The Norton's Final Confessions
The following is an Extract from A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanors from the Earliest Period to the Year 1783, pp 1085-6
The several Confessions of Thomas Norton, and Christopher Norton, two of the Northern Rebels, who suffered at Tyburn, and were drawn, hanged, and quartered for Treason, May 27, 1570. Imprinted at London, by Wm How, for Rd Jones
The Confession of Thomas Norton which he made at his Death, in form as hereafter followeth.
On Saturday, being the 27th day of May, Thomas Norton, and Christopher Norton, of Yorkshire, being both condemned of High-Treason against the Queen’s Majesty’s person, were delivered, by the lieutenant of the Tower, to the sheriffs of London: and were both laid on a hurdle, and so drawn from the Tower, through the city of London, to Tyburn (the place of execution) having besides many officers, and a multitude of others, a godly preacher riding beside them, always comforting, and earnestly exhorting them, all the way, to acknowledge their fact, to discharge their conscience, and to be truly repentant, and heartily sorry for the same.
And, being come to the place of Execution, proclamation was made of the cause of their death. Thomas Norton, the elder man, was first executed, who took his death in this wise. He being come up, and standing upon the cart, with the rope about his neck, the preacher requested him, earnestly, to acknowledge his offence, in rebelling against God and his prince, and to ask God mercy for his sins, and of the queen’s majesty forgiveness for his disobedience.
He answered; That for the offence made and committed towards the queen’s majesty, he had the law for it, and therefore must suffer death, and to that end he was come thither, and so asked God for forgiveness for his offences. Then, he being requested by the preacher, to say the Lord’s prayer, he immediately began to say the same in Latin. And, being disturbed by the preacher, who willed him to say it as God hath commanded, and, as every true churchman ought to do (that is to say) in the vulgar tongue, that all the audience might bear witness how he died a true Christian. Sir, (quoth he) and answered very obstinately, that he would pray in Latin, and therefore prayed him that he would not molest his conscience. Then the Secondary bad him, if he would needs say it in Latin, to say it then secretly to himself; and so he did.
His Latin prayers being ended, the preacher, not neglecting his duty, exhorted him very earnestly, to say the Lord’s prayer and the Belief in English, from the bottom of his heart, as every true Christian ought to do. At last, after much exhortation, he granted to say it in English; and so said the Lord’s prayer in English, whereunto he added the Ave-Maria, and then the Belief. And then he desired , not only the audience, but also all the Saints in Heaven, to pray for him, both then, and at all times, as well as after his death, as then he being alive.
Then the preacher bade him put his whole hope and trust in the death and blood-shedding for Christ our Saviour, and by him only hope to be saved. With that the cart was drawn away, and there he hung a certain space, and then was taken down, and quartered, in the presence of his nephew, Christopher Norton, who then presently must drink of the same cup.
The End and Confession of Christopher Norton, who, as it seemed, died more repentant and more Christian-like, than his Uncle did.
Christopher Norton, the younger son, after he beheld the death of his uncle, as well as his quartering, as otherwise, knowing, and being well assured, that he himself must follow the same way, seemed very repentant, and heartily sorry for his offence, and immediately kneeled down on the ground, before he came to the cart, with his face Eastward, and his prayers unto God: and afterward, stepping up to the cart and then being asked by the preacher, Whether he did believe, and hope to be saved by Christ’s death, and blood-shedding? he made Answer; That he did verily so believe, and hoped to be saved by no other means; and, therefore, besought all the audience, who then were present, to bear witness, that he there died a true Christian. And being asked, Whether he did acknowledge and confess that he had deserved to die? And whether he had not both offended God, and the queen’s majesty; he made answer, That he had worthily deserved that death, and therefore besought God, and all men to forgive him, for committing the like.
And immediately he did inquire; Whether any there did know one Philip Shurley, who now is captain in Scotland? There were some made Answer; that they did know him. Then he declared, how he was the causer of his death, nevertheless, he did forgive him; and when he and the people had said the Lord’s Prayer together, then he made his Confession to God in thiswise: –
‘I Christopher Norton, who am come hither to take my death, being justly condemned, by the laws of the realm, being sound of body, and of perfect remembrance, do here acknowledge and confess, my good Lord and Saviour, before the Throne of thy majesty, my heinous offence, by me committed between God and my prince; desiring thee, good Lord, from the very bottom of my heart, to have mercy on me, miserable and wretched sinner, who am now coming to thee, being here now ready to die. O most merciful Lord receive me, a sinful wretch, and refuse me not, but hearken to my voice’ –
With that, the hangman executed his office: and, being hanged a little while, and then cut down, the butcher opened him, and as he took out his bowels, he cried and said, ‘Oh Lord, Lord, have mercy upon me!’ and so yielded up the ghost. Then being, likewise , quartered as the other was, and their bowels burned, as the manner is, their quarters were put into a basket, provided for the purpose, and so carried to Newgate, where they were parboiled; and afterwards, their heads set on London-Bridge, and their quarters set upon sundry gates of the city of London, for an example to all Traitors and Rebels, for committing High-Treason against God and their prince.
God grant it may be a special warning for all men; and God turn the hearts of all those who are maliciously bent against Elizabeth, our queen and sovereign of this realm, and send her a triumphant victory over all her enemies. Amen. God save the Queen.
[The punctuation and spelling have been retained from the original document]