KS3 > The Reformation > MPs > Richard Tracy
Richard Tracy came from a prominent Gloucestershire family. He was elected the MP for Wooton Basset in 1529, possibly with the support of local Protestants.
Tracy’s father William was an early convert to Protestantism. His son’s life was changed dramatically after his father died in 1530. In his will William had made a strongly Protestant declaration. Under Henry VIII’s church his views were heretical, and in 1531 William Tracy’s body was dug up and, illegally, burnt at the stake. This made William Tracy a Protestant hero.
Richard Tracy was horrified this had happened, and began a legal battle on behalf of his father. The man who burnt the body illegally was eventually fined £300, and in the process, Richard Tracy came to the attention of Thomas Cromwell and became one of the leading Protestants in Gloucestershire.
He was given land that had once belonged to Tewkesbury Abbey, which he made his family home. He was also involved in the dissolution of the monasteries in the South West. In 1538 he was part of the commission that examined the famous relic of Hailes Abbey, the ‘holy blood’. Pilgrims had been visiting Hailes since the 13th Century to pray to what they believed to be a phial (small container) of Jesus’ blood. The commission found that the blood was instead ‘honey clarified and coloured with saffron’, and it was given to Richard Tracy for safe-keeping.
|Hailes Abbey, Gloucestershire © Matt Northam|
Tracy did well out of the dissolution and gained many former church lands, but he was certainly a committed, if cautious, Protestant. He supported others who fell foul of Henry’s heresy laws and when Edward VI was King he published Protestant texts. Under Mary I, he was twice in trouble with the Privy Council and lost his local government offices. Restored to his positions under Elizabeth, he was still unhappy with the new religious settlement. He wrote to her chief minister, William Cecil, to complain that it was not Protestant enough.
Tracy died in 1569.
Protestants chose biblical names to demonstrate their religion. Tracy’s three sons were Paul, Nathaniel and Samuel, and his daughters were named after Old Testament heroines – Hester, Susan and Judith.