursuer of heretics ].  Hun was promptly  thrown into the Lollard`s Tower
at St Paul`s  where he was chained in a heavy iron collar and weighed
down with more chains, to await appearance before the bishop at Fulham on
2 December. The charges made by Dr Horsey, the bishop`s chancellor 
were the usual open ended allegations that he taught, preached, and
published heretical statements; refused to pay tithes claiming they were
covetousness by the priests (the mort cloth incident ); accused the
priests of being Scribes and Pharisees responsible for the death of
Christ; he had defended another persecuted person – Joan Baker; and that
he had in his possession works in English including those of Wickcliffe.

John Foxe records in his Acts and Monuments
that he had access to the register of Richard Fitzjames and says that
there there is no record of Hun`s responses, But in the writing of another
person there was what purports to be a recantation. Testimony was given
that the notation was made on the hearsay evidence of others and is
highly discredited. That aside, after his appearance before the bishop,
Hun was returned to the Lollard`s tower in the custody of Charles Joseph
the sumner, and thence into the custody of John Spalding, the bellringer –
a reputedly dim witted individual. The relevance here is that Spalding
would probably do whatever he was told.

On or after midnight on 2 December 1514 
Joseph and Spalding, perhaps accompanied by Horsey, went to the tower and
murdered Hun. Having committed the deed Spalding went into town leaving
the keys to Hun`s cell with others to give to Joseph`s  son in the
morning. The reasoning being that the boy, who took food to the prisoner,
would find Hun`s body and Spalding would have an alibi. In the event the
boy and others went to the cell at about 10 am as usual and found Hun
hanged and facing the wall. They immediately informed the chancellor
Horsey, who in turn noised abroad that Hun had hung himself. However, the
public, who knew Hun and his Godly reputation, suspected that he had been
murdered and clamoured for a coroners inquest and for the body to be

Panicking  the clerics now decided
that, while the inquest went about its business, they would proceed with
the heresy charges  `ex officio`. The reasoning being that if Hun was
deemed a heretic  it would add credence to the claim of suicide, thus
the inquest would  then find Hun responsible for his own death, not
the priests.  In yet another bizarre turn, a Dr Hed collected
information from Bibles and other documents to produce another list of
thirteen articles  alleging heresy – this after Hun was dead.
These were read out in church and defended by the Bishop,

To compound their murder the clerics now proceeded with
what at best can be described as a pantomime. A formal list of procedures
was drawn up for declaring the issues, for the bishop to make a decision,
and for the action to be taken subsequently. Accordingly Bishop Fitzjames
and Dr John Young, Bishop of Callipolis sat in judgement on 16 December,
heard the `evidence` read – with no accused or witnesses concerning the
charges present,
and pronounced the definitive sentence on the carcase of Richard Hun. On
20 December in Smithfield  ” this ridiculous decree was as fondly
accomplished ” and the body of Hun was formally burnt as a heretic.

The matter was not over, however. The coroner`s court,
which the king attended occasionally, found that Dr Horsey, Charles Joseph
and John Spalding “had privily and maliciously committed this murder”; and
therefore indicted all three for wilful murder. The evidence from the
manner of the body was hanging, with cap set square upon the head and no
signs of a footstall or other means of throwing oneself off to hang, was
totally inconsistent with someone comitting suicide. The physical evidence
indicated prior death by strangulation before the body was suspended.
Other witnesses pointed directly to the accused as having colluded to the
murder and its execution. By the intervention of  Fitzjames through
Cardinal Wolsey, Horsey was released and went to Exeter, in effect
banished from London. The other two are not recorded as suffering further
imprisonment or execution for murder and presumably they too managed to
escape the noose they deserved. But Parliament did pursue with the king
the matter of Hun`s assets which would have been forfaulted to the Crown.
His family were recompensed to the value of fifteen hundred pounds
sterling , besides plate and other jewels.

Decision of the Coroner`s Court.

Some claim that John Foxe`s Martyrs
or Acts and Monuments as properly entitled, are exaggerated and
biased. Although colourful in his use of language – the practice of the
age in which he lived, the story of Richard Hun is one of the most
detailed records made by Foxe, and includes extracts from the Bishop of London`s
own Register, the proceedings of the coroner`s court; Parliament and the
kings correspondence. There is little room for denial that the events
happened and that Richard Hun was wilfully murdered for his beliefs and
daring to question the grasping practices of the priests.