Skip to main content
Trade Books For Courses Tradebooks for Courses

The Burning Time

Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, and the Protestant Martyrs of London

Virginia Rounding

St. Martin's Press

opens in a new window
opens in a new window The Burning Time Download image

ISBN10: 1250040647
ISBN13: 9781250040640


480 Pages



Request Desk Copy
Request Exam Copy


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

Smithfield, settled on the fringes of Roman London, was once a place of revelry. Jesters and crowds flocked for the medieval St Bartholomew's Day celebrations, tournaments were plentiful and it became the location of London's most famous meat market. Yet in Tudor England, Smithfield had another, more sinister use: the public execution of heretics.

The Burning Time is a vivid insight into an era in which what was orthodoxy one year might be dangerous heresy the next. The first martyrs were Catholics, who cleaved to Rome in defiance of Henry VIII's break with the papacy. But with the accession of Henry's daughter Mary—soon to be nicknamed 'Bloody Mary'—the charge of heresy was leveled against devout Protestants, who chose to burn rather than recant.

At the center of Virginia Rounding's vivid account of this extraordinary period are two very different characters. The first is Richard Rich, Thomas Cromwell's protégé, who, almost uniquely, remained in a position of great power, influence and wealth under three Tudor monarchs, and who helped send many devout men and women to their deaths. The second is John Deane, Rector of St Bartholomew's, who was able, somehow, to navigate the treacherous waters of changing dogma and help others to survive.

The Burning Time is their story, but it is also the story of the hundreds of men and women who were put to the fire for their faith.


Praise for The Burning Time

“Ms. Rounding vividly conveys how the blood of the martyred dead became the predicate for the religious liberty we now enjoy.”The Wall Street Journal

“This gruesomely entertaining book examines the Tudor zeal for burning people in the name of religion. . . . Burning is, Rounding suggests, a preferred way of dealing with those harbouring dangerous religious ideas because it both ‘purifies’ and leaves little or no trace.”The Times (London), “Book of the Week”

“Rounding explores the depth of the differences and the dangers of life under Henry VIII and his daughter, Queen Mary . . . Throughout the book, the author examines the mindsets of the martyrs and the strength of their consciences, which kept them from deserting their belief . . . An intriguing, astute look at this volatile period.”Kirkus Reviews

“Rounding comprehensively examines what brought about this dark period in history, while also making connections to the current religious climate and the possibility of learning from the past to end these conflicts . . . Recommended for history buffs interested in religious impacts on society, as well as those wishing to learn more about the Tudor dynasty”Library Journal

“Rounding delves into the tumultuous Tudor era, ably recounting the hunt for heretics who failed to change their beliefs in accordance with the change of monarch . . . Rounding complements her gift for storytelling with letters and official records to flesh out stories of specific victims . . . an excellent account of 16th-century religious persecution and martyrdom.”Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Virginia Rounding

VIRGINIA ROUNDING is a writer, critic and former RLF Fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Author of biographies of Catherine the Great, Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, and of Grandes Horizontales, a study of French courtesans, she also contributes to a number of newspapers and magazines, such as the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times.