(18)  Edmund Copinger The Prophet


William Hacket,[1] an English fanatic in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was at first a gentleman's servant, and afterwards married a rich widow, whom he soon ruined by his extravagance.  At length he set up for a prophet and began to prophesy at York and Lincoln, where he was publicly whipped, and condemned to be banished.  The people believed nevertheless that he had the extrordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he was so confident of his own favour with heaven as to affirm that if all England should pray for rain, and he should pray for the contrary, it would not rain.  Edmund Copinger and Henry Arthington, two persons of learning, joined him; the first by the title of "Prophet of Mercy," the second by the title of the "Prophet of Judgement."  These two visionaries pretended an extraordinary mission, and gave out that Hacket was the sole Monarch of Europe, and that next to Jesus Christ, none upon earth had greater power than he.  They afterwards went further, and equalled him in all things to Jesus Christ, without being opposed by Hacket, who used to say in his prayers, "Father, I know thou lovest me equal with thyself."  They were joined by many fanatics and others discontented with the Queen and the manner in which ecclesiastical matters were managed.  Among these was one Giles Wiggington, formerly vicar of Sedberge and Dent, but who had been deprived of his benefice and deposed from his ministry for contempt of the order of the Church.  He had several fantastical and treasonable papers printed in a private press by one Brown.  One of these papers was entitled "The Folls Bolt," and another "A Fatherly Exhortation to a Young Courtyer."  The latter was sent about to women.  As Copinger and Arthington protested a most unreserved obedience to Hacket, he ordered them in July, 1591, to go and proclaim through all the streets of London that Jesus Christ was come with his fan in his hand to judge the world, and that he lodged in such an inn; and that nobody could put him too death.  This commission they executed with a loud voice, and with such success that by the time they reached the cross in Cheap, the pressure of the multitude was so great that they could not proceed.  They therefore mounted an empty cart, and entering into particulars declared themselves the Prophets of Mercy and of Vengeance called to assist Hacket in his great work; affirming that all who believed them not, and "especially the city of London," were condemned body and soul.  It seems that Arthington was timid in the matter, but Copinger encouraged him by stating that it had been revealed to him that they had "angelical spirits not subject to hurt by any mortal power."  After the proclomation, things not turning out as they expected, they returned to Hacket, and when they saw him Arthington cried out, "Behold the King of the Earth."  The Queen's Council, alarmed at the tumult, and probably apprehending some deeper design than appeared openly, had all the three visionaries immediately arrested and examined.

Hacket was brought to trial on the 26th July, before the Lord Mayor and other Justices, at the Sessions House near Newgate, for "Maliciously and treacherously compassing, imagining, devising, and intending the deprivation and deposeing of our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth," and was condemned to die for having spoken "divers most false and trayterous words against her Majestie," and for maliciously thrusting "an iron instrument into that part" of a picture of the Queen "that did represent the breast and hart."  Two days afterwards he was drawn upon a hurdle to a gibbet raised near the "Crosse in Cheap," and was there "hanged, bowelled, and quartered," though all his words and whole demeanor exhibited the raving maniac.  A few days after, Copinger died in Bridewell, "as was said from having wilfully abstained from meat, though they were offered him seven or eight days, whereby he grew so weak as that he died for want of sustenance;" and Arthington died shortly after in the Wood-street Compter.  Before his death he was brought to repentance, according to a manuscript in the Lansdown collection, 982, entitled Bishop Kennett's Collection, where reference is made to a "letter of Mr. Henry Arthington, a prisoner in the counter in Wood-street after Hacket's execution, to two great counsellors, desiring their mediation with the Queen for his pardon, &c.," and to a tract entitled "The seduction of Henry Arthington by Hacket, especially with some tokens of his unfeigned repentance and submission, written by the said Henry Arthington, the third person in that wofull tradegy, with an epist. Ded. to the Lords of the Council from my poor chamber in the counter, this 25th February, 1592, begining, 'Be it knowen to all Christian people of what condition or calling soever, that I Henry Arthington, Prisoner for my dangerous offence committed in proclaiming Hacket to be the Christ Jesus, have long desired and from my heart requested to shew some testimonies of my unfeigned repentance, &c.'"

