Before the Reformation all over the British Isles pilgrimages were made with great devotion to Images of the Mother of God, famous throughout the length and breadth of the land and far beyond its borders—for their glory and magnificence. Foreign travellers, like Erasmus, have left on record glowing accounts of the riches of English shrines of our Lady, and of the devotion of the English people to the Most Holy Virgin. Indeed England was known throughout Christendom as the Dowry of Mary, in consequence of the love of her people for their heavenly Queen. It is indeed sad to recall the names of our Lady of Glastonbury, of our Lady of Walsingham, of our Lady of Barking, of our Lady of Graces near the Tower, of our Lady of Willesden and our Lady of the Pue, of our Lady of Lincoln, of our Lady of the Crypt at Canterbury, of our Lady of Chatham and our Lady of Gillingham, of our Lady of Ipswich and our Lady of Stoke, of our Lady of Windsor and our Lady of Eton, of our Lady of Ludlow, of our Lady of Warwick, of our Lady of Coventry and our Lady of Depedale, of our Lady of the Black Friars at Cambridge, of our Lady of Binsey and our Lady of Oxford, where St. Edmund of Canterbury chose the Immaculate Virgin for his spouse, placing his ring upon the finger of her Image, of our Lady of Doncaster and our Lady of Beverley, of our Lady of Penrice, of our Lady of Worcester, of our Lady of Tewkesbury and our Lady of Evesham, where the Holy Mother of God in the seventh century of our era deigned to appear to Egin the Bishop and to Eoves the swineherd.
All these Images and many another were venerated far and wide, each of them was a centre of grace, benediction, pride and joy for the town which possessed them and the surrounding countryside— all were dearly loved by the people, and all were sacrilegiously destroyed by the hypocritical servants of the King who coveted their riches; some of them— amongst others the Holy Image of our Lady of Walsingham—were publicly burned. Who can recall without loathing the thought of the Eighth Henry, in the rapacity of his declining years, robbing our Lady of Walsingham of the rich necklace with which, in his days of youth and goodness, he had gifted the Mother of God, when making a pilgrimage of thankfulness with Katharine his wife after the birth of their first child ? Who can read without a shudder of the blasphemy of Latimer, Bishop of Worcester-Bishop by the influence of Anne Boleyn and his patron Thomas Cromwell—writing that he "trusted" that the Image so long the glory of his cathedral church should be consigned to the flames, for " she herself, with her old sister of Walsingham, her young sister of Ipswich, with their two sisters of Doncaster and Penrice, would make a jolly muster in Smithfield "? What Catholic can fail to be made the prouder of his Faith as he calls to mind Blessed John Forrest, the Franciscan, once Confessor to Queen Katharine, dying so bravely, hanging over a slow fire beneath his feet, because he would not deny the authority of the Vicar of Christ and acknowledge the King's supremacy; but what Catholic can fail to have his heart torn within him as he remembers that the fire which helped to send the Martyr to his Lord was fed by a holy Image much venerated in Wales called Darvell Gatheren, brought to London expressly for the purpose ? --- Foxe tells us with glee how the following verses, composed by a retainer of Cromwell called Gray, were set up on the gallows from which the Blessed John Forrest was suspended over the fire :
"David Darvell Gatheren, as saith the Welchmen.
Brought outlaws out of Hell.
Now is he come with spear and shield, in harness to burn in Smithfield,
For in Wales he may not dwell. And Forrest the friar, that obstinate liar,
That willingly shall be dead, In his contumacy the Gospel did deny
And the King to be supreme Head."
" To write scurrilous ballads to be sung in alehouses was a means of Reformation much in favour in those days," comments Fr. Bridget!, " and greatly encouraged by Cromwell, who kept two or three poets for the purpose ; and Foxe, who censures the gaiety of Sir Thomas More, highly commends the wit of these gentlemen." (Our Lady's Dowry, p. 407.)