A service is held in Bodmin to remember 900 Cornishmen killed as they sought to preserve their religion and language
Source: The Cornish Guardian
A SERVICE to commemorate a 16th-century atrocity when 900 Cornishmen were executed during the Prayer Book Uprising has been held in Bodmin.
The men were taken prisoner near Exeter after the battle of Clyst Heath in August 1549, had their hands tied behind their backs and their throats slit by mercenaries hired into the army of King Edward VI.
The Cornish army had gathered a month earlier in the old hill fort of Castle Canyke in Bodmin, where they were commanded by 36-year-old Humphrey Arundell of Helland.
The commemoration service took place at St Petroc's parish church in Bodmin, led by the Reverend Graham Minors, with passages read in both Cornish and English.
Piper William Buchanan played a lament and the service ended with a rendition of Trelawney.
It was organised by Mike Hancock from St Cleer, a member of the Cornish Language Fellowship, who adorned the floor of the church with 900 Cornish flags in memory of those who were slaughtered that day.
Mr Hancock said: "It was documented that those poor boys were all slaughtered in just ten minutes, by mostly German mercenaries.
"It was a bloodbath and was the most heinous crime ever committed on British soil.
"It's an important piece of Cornish history, yet people these days don't want to be reminded of it. Certainly our children don't know about what happened at Clyst Heath, and it's something that should form part of their Cornish history lessons."
Unrest in Cornwall had been simmering for years, and the introduction of the new Book of Common Prayer was the final straw for many in the county. It was printed in English, but many people still spoke Cornish and now Latin church services were replaced by those in English.
In June 1549 Cornwall rebelled, with thousands marching on Plymouth and Exeter.
The Battle of Clyst Heath was the single bloodiest engagement of the entire uprising.
Lord Russell and his royal army, including Italian and German mercenaries, began their march on Exeter on August 3, 1549, defeating a group of rebels two days later.
Cornish troops under Humphrey Arundell regrouped in the village of Clyst St Mary but were defeated by a royal force led by Sir William Francis.
Fearing another attack, the commanders of the royal army ordered their Cornish prisoners to be killed.
A contemporary chronicler recorded that it took just ten minutes to slit the throats of all 900 prisoners. The siege of Exeter was abandoned and those remaining withdrew.
Many escaped, including Arundell, who fled to Launceston. He was captured and taken to London.
It is said that more than 5,500 people lost their lives in the uprising. Further orders were issued on behalf of the king by the Lord Protector, the Duke of Somerset, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer for the continuance of the onslaught.
English and mercenary forces then moved throughout Devon and into Cornwall and executed or killed many people before the bloodshed finally ceased. Proposals to translate the Prayer Book into Cornish were also suppressed.
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