Richard Hilles

Richard Hilles, the son of Richard and Elizabeth Hilles, was born in about 1514. His father was master of the Merchant Taylors. He was apprenticed to Nicholas Cosyn who worked near London Bridge. During this period he became a supporter of Martin Luther and in January 1533 he appealed for assistance to Thomas Cromwell. His religious views seem to have become increasingly radical, and in 1536 he was in conflict with John Stokesley, bishop of London. He married Agnes Lacey and she gave birth to four children, John, Gerson, Barnabas, and Daniel. (1)

In May 1539 the bill of the Six Articles was presented by Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk in Parliament. It was soon clear that it had the support of Henry VIII. Although the word "transubstantiation" was not used, the real presence of Christ's very body and blood in the bread and wine was endorsed. So also was the idea of purgatory. The Six Articles presented a serious problem for religious reformers. For example, they had argued against transubstantiation and purgatory for many years. (2)

Bishop Hugh Latimer and Bishop Nicholas Shaxton both spoke against the Six Articles in the House of Lords. Thomas Cromwell was unable to come to their aid and in July they were both forced to resign their bishoprics. For a time it was thought that Henry would order their execution as heretics. He eventually decided against this measure and instead they were ordered to retire from preaching. However, Latimer's close friend and mentor, Robert Barnes was burnt at the stake on 30th July, 1540. (3)

Richard Hilles, fearing for his own life, fled to Strasbourg where he worked as a cloth merchant. (4) In August 1540 Hilles wrote to Heinrich Bullinger explaining that it was too dangerous to live in England and that he would only return if "it please God to effect such a change as that we may serve him there without hindrance". (5) King Edward VI was much more tolerant to Protestants and in August 1548, he moved his family back to London. On the death of Edward he gave his support to Lady Jane Grey but made no effort to resist Queen Mary gaining power and by November 1554 he was attending mass. (6)

Under the reign of Elizabeth, Richard Hilles felt free to return to his Protestant beliefs. In 1561 he became master of the Merchant Taylors and co-founder of the Merchant Taylors' School, donating £500 towards the purchase of the site. He was involved in the appointment of Richard Mulcaster as headmaster. (7) Hilles developed his business interests in Antwerp. By 1582 he was listed as one of the hundred or so wealthiest and most "substantial" citizens of London. (8)

Richard Hilles died in 1611.

Primary Sources

(1) David Loades, Richard Hilles : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

In 1535 he was himself admitted to the freedom of the company, which was customarily awarded at the age of twenty-one. By his own testimony he was apprenticed to one Nicholas Cosyn on London Bridge. As an apprentice he seems to have embraced protestant views, and in 1532 fell out with his master for expressing forthright opinions on justification. In January 1533 he appealed for assistance to Thomas Cromwell from the refuge which he had sought at Rouen in Normandy; his mother, too, begged Cromwell to help her son. Hilles must have been reconciled with Cosyn in order to secure his freedom, but it is not known how that came about. His religious views seem to have become increasingly radical, and in 1536 he had a brush with John Stokesley, bishop of London, from which he was rescued by his mother. Following the Act of Six Articles in 1539 Hilles felt his position to be increasingly dangerous, and in 1540 he used his business as an excuse to migrate to Strasbourg.

Student Activities

Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Henry VII: A Wise or Wicked Ruler? (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn?

Was Henry VIII's son, Henry FitzRoy, murdered?

Hans Holbein and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

The Marriage of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (Answer Commentary)

Was Queen Catherine Howard guilty of treason? (Answer Commentary)

Anne Boleyn - Religious Reformer (Answer Commentary)

Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers on her right hand? A Study in Catholic Propaganda (Answer Commentary)

Why were women hostile to Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn? (Answer Commentary)

Catherine Parr and Women's Rights (Answer Commentary)

Women, Politics and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (Answer Commentary)

Historians and Novelists on Thomas Cromwell (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and Thomas Müntzer (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and Hitler's Anti-Semitism (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and the Reformation (Answer Commentary)

Mary Tudor and Heretics (Answer Commentary)

Joan Bocher - Anabaptist (Answer Commentary)

Anne Askew – Burnt at the Stake (Answer Commentary)

Elizabeth Barton and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Execution of Margaret Cheyney (Answer Commentary)

Robert Aske (Answer Commentary)

Dissolution of the Monasteries (Answer Commentary)

Pilgrimage of Grace (Answer Commentary)

Poverty in Tudor England (Answer Commentary)

Why did Queen Elizabeth not get married? (Answer Commentary)

Francis Walsingham - Codes & Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)

Codes and Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)

Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner? (Answer Commentary)

Hans Holbein's Art and Religious Propaganda (Answer Commentary)

1517 May Day Riots: How do historians know what happened? (Answer Commentary)


(1) David Loades, Richard Hilles : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Susan Wabuda, Hugh Latimer : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(3) Carl R. Trueman, Robert Barnes : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(4) David Loades, Richard Hilles : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(5) Richard Hilles, letter to Heinrich Bullinger (August 1540)

(6) David Loades, Richard Hilles : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(7) William Barker, Richard Mulcaster : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(8) David Loades, Richard Hilles : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)