There exists only two sources of Bishop Nicholas Ridley’s life. If there are others I couldn’t
find them. One source is a digital eBook called Nicholas Ridley, Bishop and Martyr, by James
Charles Ryle (born May 10, 1816, died June 10, 1900), who was educated at Eton College, Christ
Church, Oxford, University of Oxford.
The second source is the book Nicholas Ridley, A Biography by Jasper Godwin Ridley (born
May 25, 1920 England, United Kingdom, died 2004), educated at the University of Paris, Magdalen
College, Oxford. I could find no evidence Jaspar Godwin Ridley was at all related to Bishop
I was able to obtain two hard copies of this book, one which was sold by a local library in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a bookstore in the same city, and the second was from a library in
Seattle, Washington sold to a bookstore in the same city. Both were in decent condition, and I gave
one copy to a Mr. Frank Ridley, a bona fide descendant of Bishop Nicholas Ridley. I kept the
second copy. Mr. Frank Ridley and I are both members of the Meriden Poetry Society in Meriden,
Connecticut. Meetings are held every third Wednesday of each month at the Meriden Public
Library. It was for Mr. Frank Ridley I wrote the poem.
On October 16, 2013, at the Meriden Poetry Society meeting, exactly on the 458th
anniversary of Bishop Nicholas Ridley’s death by burning at the stake, for heresy, Mr. Frank Ridley
expressed the desire to have one of the poets in the group write a poem about Bishop Nicholas
Ridley. I decided I would be one of the poets to do so. Little did I know what I had gotten myself
into, and the group didn’t realize how seriously I would take the task. The first thing I had to do
was to find information about Nicholas Ridley.
Both books pretty much told the same story about Ridley’s death. It was not just the fact
that Ridley was burned at the stake, but the fact that the ordeal had taken much longer that it should
have, and that Ridley’s faith in his God never faltered throughout the entire agonizing event.
In brief, to detail what happened to Ridley, he was tied to a stake, and the wood was piled up
to his waist, and so tightly packed around him, that when the wood was set ablaze from
underneath, the flames could not rise above his waist because there was no room for the flames to
As the fired raged, burning him from the waist down, from the waist up it seemed Ridley
could not burn at all. Bishop Latimer, who was burned at the stake alongside Ridley, during the
ordeal, would then pronounce the most famous words in all England:
“Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We
shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England,
as I trust shall never be put out.”
Bishop Ridley would say, among other things:
“In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum: Domine,
recipe epiritum meum.”
“Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit: Lord, receive
These words triggered in my mind the type of poem I would write, the only one I could use,
a heroic crown of sonnets. It was a challenge in itself, and to further challenge myself, I decided
to make the last sonnet (the fifteenth sonnet) an acrostic, spelling out the name Nicholas Ridley. In
a sonnet like the heroic crown, you have to write the last stanza first, and it took me ten months to
However, once I had finally written the last stanza, it took me just two months to write the
other fourteen. The fourteen stanzas still to be written reminded me of another series of events
about another famous person in religious history. I likened the fourteen sonnets to the Via Dolorosa
or Way of Sorrows, better known as The Stations of the Cross.
My heroic crown was perfect for the poem. It was perfect for relating, sonnet by sonnet,
the sequence of events, from Ridley’s being declared a heretic, all the way through to his death, the
tragedy that occurred in this man’s religious lifespan.
Then came to me another idea to complete my task. As with the fourteen Stations of the
Cross, I wanted a visual representation of each phase of the burning at the stake, from the moment
Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary, declared Ridley and Latimer heretics, all the way to their
deaths. I wanted to illustrate the scenes, sonnet by sonnet, as well with pictures, of the burning at
the stake of the bishop and martyr, Nicholas Ridley.
This Heroic Crown of sonnets, with its illustrations, is the result of my acquaintance with the
Bishop Nicholas Ridley, who was probably, and maybe still considered, the most religious man of
the Protestant Church, or even of any church. I finished the poem in time for the 459th
anniversary of the death of Nicholas Ridley, bishop and martyr.
|A Real Bishop Really Burnt At The Stake