The City of London, now the financial district, has been governed from the Guildhall for more than 800 years. The present building dates from 1430 but was extensively refurbished after bomb damage during the Blitz.
On 13 November 1553, a party of prisoners arrived here to be tried for high treason. Led by an executioner carrying an axe, they trudged through the streets from the Tower of London while a sympathetic crowd watched in silence.
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was one of the prisoners. So was the Duke of Northumberland’s 17-year-old son. He was followed by his 16-year-old wife and her two gentlewomen. His wife was so small that she had to wear three inch soles on her clogs so that people in the crowd could see her.
‘The lady was in a black gowne of cloth, tourned downe; the cappe lined with fese velvet, and edget about with the same, in a French hoode, all black, with a black byllyment, a black velvet boke hanging before hir, and another boke in hir hande, open.’
Entering the hall, the prisoners took their places for the trial. The young woman was asked how she pleaded. In as firm a voice as she could manage, she immediately admitted her guilt.
The sentences were never in doubt. Archbishop Cranmer was burned at the stake. The young woman and her husband were escorted back to the Tower and later executed there.
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 79. Who was this poor young girl at the Guildhall sentenced to be beheaded?
‘Wickedly funny’ – Daily Mail
‘Funniest book of the year’ – Daily Telegraph
No 3 best-seller, Amazon humorous fiction