Body was in the service of Thomas Cromwell the post he held is uncertain. He is styled "clerk" but appears to have acted as a steward of some sort, to judge from his accounts among Cromwells papers. In a mutilated memorandum reference is made to "the Juel howse," thereof "William Body had the custody", and there is mention of "your letter of attorney to William Cavendish and Body to receive all sums of money due to the King's highness in your name," and of "the bills of money and plate received by Thomas Andrew of Body," as well as "certain jewels of the late earl of...........delivered by George Medley to Body and afterwards to Thomas Amerie.
A few years later Body was accused of misappropriating certain articles entrusted to him, as appears from another document in the same handwriting as above, endorsed "Plate embesylled by Bodye." On the document is a list of items supposedly stolen by Body. Body protested his innocence, and begged Cromwell to let the matter "lie dead" till his return when he would explain all matters relating to the coining of the plate, of which £50 worth remained unbroken in his hands.
Cromwell instructed Cavendish and Lenthall to overhaul Body's accounts, but the result must of been satisfactory as Body was retained in a post of trust.
1536-Body sent to Ireland on the King's affairs, apparently as a spy. His letter of credence addressed to Lord Leonard Grey, Lord Deputy in Ireland from Cromwell was very ample. Body's instructions, said to be in Wrothesley's handwriting, stated the king has expanded £40,000 in suppressing this rebellion (being the Geraldine rebellion), he desires some "direction " taken for a yearly payment to him and his successors to help suppress such risings, and requests the Irish parliament to see to this, while the Lord Deputy and Council are required to furnish Body with the "knowledge of their proceedings in this behalf, and what they have devised for the furtherance of the same." He is to note their reply in writing, and fully "explicate" the same on his return.
July Body crossed to Ireland with George Browne, the new and disreputable Archbishop of Dublin, whose favour he obtained. Arriving in Dublin on the 15th, he found the authorities ready for battle, or ,as he puts it:- "The great hosting doth march forth with all expedition possible to vanquish "Obryn" the kings rebellious and mortal enemy and the Geraldines of Monster," and he decided to accompany them, to keep council in mind of affairs and to see what was doing.
24th November Body's behaviour on this expedition is graphically described by the Lord Deputy in a letter of this date:-
His acceptance of the benefice of Swords from the Archbishop, his boast that he was the King's Commissioner, though under the influence of drink he blurted out the truth that he was not, his association with the riff-raff of the camp, his drunken bouts and his abominable language, make a picture of an unscrupulous, low bragging brute.
Body, for his part, gave a distorted account of the succeeding battle. Complaining that "I amongst others , lay in my harness without any bed, almost famished with hunger, wet and cold from Friday inclusive unto Tuesday exclusive".
An experience which the Lord Deputy reminded him had been the lot of such persons as the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk . Well might Lord Leonard be alarmed when Body departed in a great fume, knowing well that the threats of vengeance by a great mans servant in these perilous times were often promptly carried to effect- in this case they were fatal to the Lord Deputy, who , a few months later, laid his head on the block at Tower Green. Nothing has come to light to prove Lord Leonard Grey's estimate of Body inaccurate, while evidence exists to support his opinion.
1540-It appears Body was in Cromwell's service until his fall, and a legacy was left to Body in Cromwell's will. Body on Cromwell's fall transferred his services to a royal master, but in what capacity we can only surmise. He had already served an unscrupulous master in a fashion that suggests a kindred disposition, and no doubt the King , who had a keen eye in the choice of instruments, found Body a tool ready to his hand for work still to be accomplished. Under Cromwell, "the Mawl of the Abbeys" Body gained considerable acquaintance with the methods employed in suppressing monasteries.
1537- October Wynter (who we believe already had acquaintance with Body) obtained the Archdeaconry of Cornwall. There is reason to believe he accepted it eagerly, not with the intention of assuming the duties of his office, but as a marketable commodity; possibly he had already agreed to transfer it to Thomas Body in consideration of the payment of certain debts and a margin of cash; if not the promptitude of the striking of the bargain is not easily explained.
