On the Channel 4 News of October 4th 1989, I noticed an item about the decision of the newly appointed Minister for the environment to repeal a decision made by his predecessor, Nicholas Ridley, to construct a new town in the south of England.
It was mentioned that Ridley’s decision had resulted in protesting residents of the area publicly burning him in effigy and some footage was shown of this taking place before a cheering crowd.
I found these scenes quite distressing, and wondered if there might be a legal aspect to it all. I knew that a couple of months earlier, President Bush had tried to rush through legislation to outlaw the burning of the American flag.
I certainly would have been extremely upset to have been burnt in effigy and thought that, at the very least, these people’s actions might have constituted some sort of public order offence.
The next day I noticed this letter in The Times:
On October 16 1555, Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, and Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, having been found guilty of a heresy which consisted essentially of denying the supremacy of the Pope, were burnt at the stake in the dry ditch outside the walls of Oxford. Latimer greeted Ridley with words that the historian Dr J. D. Mackie says have rung like a trumpet down the ages: "Be of good comfort Master Ridley and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as (I trust) shall never be put out."
Does it now fall sir (as many begin to fear) to Master Runcie to play the man who shall put out the candle that has burnt brightly for 434 years?
I remain, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,
I was aware neither of this earlier Nicholas Ridley nor of the manner of his death.