Before the 15th century they were issued for a wide variety of matters, but since then they have been reserved for only the most serious or solemn of occasions. The term 'bull' is taken from the bulla that appends the document -- the metal seal that authenticates it.
Henry Howard, (1517-1547), a founder of English Renaissance poetry and an aristocrat who could claim descent from royalty on both sides of his family, is credited, along with his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt, with being the first to use the sonnet form, later to be popularised by William Shakespeare. He and Wyatt are referred to as 'The Fathers of the English Sonnet'.
Together with his father, Thomas Howard, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, he was imprisoned by Henry VIII, tried and pronounced guilty for treason, and beheaded on 13 January 1547.
In 1558 the Bridewell referred to what would have been Bridewell Palace, next to the old Fleet River and near to a well dedicated to St. Bride. It was then an instituion housing a prison, workrooms and hospital. Originally built for Henry VIII who lived there between 1515-1523, it was given to the City of London By Edward VI in 1553 as it was no longer used as a royal residence. It was used to house homeless children and to punish so-called 'disorderly' women. The term 'Bridewell' came to be used for other such institutions and is still used for detention facilities, usually situated near to courtrooms.
Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478-6 July 1535), one of Henry VIII's chief advisors and his Lord Chancellor from 1529 until 1532, opposed the Protestant Reformation and, ultimately, Henry himself. He disagreed strongly with Henry's break from papal authority and becoming Head of the Church in England. For refusing to take the oath of obedience under the terms of the First Succession Act in 1534, which denied both the supremacy of the Pope and the legitimacy of Henry's first marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he was imprisoned in the Tower. Found guilty of treason at his trial in 1535 he was beheaded, and as a martyr he was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1888 and canonised in 1935, along with John Fisher. His name was added to the Church of England's calendar of saints in 1980.
Video: Paul Scofield as Thomas More at his trial, and Robert Shaw as Henry VIII in the 1966 film A Man For All Seasons, adapted from the play of the same name by Robert Bolt.
It is difficult, today, to understand, never mind to sympathise with, the belief shared by More, and many of his contemporaries, that heresy was such an awful sin it endangered the immortal soul. But More did believe this and he paid for that belief with his own life. Although historians have been divided as to the full extent of his involvement with the burnings, as Peter Ackroyd says of the condemned heretics, (The Life of Thomas More. Vintage 1999 p. 296) 'These men anticipated the Antichrist who, as far as More was concerned, might soon be born among the wreckage of the world. Their words might tempt poor souls into eternal damnation. They had to be prevented by all and any means'. If this belief appears to be contrasted with More's reputation as a humanist, it was nevertheless consistent with the times.
David Starkey asserts that Elizabeth, in all probability, knew of her sister Mary's death before she was proclaimed Queen in London, and was well prepared for it. And one of the key figures in the smooth takeover of power from Mary to Elizabeth was William Cecil. William Cecil, 1st Baron Burleigh, (13 September 1521-4 August 1598), one-time Protector Somerset's secretary, had known Elizabeth from the reign of Edward VI, if not before. He survived, and managed to prosper, under the Marian regime, becoming Elizabeth's Secretary of State. He remained Elizabeth's chief advisor for most of her reign and became her Lord High Treasurer in 1572.
Cicero, 106BC-43BC was a Roman philosopher, statesman and lawyer who produced many works during his lifetime, earning him the reputation of being one of the most influential Roman orators and prose stylists. His De Oficiis, written towards the end of his life, is a series of essays on the subject of how to live, to behave and to observe moral obligations. It takes the form of a letter to his son and was published after Cicero's death. In the book, in which he criticises the recently deposed dictator Julius Caesar, he advises on how to live and not just on how to rule.
Cicero uses anecdote to illustrate the points he is trying to get across, as Roger Ascham, a tutor of Greek and Latin to Elizabeth I, used anecdote, in his case of the young Elizabeth, to put across his views on education.
Born around 1563 and after spending some years abroad, Robert Naunton returned to England and became a politician and courtier from 1606. His Fragmenta Regalia, or Observations on the Late Queen Elizabeth, her Times and Favourites, was not published until after his death in 1635.
The full horror of a traitor's death, consisted of hanging, drawing and quartering and was, from the 13th century, the penalty for high treason. After being taken to the place of execution on a hurdle, the convicted man was hanged until nearly dead, then disembowelled, beheaded, and his body cut into four pieces which were then usually exhibited as a deterrent. Women so convicted were burnt alive instead. An action against the authority of the monarch was regarded, and treated, as high treason.
The Throckmorton Plot, in 1583, was an unsuccessful attempt to assasinate the Protestant Elizabeth and to place the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne in order to restore Catholicism as the established religion of England. The plot, by Catholics, failed due to the sophisticated intelligence network of William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham and the use of torture to extract information from the perpetrators, including one of the leaders, Francis Throckmorton. He confessed under torture and was convicted of high treason for plotting the life of the sovereign and acting as a go-between for Mary, Queen of Scots and the Spanish ambassador, Mendoza, who was acting on behalf of Philip II of Spain.