Wisecracking Schoolteacher, Chased by Birds and Martyred in Wrexham
|Too funny to live.|
He was busted in 1579, but escaped and lived on the lam for a while. Re-arrested, they carried him into church in irons and dropped him in front of the pulpit. Today's show and tell: a traitorous heretic. He drowned out the preacher's condemnations by rattling his chains like Jacob Marley, so they put him in the stocks instead.
They already had testimony against him that he made up little songs to mock the Protestant reforms. Doubling down on his reputation for scurrilous wit, he replied to a priest's taunt that he (the priest) held the keys to Heaven just as surely as Saint Peter did. Quoth he: "There is this difference, namely, that whereas Peter received the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, the keys you received were obviously those of the beer cellar." When fined the exorbitant sum of four hundred twenty pounds, he offered to pay six pence. When subjected to a sermon instead of a trial in hopes that he might relent, he heckled in Welsh while two other prisoners also heckled, one in Latin and the other in English.
|Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs?|
The Crown had little choice at this point; prosecution began in 1583. One defendant was not found guilty; another had his sentence reprieved. Gwyn, however, was sentenced to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering. The hangman tugged on his leg irons in an attempt to kill him before her was dismembered, but took him down a little early. He revived and was conscious through the disemboweling, but lost consciousness once they chopped off his head. Cephalophorism was out of fashion among the martyrs by that point.
I don't get the impression that the Crown really wanted to kill him. They hung onto him for years, but his satiric wit seems to have left them in a tight spot. Regimes have choices, but so do their prisoners. Given that the other two prisoners kept their heads, I'd say he comes in for a little of the blame for losing his.