The Queen is to be asked to grant a royal pardon to a Catholic abbot martyred during the Reformation.
Residents in Glastonbury, Somerset, aim to petition Queen Elizabeth II to exonerate Blessed Richard Whiting from treason almost 500 years after he was hanged, drawn and quartered on Glastonbury Tor.
So far the petition has been signed by some 400 local people, including Michael Eavis, the Glastonbury Festival founder, and also by such figures as Alison Weir, the historian.
They assert that Blessed Richard was “brutally murdered” following a “grave miscarriage of justice” during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII.
“We are asking for justice and an act of mercy for this worthy Englishman,” the organisers say in the petition, “for Abbot Whiting to be exonerated of any accused wrongdoing and granted by the Grace of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a Royal Pardon, absolution and restored to the right of being known as innocent.
“This would bring much peace and healing to our town,” they added.
“With it being Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee next year we fell it is a perfect, and long overdue opportunity to do so.”
Blessed Richard was one of three mitred Benedictine abbots to resist Henry’s seizure and dissolution of the abbeys.
He was executed on November 15, 1539, the same day that a second of the abbots, Blessed Hugh Faringdon, was hanged, drawn and quartered outside of his abbey in Reading.
The last of the three to die was Blessed John Beche, the Abbot of Colchester and a former Abbot of Chester, who was executed on the green outside of Abbey of St John the Baptist, Colchester, a fortnight later, on December 1.
Blessed Richard was described in contemporary documents to be “an upright and religious monk, a provident and discreet man, and a priest commendable for his life, virtues and learning”.
The three abbots were compared at the time of their deaths, even by their enemies, to St Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was martyred in the 12th century after opposing the excesses of King Henry II.
All three were beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1895.
There is continued evidence of a cult devoted to the three martyrs.
For instance, on June 24, the feast of St John the Baptist, Abbot Geoffrey Scott of Douai Abbey became the first Benedictine priest to celebrate Mass for the English martyrs on the site of Colchester Abbey since November 30 1539, the eve of its dissolution and the death of Blessed John, its final abbot.
The event was attended by distinguished local figures, including Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, and by Sir Bob Russell, the High Steward of Colchester, who is also proposing to honour Blessed John with a memorial plaque installed in the town hall.
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund