London – British Museum (Cicely Ormes)

I usually visit the British Museum three or four times a year, something which is a little difficult to do with the current virus situation, primarily because it’s shut. However, they’ve placed hundreds of thousands of images on their web-site, so this will have to do me for the moment. The images can be used non-commercially, as long as the British Museum is credited. So, this is their credit.

This print was made by Thomas Bowles II in the mid-eighteenth century and it was donated to the British Museum in 1901 by Sir Sidney Colvin. The image tells the story of Cicely Ormes, a brave woman from Norwich who was burned at the stake on 23 September 1557.

Ormes, who was born in East Dereham, lived in the St. Lawrence parish of the city and when she was aged 21, she was pressured by a Catholic magistrate to denounce her Protestant faith. She did, but she regretted this, and so she recanted. Ormes, the wife of a worsted weaver, was then arrested a few months later and ordered to shut up about her refusal to accept the Catholic faith. She said no, so the magistrate ordered that she be burned to death.

At the stake she stood firm and said:

“Welcome thou cross of Christ” and “my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour”.

It was common for people to change their religion at this time, indeed, it was pretty essential as the Monarchs kept faffing about with their decision on what the national religion should be. But, they were allowed to just change their minds to suit the situation, which most people did for a quiet life. Cicely Ormes was clearly braver than that, she didn’t want to sacrifice her beliefs and so she died at the age of 22. She was reported to feel no pain as she died, and she was clearly very courageous, and I’m not sure that Norwich has really recognised that bravery.