Woodman an English Name

Pencil Sketch by Wendy Harty 2004 “Canadian Goose”

History can be horrible! What can we do to each other to cause suffering? On June 22, 1557, Nicholas Richard Woodman a farmer and iron master was burnt at the stake at Lewes, England during the Marian persecutions. He was born at Corsham, Wiltshire, England. The next year in 1558, the Act of Uniformity was passed in English Parliament requiring all to go to church once a week. The consequence of not attending church was a fine of 12 pence, a considerable amount for a poor person.

My ninth great grandmother had the name of Elizabeth Woodman. my seventh grandfather Woodman Stockley, my fifth and sixth grandfather’s Woodman Stockley Sidbury Sr and Jr. Woodman was a name used on my mother’s paternal and maternal ancestry for generations.

Here’s a deep dive into what happened in their native land of England before they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to take up residence in the new colonies of America. In Europe, both Catholics and Protestants burnt one another depending who was in power. All those dreadful executions as they lopped off heads of the upper class people, lords and ladies and archbishops. The ordinary people weren’t affected until the Marian Government of Queen Mary.

Catholicism became identified as something violent and hateful, foreign and Spanish. What happened when Mary married Spain’s Philip was unpopular, as people thought the Inquisition would come to England. What happened was worse.

King Henry VIII, the lusty womanizer, married 6 times and the handsome, vigorous King canoodled with numerous ladies-in-waiting along with his many wives, until he became a 300 pound tyrant. Mary was his daughter from the first wife. By 1520, Henry was unhappy as he had no male heir. Henry, a Catholic, sought an annulment so he could marry again. The Pope refused so Henry broke away from the Church and became Head of the Church of England. The second wife was beheaded and four more marriages occurred with some wives dying, another ended in in annulment, another beheaded.

The English were unhappy with Henry VIII who treated the Catholics with horrific and torturous executions. During the Reformation they harbored grudges. Mary had many step-mothers. She was declared illegitimate as was her sister Elizabeth. By 1544, King Henry reinstated the girls behind their half brother, Edward. When Henry died, Edward took the throne and England was Protestant. He again removed Mary from the line of succession and put his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, who, when he died was proclaimed Queen. Lady Jane tried to capture Mary but Mary raised an army who declared Mary the legitimate Queen. Lady Jane was Queen for 9 days, was imprisoned in the Tower of London and executed.

Marriages were not for love but mostly built dynasties. At the age of 2, Mary was engaged to the son of the King of France. This engagement was terminated. Then Mary was betrothed to her cousin Emperor Charles V. This also ended and she married his son Prince Philip of Spain, 10 years her junior. In 1554, many tried to overthrow Mary, anxious about restoring the Catholic Church. She resurrected the laws against heresy and as a result 300 Protestants were burned at the stake. The English were still angry. Queen Mary reinstated Edmund Bonner as Bishop of London. He was responsible for sending 1/3 of the 300 to the stake. All deaths happened in a two year period – a bloody time giving her the name Mary Queen of Scots or Bloody Mary. Some were saved as on November 17, 1558, the executions were interrupted by a messenger shouting, “The Queen is dead!” The death penalty required her signature or was cancelled if the monarch died before the sentence was carried out.

In the end, Queen Mary died childless and Queen Elizabeth, her sister, took the nation back to Protestantism. The Elizabethan era saw voyages of discovery and my mother’s ancestor’s, the Woodman’s, Stockley’s, Sidbury’s and Atkinson’s all left England to come to the Eastern Shores of America giving me part of my 30% English ethnicity.

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