8th October- Wynter was collated to the Archdeaconry.
10th October -Installed by proxy.
9th November-according to Body-he executed a pair of indentures, whereby he, Thomas Wynter, clerk, Archdeacon of Cornwall:-
"granted, demised, betaken and to farm letten" to William Body "his said Archdeaconry in Cornwall and his prebend in the Collegial Church in Glasney, otherwise called Penryn in Cornwall annexed to the same Archdeaconry, and all manner manors, woods, underwoods, timber, trees, profits, procurations, oblations, emoluments and commodities to the same Archdeaconry and prebend belonging; together with the advowson and patronage of a priory called seynte Jones yn Helstone belonging to the same Archdeaconry together also with all maner proxes Synages, probates of testaments, administrations, dilapidation's, inductions, corrections, commutations, citations, suspensions, excommunication's, monitions, compulsory decrees, sentances and all and singular profits of the seal belonging to the same Archdeaconry, visitations and the making instituting and putting in and putting out of all manner officials, registers, seals and all manner other offices and offices, etc,etc for three years and so from three years unto three years then next following during the term of xxxv years".
Afterward Body stated that he had laid out £90 i.e the annual rent for three years served on Wynter, and had also paid the Ten ths and Subsidy, amounting to £9 11s 2d. Altogether it looks as if Body had made an expensive bargain.
The indentures, it is said, were signed in Body's house in London, but there is a conflict of evidence as to what happened on that occasion. Bodys witnesses claimed that Wynter then and there signed the lease and also an obligation to perform the same in the presence only of one Stobard, a young surveyor. . Another testified that Wynter had agreed to a certain lease, but that Body had devised a pair of indentures "clean contary" disagreeing from the agreement, and that Wynter, "not thinking but that the said complainant had faithfully and truly caused the said indentures to be made," had signed them only to find later that they were not such as had been represented. But a doubt as to the validity of the sale must have been in Wynters mind, for, before signing the agreement, he had desired Body to "axe thadvyse of such persons as knew the spirituall lawe" dealing with the subject. Body promptly assured him that he had already consulted Drs Hewis, Olyver and Darell, (consellors in the lawe for the kings parte, when Cranmer, at Dunsyable, pronounced the decree of divorce of Queen Katherine ) who decalred that it would stand - a decision which they afterwards denied having given. "Very well" then said Wynter, "you must keep me harmless against the Bishop of Exeter and his successors for and concerning the said Archdeaconry". To which, it was asserted, Body agreed.
Body proceeded to exercise the office of an Archdeacon, so far as to collect the rents and profits, which, we presume, was done through John Broke, clerk, of Wells, who had acted as Wynters agent.
1540 - Body probably had got wind of the intended proceedings (as mentioned in this year see Wynter file) and one day the date of which is unknown, a conference was held at a tavern in the Vintry next to Cranes (was a famous landing place at the riverside at the foot of College Hill).Body had sent Peter Ford to tell John Stobard of Lombard Street to bring his copy of the indentures to the inn, where they all three met. The document was spread out, and they were quietly reading it over when Ford stopped and pointed out some words interlined in a different writing, which had altered the meaning of the document. Body now roused in anger, snatched the indenture with violence from Ford, swearing a great oath and demanding what right he had to meddle with his handwriting, and was sore grieved with Ford, who we gather was a partisan both of Wynter and of the Bishop. In pompous wrath Body left the room. Evidently Body took alarm at the suspicion cast on the document, and, feeling his position insecure, he decided to take steps to strengthen it.
Around Christmas Body appeared at the Bishop's palace at Crediton. Here he paid the King's tenth and subsidy for the archdeaconry to George Stapleton, the Bishop's servant, and received a receipt in the presence of Richard Martinl, John Stephins, and others.
