“Three blind mice, three blind mice,

See how they run, see how they run !

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

Who chopped off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a thing in your life,

As three blind mice ?”


Another nursery rhyme stemming from the reign of ‘Bloody Mary’ and emphasizes the fate of three actual men.

This rhyme first appeared in 1609.  Mary Tudor, Queen of England, Catholic daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII threw the country into what was called the ‘Marian’ persecution period when she took the throne in 1553.

‘The three blind mice’ referred to three Protestant Bishops, who became known as the ‘Oxford Martyrs’. They were in fact not actually blinded. But their sightless state was related to their closed hearts on Catholicism, and being hypnotized by the guile of Protestantism.

Mary and her husband Prince Phillip of Spain, were great landowners identifying her as ‘the farmer’s wife’. 

Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, preached for the bible to be written in English. This was still dangerous even under Henry VIII’s reign. Henry had already initiated the Church of England, but was at the time, influenced by the wave of Lutheran doctrines, from Europe.

Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London & Westminster, supported the accession of Lady Jane Grey to the throne, on Edward VI’s death in 1553. Thus, wanting England to be continued to be ruled by Protestant monardchs.

Thomas Cranmer, was the Archbishop of  Canterbury, from 1533 – 1555. He served four monarchs:- Henry VIII, the boy king, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey and Mary I.

All  three men had been in office under Protestant rulers and failed in their plot to dethrone Mary I. Mary had initially proclaimed Protestantism could continue, then demanded the whole country be converted to Catholicism again.

They were housed in the Bocardo Prison. Then tried for heresy at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, the official church of the University of Oxford. They were stripped of their vestments ‘cut off their tails with a carving knife’ and burnt at the stake.

Latimer and Ridley met their demise on 16th October 1555. Ridley died in agony. His brother-in-law had placed more flammable twigs on the pyre, in order, to quicken his death. This only increased his lower portions to ignite and burn rapidly, leaving his upper body to smolder slowly. Latimer is said to have spoken to Ridley saying, “Play the man, Master Ridley, we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out”. 

In the cobbled streets of Oxford, just outside Balliol College, there is a Victorian Martyr’s Memmorial. In Broad Street, near to the actual place where they died a cross has been erected.

Cranmer withdrew his prophecy on Protestantism, after the execution of Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day, Queen of England. He then reverted to Catholicism and took the mass.  However, Mary was out for his blood and refused leniency. He finally revoked the Catholic Church altogether, and went to the stake a pillar for the Anglican Church of England. Cranmer following Latimer & Ridley was burnt on 21st March 1556.



1 Comment
  1. Zoe Williams 3 years ago

    Excellent post; I would never have guessed how much history was behind these songs!

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