KS3 > The Reformation > MPs > John Story
John Story was probably born in Salisbury. He received a good education and was sent to Oxford University where he became a brilliant scholar in civil law. He first entered Parliament thanks to the patronage (support) of religious conservatives, and he opposed Edward VI’s reformation. In his will he said that he regretted taking the Oath of Supremacy, and he was sent to prison in 1549 for a speech in Parliament that criticised the Book of Common Prayer. He left England for Louvain (now in Belgium).
Story returned to England when Mary became Queen. He became a major figure in Mary’s persecution of Protestants in Oxford and was one of the judges in Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s trial for heresy. Story was later demonised as one of the cruellest of the anti-Protestant persecutors under Mary, but these claims may have been exaggerated. He claimed that he pardoned heretics who were ‘ignorant’. Many Protestants still hated him.
|Thomas Cranmer's arrest, from Foxe's Book of Martyrs|
When Elizabeth came to the throne, Story faced many difficulties. He attended the 1559 Parliament and voted against Elizabeth’s reforms. He was imprisoned twice in the 1560s, the second time for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy. He fled to the Netherlands, where he was said to help Catholics and gave his allegiance to the Catholic Philip of Spain.
In 1571 he was kidnapped and brought back to England to face trial. He shocked Elizabethan England by claiming that he did not recognise Elizabeth’s authority. He believed people should have the right to choose their monarch according to their beliefs. Whilst today we accept that people can change their nationality, then Tudor public opinion thought this was horrifying treason. It is unclear how involved he was in helping Catholic rebels abroad plot against Elizabeth, yet he was both suspected of doing so and a prominent example to deter others. He was found guilty of treason and executed in 1571.
John Story faced the gruesome traitor’s death: he was hung, drawn and quartered. Despite being in his sixties, it was said that during the ‘drawing’ (when he was disembowelled) he had enough strength to attack his executioner!