Chapter 8: An Account of the Persecutions in Bohemia Under the Papacy (14/15)
Lord Henry Otto, when he first came upon the scaffold, seemed greatly confounded, and said, with some asperity, as if addressing himself to the emperor, “Thou tyrant Ferdinand, your throne is established in blood; but if you will kill my body, and disperse my members, they shall still rise up in judgment against you.” He then was silent, and having walked about for some time, seemed to recover his fortitude, and growing calm, said to a gentleman who stood near, “I was, a few minutes since, greatly discomposed, but now I feel my spirits revive; God be praised for affording me such comfort; death no longer appears as the king of terrors, but seems to invite me to participate of some unknown joys.” Kneeling before the block, he said, “Almighty God! to Thee I commend my soul, receive it for the sake of Christ, and admit it to the glory of Thy presence.” The executioner put this nobleman to considerable pain, by making several strokes before he severed the head from the body.
The earl of Rugenia was distinguished for his superior abilities, and unaffected piety. On the scaffold he said, “We who drew our swords fought only to preserve the liberties of the people, and to keep our consciences sacred: as we were overcome, I am better pleased at the sentence of death, than if the emperor had given me life; for I find that it pleases God to have his truth defended, not by our swords, but by our blood.” He then went boldly to the block, saying, “I shall now be speedily with Christ,” and received the crown of martyrdom with great courage.
Sir Gaspar Kaplitz was eighty-six years of age. When he came to the place of execution, he addressed the principal officer thus: “Behold a miserable ancient man, who hath often entreated God to take him out of this wicked world, but could not until now obtain his desire, for God reserved me until these years to be a spectacle to the world, and a sacrifice to himself; therefore God’s will be done.” One of the officers told him, in consideration of his great age, that if he would only ask pardon, he would immediately receive it. “Ask pardon, (exclaimed he) I will ask pardon of God, whom I have frequently offended; but not of the emperor, to whom I never gave any offence; should I sue for pardon, it might be justly suspected I had committed some crime for which I deserved this condemnation. No, no, as I die innocent, and with a clear conscience, I would not be separated from this noble company of martyrs:” so saying, he cheerfully resigned his neck to the block.
Procopius Dorzecki on the scaffold said, “We are now under the emperor’s judgment; but in time he shall be judged, and we shall appear as witnesses against him.” Then taking a gold medal from his neck, which was struck when the elector Frederic was crowned king of Bohemia, he presented it to one of the officers, at the same time uttering these words, “As a dying man, I request, if ever King Frederic is restored to the throne of Bohemia, that you will give him this medal. Tell him, for his sake, I wore it until death, and that now I willingly lay down my life for God and my king.” He then cheerfully laid down his head and submitted to the fatal blow.
Dionysius Servius was brought up a Roman Catholic, but had embraced the reformed religion for some years. When upon the scaffold the Jesuits used their utmost endeavors to make him recant, and return to his former faith, but he paid not the least attention to their exhortations. Kneeling down he said, “They may destroy my body, but cannot injure my soul, that I commend to my Redeemer”; and then patiently submitted to martyrdom, being at that time fifty-six years of age.
Valentine Cockan, was a person of considerable fortune and eminence, perfectly pious and honest, but of trifling abilities; yet his imagination seemed to grow bright, and his faculties to improve on death’s approach, as if the impending danger refined the understanding. Just before he was beheaded, he expressed himself with such eloquence, energy, and precision as greatly amazed those who knew his former deficiency in point of capacity. Tobias Steffick was remarkable for his affability and serenity of temper.