1541-6th February Obtained a letter from the King, written from Hampton Court, addressed to the Bishop of Exeter, and the Dean and Chapter there, saying that the King's servant T.Wynter, archdeacon of Cornwall, had leased to the King's servant William Body, his archdeaconry for three years to three years for thirty two years; that Body had spent much money in obtaining the lease, and would lose should Wynter die. the King asked them to confirm Wynters grant under the episcopal and chapter seals.
Feb-Brerewood at the Court at Penryn deprived Body of the farm of the Archdeaconry, to his great loss, as he afterwards complained. (See case in Thomas Wynter file).
(Follow from Thomas Wynter file)
John Harrys, alias Rowden and George Stapleton set out for Launceston , the place fixed for the archidiaconal visitation. Nor were they the only persons to arrive from a distance in that border town.
20th April-Body arrived in Launceston, with a train suited to his dignity-either coming from Exeter across the wilds of Dartmoor or from Bodmin, with which place he was in some way connected.
The clergy of the district had arrived to St Steven's church where John Broke had summoned the clergy to pay their "proxes and synages". Presently Body entered and took up position in a prominent place. he had no inkling of the trend of events. As he proceeded to call out the names of procurements the church door was violently flung open, and a crowd burst forcibly and riotously into the building; then a voice rang out:-
"I forbid you to pay the procurations and synodals demanded by this man Body. I command you, both clergy and people here assembled, to refuse obedience to any process or commandment made by him, by his officials or any other officers!"
Thus speaking, John Harrys, the venerable priest, pushed his way through the crowd with help of a stout yeoman, Matthew Collyns, followed closely by John Wyse, a worthy gentleman of Launceston, and accompanied by sturdy companions. Reaching the spot where body stood, Harrys roughly snatched the book from the hands of the farmer of the archdeaconry. Startled by the sudden interruption, Body instinctively sought his dagger, half drawing it from its sheath. Finding his guest Harrys in personal danger,
John Wyse pushed forward to the rescue, and laid violent hands on Body. In a twinkling of an eye, Body found himself and his companions thrust and pushed and hustled outside the church, with the door shut fast behind them. Seeing the temper of the crowd, Body could but call upon his supporters to turn, shouting and threatening, "You will rue this Day, you have to reckon with a servant of the King, one who has come from the household of my lord Cromwell, the hammer of the monks. My patron will see to it that you suffer for what you have done!"
Body, the hot tempered took horse quickly for London, stopping perhaps in Exeter, to lay train which was to deal destruction to some of those in authority. Against the rioters, the "Fautors and Maintainers" of Harrys, he brought an action in the Star Chamber. here he poured out his grievances in a mass of verbiage: how he had legally obtained the temporal and spiritual jurisdiction of the archdeaconry by indenture, how he had been interrupted in the execution of his duties, how violent hands had been laid upon him in St Stephen's Church, and how he was deprived of the profits due to him, which were now paid to Harrys and Stapleton. Then there began swearing and counter-swearing , so diametrically opposed that it is evident that some did not handle the truth carefully. The result of the case was not forthcoming. However Body had by no means played his last card.
He forthwith brought an action against the Bishop of Exeter and his deputies who had acted at the court in Penryn. These Body maintained had come within the Statute of Praemunire. His contention was not unnoticed in Parliament, where an animated discussion took place between Bishop Gardyner and Lord Chancellor Audeley. the authorities upheld Body's contention. Thomas Brerewood, late of Exeter, clerk of ecclesiastical lawe, John Crof, late of Penryn and of Exeter were arrested and imprisoned in Marshalsea.
1543 -February Brerewood and Croft were brought into the Court of Kinf's bench, there to answer for their breach of the Statute of Praemunire, in contempt of the crown and to the damage of William Body of £3,000. The court considered the matter until after Easter, during which period the prisoners remained in custody, and then delivered adverse sentence on them. Body was to recover his damages and twenty shillings costs. They were put outside the kings protection and forfeited their goods and chattels to the King, and were again committed to Marshalsea.
