Gerard fainted eight or nine times before he was taken down. He was suspended again next day but still refused to talk, so his torturers were forced to try something different:
‘They took him to the rack. The torturers and examiners were there ready. When he entered the place, he suddenly knelt down and with a loud voice prayed to our Lord that, as He had given grace and comfort to some of His saints to bear with Christian patience being torn to pieces by horses for His love, so He would be pleased to give him grace and courage, rather to be dragged into a thousand pieces than to say anything that might injure any person or the Divine glory.’
Recognising a fanatic when they saw one, the torturers decided to leave Father Gerard alone. He escaped from the Tower six months later by shinning down a rope and crossing the moat to Tower Wharf, where a getaway boat was waiting.
Founded in the 1560s to rival the great trading centre at Antwerp, the Royal Exchange is one of the four places in London where the death of a monarch is formally announced with the words ‘The King is dead. Long live the King.’
In 1727, a French political exile lived nearby. He was deeply impressed by the religious tolerance that he found in England, so different from his native country, where the official religion was the only one allowed:
‘Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian transact together as tho’ they all profess’d the same religion, and give the name of Infidel to none but bankrupts.’
HISTORIC LONDON: X MARKS THE SPOT. Question 88. A Frenchman approving of the British? Who on earth was he?
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