12. Memorable Final Words Amidst the Flames
Henry VIII was succeeded on the throne by his underage son, Edward VI, who was staunchly Protestant. Hugh Latimer regained royal favor, was appointed court preacher, and became the young king’s chaplain. However, Edward died young and without issue, and was succeeded by his sister Mary, a staunch Catholic who viewed Protestantism as a heresy, and was determined to restore England to Catholicism. Early in her reign, she had prominent Protestants such as Latimer imprisoned and tried for heresy. Latimer, along with fellow bishop Nicholas Ridley and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, was tried for heresy in Oxford in 1555. He was convicted when he refused to renounce his faith, and was sentenced to be burned at the stake.
Latimer was chained to the stake alongside Ridley. When the flames were lit, Ridley cried out in agony. Latimer sought to comfort him even as he himself was consumed by fire, and uttered his final words through the smoke and flames: “be of good cheer, master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle in England, as I hope, by God’s grace, shall never be put out.” It could be argued that the candle still burns. Queen Mary’s efforts to restore Catholicism failed. When she died in 1558, she was succeeded by her Protestant sister, Elizabeth I, and England has been Protestant ever since.