Hidden Belgium: The most dangerous man in Tudor England

Hidden Belgium: The most dangerous man in Tudor England

William Tyndale was an English priest who was executed in Vilvoorde, near Brussels. He might have enjoyed a quiet life if he had not challenged the authority of the Pope by translating the Bible from Latin into English, so everyone could read it.

His version, which he worked on in the 1520s and 1530s, introduced new words and phrases that, like Shakespeare’s, have become embedded in the English language. Tyndale came up with the words ‘atone,’ ‘scapegoat,’ and ‘sour grapes,’ as well as phrases such as ‘the meek shall inherit the earth,’ ‘the powers that be’ and ‘let there be light’.

But Tyndale’s beautiful translation challenged the authority of the Catholic Church, and annoyed King Henry VIII of England. The powers that be weren’t pleased, you might argue.

Tyndale was staying with the English merchant Thomas Poyntz in Antwerp when he was betrayed by Henry Philips, an English student at Leuven University. He was dragged off to Vilvoorde Prison where he was held for 18 months before being executed.

There is a little museum in Vilvoorde dedicated to Tyndale (open on Wednesday mornings) and a 1.5km Tyndale walk that leads you to the William Tyndale Monument (next to the Tyndale Car Park). It marks the likely spot where he was strangled.

A BBC documentary described his as ‘the most dangerous man in Tudor England.’ Yet he was just a humble translator.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.


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