The following is a quaint account of the conspiracy as recorded by Weever in his Funeral Monuments:-[2]

"In the three and thirtieth yeare of Queen Elizabeth, the sixteenth day of July, in the morning Edmond Coppinger and Henry Arthington repaired to one Walker's house neare unto Broken wharfe  of London, where, conferring with one of their sect named William Hacket, of Owndale, in the County of Northampton, yeoman, they offered to anoint him king.  But Hacket taking Coppinger by the hand, said, You shall not need, for I have beene already anointed in heaven by the Holy Ghost himselfe.  Then Coppinger asked him what his pleasure was to be done: Go your way both (said he) and tell them in the citie that Christ Jesus is come with his fanne in his hand to judge the earth.  And if any man aske you where he is, tell them he lies at Walker's house by Broken wharfe, and if they will not believe it, let them come and killme if they can; for as truely as Christ Jesus is in heaven, so truely is he come to judge the world.  Then Coppinger said it should be done forthwith; and thereupon went forward, and Arthington followed, but ere he could get down the stairs, Coppinger had begun below in the house to proclaime newes from heaven of exceeding great mercy; that Christ Jesus was come &c., with whom Arthington also cried the same words aloude; following him along the streets from thence to Watling Street, and old Change towards Cheape; they both adding beyond their commission, Repent England, Repent.  After they had both thus come (with a mightie concourse of common multitude) with an uniforme cry into Cheape neare unto the Crosse, and there finding the throng and prease increase about them in such sort as they could not well passe further, nor be conveniently heard of them all as they desired, they got them up into an empty pease cart; wherein they stood not onely upon the words of their former crie, but reading something out of a paper, they went more particularly over the office and calling of Hacket, how he represented Christ, by partaking a part of his glorified bodie, by his principall spirit, and by the office of severing the good from the bad.  And that they were two Prophets, the one of Mercy, the other of Judgement, called and sent of God to assist this their Christ Hacket in his greate worke.  These men were apprehended the same day.  The 26 of July Hacket was arraigned, and found guiltie, as to have spoken divers most false and traiterous words against her Majestie; to have razed and defaced her armes, as also her picture, thrusting an iron instrument into that part which did represent the breast and heart.  For the which he had judgement, and on the 28 of July hee was brought from Newgate, to a gibbet by the Crosse in Cheape; where being moved to ask God and the Queene forgivenesse, he fell to railing and cursing of the Queene, and began a most blasphemous prayer against the divine majestie of God.  They had much ado to get him up the ladder; where he was hanged and after bowelled and quartered.  His execrable speeches and demeanour as well as his arraignment, as death, utterly distained and blemished all of his former seeming sanctitie, wherewith he had shroudly possessed the common people.  Thus you see how easily ignorant people are seduced by false new doctrines, how suddenly they fall from true Religion into heresies, and blasphemie; robbing the Church of all her due rites, and (as much as in them lies) God of his glory: which abuse, of these times, I leave to be reformed by our reverend Clergie.[3]  "On the next day[4] (to make an end of the story) Edmund Coppinger having  wilfully abstained from meat, and otherwise tormented himselfe died in Bridewell.  And Henry Arthington lying on his counter in Wood Street submitted himselfe, with a booke of repentance, and was delivered; such was the end of these men (saith mine author) of whom the sillie people had received a very reverend opinion, both for their sincere holinesse and sound doctrine."

Cosin in answer to the assertion of some that Copinger was mad, thus speaks of him:-

