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Whiting, Richard, Bl.


Last abbot of Glastonbury, martyr; b. unknown; hanged, drawn, and quartered Nov. 15, 1539, on Tor Hill, Glastonbury, England. He probably received his education and training at Glastonbury, where he later became a monk under Abbot Richard Bere. Former published statements that he graduated M.A. from Cambridge in 1483 and D.D. in 1505 have been proved erroneous. He was ordained Mar. 7, 1501, in Wells Cathedral, and held subsequently the office of chamberlain of Glastonbury. On the death of Abbot Bere, February 1525, the monks invited Cardinal Wolsey to choose the successor. Wolsey, at the suggestion of John Islip, Abbot of Westminster, in the chapel at York Place, Mar. 3, 1525, nominated Richard Whiting, a selection formally witnessed by Thomas More. The highly respected Abbot Whiting was warmly regarded by John Leland, the antiquary, and later, by Cromwell's visitor, Robert Layton (for which indiscretion Layton was reprimanded by Cromwell). As abbot, Whiting was a member of the House of Lords, and thus immediately involved in the King's divorce proceedings. Though privately unsympathetic, he prudently took no stand either in Parliament or in his abbey. He and his 51 monks subscribed to the Oath of Supremacy Sept. 19, 1534. Whiting endeavored to keep royal favor by a number of gifts and offers to Henry VIII and Cromwell. The first visitation to Glastonbury by Layton in August 1535 found such good discipline that Glastonbury was left for the most part unmolested, except that the jurisdiction of the abbey over the town was suspended. In succeeding years the property of the abbey was constantly being granted on leases to courtiers, while Cromwell continued to reassure the abbot there would be no suppression. Sensing trouble, Whiting pleaded illness in his nonattendance at the Parliament of 1539 that sealed the fate of monasteries still unsuppressed. On Sept. 19, 1539, the royal commissioners, headed by Layton, Pollard, and Moyle, arrived without warning at Glastonbury. Their interrogation of the weak and sickly old abbot showed them his "cankered and traitorous heart"the phrase used in government for independence of speechand he was brought to the Tower to be examined by Cromwell himself. The search of Glastonbury revealed rich hidden treasures of gold plate and other costly items. It would seem that the original intention to accuse Whiting of treason was, as a result, abandoned in favor of the rather ironic charge of robbery. Despite older opinions to the contrary, there can be little doubt that Whiting at his trial at Wells was charged and convicted of robbery, not treason. He was arraigned at Wells, Friday, Nov. 14, and executed the following day. Two of his monks, John Thorne (treasurer) and Roger James were executed with him. He accepted his sufferings patiently and at the end asked pardon of God and his King. His limbs were exposed at Wells, Bath, Ilchester, and Bridgewater and his head set up over the gateway of the abbey. He was beatified by Leo XIII in 1896.

Feast: Dec. 1.

See Also: england, scotland, and wales, martyrs of.

Bibliography: j. s. brewer et al., eds., Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, 22 v. (London 18621932). d. knowles, The Religious Orders in England, v.3, bibliog. f. a. gasquet, The Last Abbot of Glastonbury (London 1934; repr. Freeport, NY 1970). a. watkin, ed., Dean Cosyn and Wells Cathedral: Miscellanea (Somerset Record Society 56; London 1941); "Glastonbury, 153839, as Shown by Its Account Rolls," Downside Review 67 (1949) 437450. t. wright, ed., Three Chapters of Letters Relating to the Suppression of Monasteries (Camden Society 26; London 1843). p. hughes, The Reformation in England (New York 1963). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater 4:461462.

[j. d. hanlon]

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