[engraving] 16 October: Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, and Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, Reformation Martyrs, 1555: When Henry VIII of England died, he left three heirs: his son Edward and his two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. Edward succeeded to the throne and was a staunch Protestant (or at least his advisors were). Under his rule, the church services, previously in Latin, were translated into English, and other changes were made. When Edward died, the throne passed to his sister Mary, who was firmly Roman Catholic in her beliefs. She determined to return England to union with the Pope. With more diplomacy, she might have succeeded. But she was headstrong and would take no advice. Her mother had been Spanish, and she determined to marry the heir to the throne of Spain, not realizing how much her people (of all religious persuasions) feared that this would make England a province of the Spanish Empire. She insisted that the best way to deal with heresy was to burn as many heretics as possible. (It is worth noting that her husband was opposed to this.) In the course of a five-year reign, she lost all the English holdings on the continent of Europe, she lost the affection of her people, and she lost any chance of a peaceful religious settlement in England. Of the two-hundred-plus persons burned by her orders, the most famous are the Oxford Martyrs, commemorated today.

Hugh Latimer was famous as a preacher. He was Bishop of Worcester in the time of King Henry, but resigned in protest against the King's refusal to allow the Protestant reforms that Latimer desired. Latimer's sermons speak little of doctrine; he preferred to urge men to upright living and devoutness in prayer. But when Mary came to the throne, he was arrested, tried for heresy, and burned together with his friend Nicholas Ridley. His last words at the stake are well known: "Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God's grace shall never be put out."

Nicholas Ridley became an adherent of the Protestant cause while a student at Cambridge. He was a friend of Archbishop Cranmer and became private chaplain first to Cranmer and then to King Henry. Under the reign of Edward, he became bishop of Rochester, and was part of the commitee that drew up the first English Book of Common Prayer. When Mary came to the throne, he was arrested, tried, and burned with Latimer at Oxford on 16 October 1555.

Latimer and Ridley, together with Thomas Cranmer (also burned at the stake in Oxford), are commemorated in the Martyrs' Memorial outside Balliol College, Oxford, designed by Gilbert Scott after the style of the Eleanor Crosses. Around the corner a small cross in the middle of Broad Street marks the site of their execution.

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