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Lassells [Lascelles], Johnlocked

(d. 1546)
  • Alec Ryrie

Lassells [Lascelles], John (d. 1546), courtier and religious activist, was the second of three children of Richard, or George, Lassells of Gateford, Nottinghamshire (d. 1520), gentleman, and his wife, Dorothy, daughter of Sir Brian Sandford. After studying at Furnival's Inn, in the 1530s he entered Sir Francis Bryan's household. However, in 1538 his vigorous advocacy of evangelical religion led to his dismissal; he moved into the service of Thomas Cromwell through, it seems, the patronage of his guardian, Sir John Hercy. He acted as a messenger for Cromwell in 1538–9, and was rewarded in late 1539 with the post of sewer in the king's privy chamber.

The chamber was a nest of evangelicals, and Lassells quickly found himself among kindred spirits. In September 1540, in the wake of Cromwell's fall, he and three colleagues discussed their hopes for the future. They agreed that Bishop Gardiner and Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk, were blocking further reform, but Lassells believed that the king himself remained committed to the evangelical cause. He therefore urged his more impetuous comrades

not to be to rashe or quike in mayntenyng the scrypture, for yff we wolde lete [Gardiner and Norfolk] a lone and suffer a lettell tyme they wolde (I doubte not) ower throwe them selves, standyng manyfestlye a nenst god and theyr prynce.

TNA: PRO, SP 1/163, fol. 46r

This optimism was rewarded in the following year, when he visited his younger sister Mary Hall in Sussex. Mary had once been in the duchess of Norfolk's household with the young Katherine Howard, so John suggested that she should approach the queen for a place. She demurred, saying that Katherine was 'light both in living and in condytions' (Proceedings … of the Privy Council, 7.353), and describing the series of affairs which the queen had had before her marriage. She apparently did not realize how explosive this information was, but John immediately took the matter to Archbishop Cranmer, and so set in motion the process which ended with the queen's destruction. He maintained that he revealed the information to avert a charge of misprision of treason, which may well be true, but he can hardly have regretted the destruction of so prominent a Howard.

By 1546, however, Lassells's patience with the pace of reform under Henry VIII had run out. In the spring of that year he counselled Edward Crome not to recant his views on the mass, and by 11 May he was arrested, having 'boosted abrode that he was desirous to be called to the Counseill and he would aunswer to the Pricke' (TNA: PRO, SP 1/218, fol. 45r). Although more circumspect under examination, he was committed to the Tower. He was denounced as a patron of Richard Laynam, a London prophet who predicted the imminent overthrow of the king. Even more dangerously, Lassells was linked with the sacramentarian Anne Askew. They were clearly friends: John Bale described Lassells as her 'instructour' (First Examinacyon, 67r), and A. G. Dickens has agreed that he was the 'leading spirit' (Dickens, 34) of the radical group at court. His workmanlike command of Greek certainly suggests considerable education. His Protestation, written from prison and printed after his death, describes a subtle and idiosyncratic eucharistic theology which caused his editors some embarrassment; this may, as Robert Persons later argued, have derived from the German radical Carlstadt. It was certainly enough to condemn Lassells. He was arraigned for heresy on 12 July but, 'mery and chereful in the Lorde', he refused to recant (Nichols, Narratives, 43). On 16 July, along with Askew and two others, he was burnt at Smithfield.


  • TNA: PRO, state papers domestic, Henry VIII, SP 1/132, fol. 163rv
  • TNA: PRO, state papers domestic, Henry VIII, SP 1/134, fol. 217r
  • TNA: PRO, state papers domestic, Henry VIII, SP 1/138, fol. 67r
  • TNA: PRO, state papers domestic, Henry VIII, SP 1/163, fol. 46rv
  • TNA: PRO, state papers domestic, Henry VIII, SP 1/218, fols. 45r, 110v, 112rv
  • S. Brigden and N. Wilson, ‘New learning and broken friendship’, EngHR, 112 (1997), 396–411
  • J. Lascelles, et al., Uvicklieffes wicket … with the protestation of J. Lassels late burned in Smythfelde [1548?]
  • N. H. Nicolas, ed., Proceedings and ordinances of the privy council of England, 7 vols., RC, 26 (1834–7), vol. 7, pp. 352–5
  • A. G. Dickens, Lollards and protestants in the diocese of York, 1509–1558 (1959)
  • G. W. Marshall, ed., The visitations of the county of Nottingham in the years 1569 and 1614, Harleian Society, 4 (1871)
  • D. Wilson, A Tudor tapestry: men, women and society in Reformation England (1972)
  • R. Persons, A treatise of three conversions of England, 3 pts (1603–4), pt 3, p. 498
  • J. G. Nichols, ed., Narratives of the days of the Reformation, CS, old ser., 77 (1859)
  • The first examinacyon of Anne Askew, latelye martyred in Smythfelde, ed. J. Bale (1546)
  • APC, 1542–47, 419, 449
  • J. G. Nichols, ed., The chronicle of the grey friars of London, CS, 53 (1852), 51
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English Historical Review
National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
, new ser., 46 vols. (1890–1964)