See caption
The lollard John Oldcastle being burned for heresy and insurrection, 1413
Wikimedia Commons

De heretico comburendo (2 Hen. IV c. 15), “the burning of a heretic”, was a law passed in 1401 during the reign of King Henry IV. Its target was the new sect of lollardism, which was regarded by the established Church as a form of heresy.[1] Condemning the “falsehood of a certain new sect”, the statute re-affirmed the bishops’ duty, through their ecclestiastical courts, to convict heretics and to hand them over to local secular authorities to be “burned before the people in a prominent place”.[2]

In 1555 the provisions of the statute also proved useful during the reign of Queen Mary I (1553–1558), permitting as it did the execution of Protestants by burning them alive.[3] Mary’s father, Henry VIII, had transformed England into a Protestant nation, but she was a Catholic, and determined to restore the old religion.



Drees, Clayton J. “De Heretico Comburendo.” Historical Dictionary of Late Medieval England, 1272–1485, edited by Ronald H. Fritze and William Baxter Robison, Greenwood Publishing, 2002.
Staff writer. “De Heretico Comburendo, 1401.” Oxford Companion to British History, edited by Robert Crowcroft and John Cannon, Online, Oxford University Press, 2015,
Woolley, Benjamin. The Queen’s Conjuror: The Science and Magic of Dr. Dee. Ebook, HarperPress, 2012.