"When he first had taken apprehension of such extraordinary calling, he yeilded not straightway and unadvisedly unto it, but after long and deliberate debating with himself; his care was great, and course (as in such a matter) was considerate, in seeking to be resolved by such, as he both then and afore held, to be best able to judge of his gifts and calling.  The questions that he framed were very pertinent to that purpose and orderly penned.  His letters and speeches to T. C., to Eq., to Ch., to Vd., to Lan., to Wig., to P. W., to L. T., and others, and to them of foreign churches were (for that matter) well and advisedly endited.  His cunning was not small, to keep his very particular way of effecting that which he desired from those he dealt with, because himself knew it was a dangerous secret, and a course not justifiable, unless it came by extraordinary motion, and special economy from God, and therefore he desired to have it allowed so to be.  His pretence of entertaining intelligence (touching some important service to the state of the Realm, whereof he pretended to have an inkling, but no full and particular knowledge,) was none unadvised or simple reach of policy in him.  For if in plotting of his purpose, and dealing in the principal action, anything of doubtful acceptance should happen to have been after discovered, then might he well and with good colour have pretended that he did it but in way of attaining to intelligence of those dangers whereof the generality (as it were in the clouds) he had afore delivered to a counsellor.  For he might not seem a man to be suspected of any disloyal purpose, who shewed himself so careful for his Sovereign's safety.  Add to these, his cunning petition to have prisoners for treason, &c., to be examined by himself, and execution of condemned persons to be staid at his beck, whereby he might more easily have induced them to appeach whom he list to have overthrown and whom he principally aimed at.  His subility also doth notably appear in his petitions to her Majesty, where he makes shew of great secrets to be delivered only in her presence, and prayeth to be pardoned if in overmuch fear of her safety he had attempted to prove that which he could not, which argueth that he had (indeed) not so much as any colourable intelligence delivered unto him of Treason intended by such great men as he pretended, but used this as a means to have access for himself and the others unto her Highness's presence for some further intended mischief.  Then his allowance and condemnation of sound and good counsel given him by Eq., a preacher, and by others; his sparing to reveal the great and dangerous secret unto Hacket upon their first aquaintance; his razing out of Hacket's, and the Lords name out of the letter sent by him to a noble personage to give inkling of Treason intended against her Majesty, lest the quality and unlikelyhood of the man being enquired after that that plot should be dashed; his not subscribing of his name to sundry letters; his directing of Hacket neither to subscribe nor endorse (but in that sort as he prescribed) for fear of discovery; his desire to have all the letters again that he had written to Eq. about that matter; his wary and diligent keeping of copies of every letter that he writ in that cause; and when leisure served not so to do, his great care to have the very letters again; his offence with one Hoc. for keeping a letter from him which he had sent unto him; his cunning excuse of Hacket's defacing the Queen's arms; his counterfeit revelation to bring Arthington further in; his device to make Arthington resolute, by saying it was revealed to him that they had angelical spirits not subject to hurt by any mortal power; his willing choice to withdraw himself into an house when (after the proclamation) things fell not out as was expected, and from thence afterwards to go to his place of abode through by lanes; his and Hacket's putting off the matter from Arthington, for a time, though (happely) to be opened; why the Queen might not be prayed for in particular; their pretence of the Lord's commandment to keep the means secret how the Queen's Majesty and the counsel were to be brought to repentance and unto their pretended reformation; the sensible and coherent manner of report unto Wigginton touching Hacket's and their own callings and offices by Coppinger and Arthington; their temperate and pertinent answers unto Wigginton's speeches, and all their consulting sundry times together about this business, namely, the night afore and the day of their proclamation, do plainly argue that Coppinger (albeit he were greatly misled by a false and spightful zeal, and by much hypocrisie) yet was he far enough from any distracting of his wits in every part of this action.  "The whole course of his speeches, writings, and other dealings were such as do argue no defect at all of reason, memory, wit, or understanding, setting aside the absurdity and folly of the fancy wherewith he was led."


[1] In Baker's Chronicles, 1591, it is stated that Hacket was "a mean fellow of no learning, whose  first prank was this: that when in show of reconciliation to one with whom he had been at  varience, he embraced him, he bit off his nose, and when the man desiring to have his nose again  that it might be sewed on while the wound was green, he most villainously eat and swallowed it  before his face."

[2] Ed. 1631, p. 54.

[3] See further Stow's Annals, and Conspiracy for Pretended Reformation, viz., Presbyterial  Discipline, by Richd. Cosin, LL.D., London.

[4] This was not the case. It was eight days after.  A man could not well starve himself to death in so  short a time.



Contact us by e-mail   mailto:copinger@talktalk.net

This page was last updated on 31 August 2016. 

Copyright © 2018   I. S. Copinger