1544-Croft remained in prison until June, when under letters patent, dated 27th may after a payment of a fine of £100 he was released and furthermore , on the same date, "William Body at London, viz. in the parish of the Blessed Mary of Bow, in the Ward of Chepe, by deed of release, etc . " freed the said John Croft from all further actions, debts, trespasses. However it appears Brerewood died in prison.
1547-During the intervening two years where no trace of Body's movements are found, he arrived in Cornwall either in his capacity as a Commissioner connected with the Chantry inquiry, or, more probably , in his capacity of archdeacon, to see that the injunctions of this year were carried out according to the Bishops instructions, and this, too, after his obnoxious conduct at Launceston and his action against the Bishops officials. To aggravate matters, he made Penryn his headquarters.
1st September-approx. -It was at Penryn contrary to his instructions that Body commanded the clergy to assemble to hear the injunctions of Edward VI, which carried further Henry VIII,s tentative steps towards ceremonial changes within the church. These removed the two remaining lights and the Easter sepulchre, and abolished the washings, crossing, shiftings and blessings accompanying the Mass; crosses, lights, and bells at the communion of the sick and the burial of the dead, as well as other ceremonials, superstitions, pilgrimages, etc. In fact, a clean sweep was to be made of all that was styled "popery" a course by no means liked by the rural population. Moreover, all this was accompanied by another dip of the royal hand into ecclesiastical revenues. What seems to have touched the Cornishmen very nearly was the query relating to the alienation of Church lands, Jewels, and goods. A hostile demonstration made by the assembly at Penryn was so "tumultuous" that the local authorities were much perturbed, and, either on their own initiative or on Body's appeal, Godolphin, Militon, and St Aubyn wrote an account of the events and sent post haste to the Council.
1548-April Body was again in Cornwall with a letter under the Council dated February, on a iconoclastic mission. This letter directed in the first instance to the Archbishop, to give orders immediately that all images remaining in any church or chapel must be removed, and he was so to notify all bishops, who were to use such foresight that this should be quietly done. Evidently they anticipated that the destruction of the images would not be calmly accepted. B ody's movements in this task can only be surmised, but probably he visited several churches in the hundred of Kerrier, perhaps including Penryn.
5th April-Body reached Helston , by this time feeling throughout the district seems to have been thoroughly roused, and a demonstration of some sort determined upon. Helston may have been selected as a parish particularly opposed to Body by the influence of John Harry's who held the Priory of St John the Baptist, about a quarter of a mile from the parish church. The previous day the Common bell rang backwards in several parishes summoning the people. A new crusade was being preached, they must prevent this Iconoclast from executing his mission, and their parish priest led them forth on this pious mission. As far afield as Gwennap on the North and Grade in the South, small companies advanced, but Constantine and St Keverne supplied large contingents; while stray persons from Redruth, Illogan, and St Peran-in-le- Sand were swept into the throng, or perhaps joined it after its arrival in Helston. With the people from St Keverne was their priest, Martin Geffrey who played a prominent part in the end, though it is not known whether he was an instigator of the movement, or was carried away by it, or was simply held responsible for the conduct of his flock. Prominent amongst the crowd were the brothers Kylter the leaders of the movement to whom was accorded the title of "yeoman".
On the approach of the vast crowd Body left his evil deeds in the church and sought refuge in a house near at hand. As the gathering numbers surged into the churchyard, only to find themselves for a moment disappointed of their prey. Hot on his scent the boldest pushed forward to his place of refuge, which was quickly surrounded by the mob.
Foremost of all was William Kylter, followed closely by Father Geffrey. Dragged from his hiding place apparently undefended by his attendants. Whatever questioning or begging for mercy took place at some moment Body was struck down, stabbed with a knife and despatched to answer before his maker by William Kylter and Pascho Trevian.