Bishop John Fisher

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Bishop John Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan

Born 1469 - executed June 22nd, 1535 by order of King Henry VIII
Character's backstory: enrolled at Cambridge University in 1483, ordained in 1491, and in 1502 became chaplain to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. With her money and his ideas, they greatly altered Cambridge, restoring the teaching of Greek and Hebrew, bringing Erasmus over as a lecturer, and endowing many chairs and scholarships. In 1504 Fisher was made Chancellor of Cambridge and Bishop of Rochester. When Henry VII's funeral was held at St. Paul's Cathedral, he preached the sermon. He was at the coronation of both Henry VIII and Katherine or Aragon in 1509. In 1527 he became chaplain to the new king, Henry VIII, and confessor to the queen Katherine of Aragon. He stood high in the favor of Henry, who proclaimed that no other realm had any bishop as learned and devout.

Trouble arose for both Fisher and Sir Thomas More when Henry determined to seek a declaration that his marriage with Katherine was null on grounds of consanguinity. Fisher and More disagreed with him, and would not yield, either on the question of the annulment, nor later, when they were required to acknowledge the King as the final authority on ecclesiastical questions in England.

John Fisher holds the unpleasant distinction of being the only person to die for the Catholic faith while a member of the College of Cardinals. He was executed just days before Thomas More; both were later made saints and share the same feast day...June 22nd on the Roman Catholic calender of Saints and July 6th (date of More's death) on the Anglican calender of Saints.

Bishop John Fisher's last moments were thoroughly in keeping with his previous life. He met death with a calm, dignified, courage which profoundly impressed all who were present. His body was treated with particular rancour, apparently on Henry's orders, being stripped and left on the scaffold till evening, when it was taken on pikes and thrown naked into a rough grave in the churchyard of All Hallows. There was no funeral prayer. A fortnight later, his body was laid beside that of Sir Thomas More in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London. The bishop's head was stuck upon a pole on London Bridge, but its ruddy and lifelike appearance excited so much attention that, after a fortnight, it was thrown into the Thames, its place being taken by that of Sir Thomas More,

Gentility: Son of a well-to-do-merchant

Education: University of Cambridge, Doctorate in Theology

Position: Bishop, Cardinal

Personality type:

Signature look:

Endearing trait(s): Fisher was a close adviser of Catherine of Aragon. He ardently supported the Queen and claimed he was prepared to die on her behalf. Unfortunately, Henry took him at his word.

Annoying trait(s): His intransigence

"Fisher therefore was a victim not to the onward march of Parliament, but to the onward march of imperial monarchy. Nor did he die a victim to the onward march of a nation; its sovereignty, now, for the first time, allegedly being asserted by means of the royal ecclesiastical supremacy against the universal jurisdiction claimed by the medieval papacy. Fisher's appeal to conscience is at the heart of the matter here. In refusing the oaths to the succession and the supremacy he resolutely declined to express a view on the conflicting jurisdictional claims of the pope and the English monarch. As he explained, that was not the issue.
The issue was rather the monarch's attempt to settle the dispute in his own favour by commanding adherence on oath to his ideology. The issue therefore, concerned not the respective claims of the sovereign state and the universal Church but the respective claims of the sovereign state and the private individual as to regulate the domain of conscience. That is precisely what the Henrician regime sought to do by using public law to extract submission on oath to its ideology. Whatever the other issue involved, the death of John Fisher was, in the first instance a testimony to the liberty of conscience. That is the source of its perennial signficance."

[source: Humanism reform and the Reformation by Brendan Bradshaw & Eamon Duffy]

John Fisher
"He is the one man at this time who is incomparable for uprightness of life,
for learning and for greatness of soul."

~ Erasmus

" I reckon in this realm no one man, in wisdom, learning, and long approved virtue together, meet to be matched and compared with him."
- Sir Thomas More

Being upon the scaffold, he spake to the people in effect as followeth:—"Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ's holy catholic church; and, I thank God, hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you all to help and assist with your prayers, that, at the very point and instant of death's stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the catholic faith, free from any fear. And I beseech Almighty God of his infinite goodness to save the king and this realm, and that it may please him to hold his holy hand over it, and send the king a good council." These words he spake with such a cheerful countenance, such a stout and constant courage, and such a reverent gravity, that he appeared to all men, not only void of fear, but also glad of death.

After these few words by him uttered, he kneeled down on both his knees, and said certain prayers. Among which, as some reported, one was the hymn of Te Deum laudamus to the end; and the psalm, In te, Domine, speravi. Then came the executioner and bound an handkerchief about his eyes; and so the bishop, lifting up his hands and heart to heaven, said a few prayers, which were not long, but fervent and devout: which being ended, he laid his head down over the midst of a little block, where the executioner, being ready with a sharp and heavy axe, cut asunder his slender neck at one blow; which bled so abundantly, that many, saith my author, wondered to see so much blood issue out of so lean and slender a body, though, in my judgment, that might rather have translated the wonder from his leanness to his age, it being otherwise a received tradition, that lean folk have the most blood in them.

[Source: Fuller, Thomas. The Church History of Britain, Vol 2 1842]

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Family members:
Robert Fisher, father
Agnes Fisher, mother


Sir Thomas More
Queen Katherine of Aragon

The Boleyn Faction
Thomas Boleyn
Henry VIII
Thomas Cromwell


  • "Good people, I ask you to love the King and obey him for he is good by nature even if he is not right in his religious policies; that I am condemned to die for wishing to uphold the honor of God and the Holy See. Now good Christian people, I ask for your prayers. I am only flesh and fear death as much as any man. It's true that I long since made up my mind to die if need be for Christ and his church. Now that the moment is at hand, I need your help."


  • Season 2: episode 5

<embed allowfullscreen="true" height="411" src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="503" wmode="transparent"/>
Season 2 episode 5

Bishop Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan
Bishop John Fisher
sketch by Hans Holbein

Fisher by Holbein

John Fisher
Bishop Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan
Bishop Fisher
Fisher & Katherine
Fisher & katherine

Fisher & More
Bishop John Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan Bishop John Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan
Bishop Fisher as played by Bosco HoganBishop John Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan


Bishop John Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan
Bishop John Fisher as played by Bosco Hogan