William Sawtrey , or Sautre or Chatris. a Parish Priest. Burned.
William Sawtrey was the parish priest of St Scithe the Virgin in London. and a zealous man inflamed with religion who sought to be heard by Parliament in 1401. He was, however, intercepted by the prelates and referred to a convocation which met on 12 February with Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury present.
As was custom and practice a list of `conclusions` was read out, these being sayings or writings alleged to have been made by him. The charges, for that is what they really were ran:
Imprimis, He saith, That he will not worship the cross on which Christ suffered, but only Christ that suffered upon the cross.
ii. Item, That he would sooner worship a temporal king, than the aforesaid wooden cross.
III. Item, that he would rather worship the bodies of the saints, than the very cross of Christ on which he hung, if it were before him.
IV. Item, That he would rather worship a man truly contrite, than the cross of Christ.
V. Item, That he isbound rather to worship a man that is predestinate, than an angel of God.
VI. Item, That if any man would visit the monuments of Peter and Paul, or go on pilgrimage to the tomb of St.Thomas, or any whither else, for the obtaining of any temporal benefit; he is not bound to keep his vow, but he may distribute the expenses of his vow upon the alms of the poor.
VII. Item, That every priest and deacon is more bound to preach the word of God, than to say the canonical hours.
VIII. Item, That after the pronouncing of the sacramental words of the body of Christ, the bread remaineth of the same nature that it was before, neither doth it cease to be bread.
Sawtrey was given time to answer and returned to the convocation with his written response. Inevitably the questioning focussed on the sacraments and transubstantiation. Also mentioned was a previous occasion when he had been priest at St Margarets Church in Lynn and Tilney, Norfolk. He had been accused of errors and heretical leanings in April 1399 at which time he had recanted with the usual show of penance. Notably, he had sworn on oath publicly that he would not “preach openly and publicly the aforesaid conclusions”. Having already been charged with heresy at an earlier meeting, the production of the evidence of earlier fault by the Bishop of Norwich meant that he was also sentenced to be deposed and degraded.
On 26 February Sawtrey was summoned to appear before the Archbishop and his bishops assembled in St Paul`s Church, London where the antecedent history of Sawtrey was read out to a large congregation, following which sentence of Relapse was made. He was then formally deposed and degraded. This longwinded but formal process included removing from Sawtrey`s possession the symbols of the church – the albe ( a white linen cloak) the maniple (a sort of scarf wrapped round the wrist) the candlestick, the taper, the urceolum (a pitcher used in the service), the book of exorcisms, the book of divine lections (legends of the church), the symbolic keys of the church and the surplice and even his tonsure, ending with a layman`s cap being placed on his head.
The decree for burning William Sawtrey made by Henry IV. 1401
The decree of our sovereign lord the king and his council in the parliament, against a certain newly sprung up heretic.
To the mayor and sheriff of London, &c. Whereas the venerable father Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and legate of the apostolic see, by the consent, assent, and counsel of his co-bishops and fellow-brethren, hisi, suffragans, and of the whole clergy of his province in his provincial council assembled, the due order of law in this behalf required being observed in all points, hath pronounced by his definitive sentence one William Sautre, sometime chaplain, condemned of heresy, and formerly abjured by him in form of law, bat now relapsed into the heresy aforesaid, to be a manifest heretic, and therefore hath decreed that he should be degraded, and hath for the same cause really degraded him from all clerical prerogative and privilege, and hath decreed the said William to be left to the secular court; and hath really so left him, according to the laws and canonical sanctions set forth in this behalf, and that holy mother church hath no further to do in the premises :—We therefore—as zealous of religion and a lover of the catholic faith, being desirous to maintain and defend holy church and the rights and the liberties of the same, and as far as in us lieth to pluck up by the roots such heresies and errors of our realm of England, and with condign correction to punish all heretics or such as he convict; seeing that such heretics convict and condemned in form aforesaid ought, both according to divine and human law, and the canonical institutions in this behalf accustomed, to be hurned with fire—do command you as strictly as we can, firmly enjoining you, that you cause the aforesaid William, being in your custody, in some public and open place within the liberties of the city aforesaid (the cause aforesaid being published unto the people), to be commited to the fire, and him in the same fire really to be burned, for detestation of his crime, and the manifest example of other Christians and hereof ye are not to fail, upon the peril that will fall thereupon.
Teste Rege, apud Westm. 26th Feb.. An. regni sui 2,[AD. l401].
So William Sawtrey became the first of the Lollards to be executed by burning on the direct command of the king. It is little wonder that Henry IV`s reign was marked by dissent and a basic disgust as he continued to go out of his way to please the church, contrary to the will of the nobility, the people and Parliament.