James Naylor

Engraving from 1656 by an unknown engraver, James Naylor was a bit player in the Civil Wars, during which he fought as a foot soldier and later in Lambert’s Cavalry in the New Model Army, but came to prominence in the years after.  He developed into a charismatic and eloquent preacher of the fledgling Quaker movement. In fact so good was he that the authorities became very worried about the following he was attracting and  eventually he was tried for blasphemy by Parliament. This was nothing short of a show trial and Naylor narrowly escaped a death sentence, being finally sentenced to be whipped through the streets and tortured by the public hangman. The engraving shows what happened to him. In the first pane he is being whipped at a cart’s tail in a pair of ragged breeches and his shirt hangs in rags. The hangman wears a short tabbed doublet,  unconfined breeches and a tall hat. In the second, Naylor and the executioner both wear coats. The breeches on the executioner have some kind of ribbon decoration just above the knee, perhaps a badge of his office? Picture © National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG D29209; James Nayler after Unknown artist

The second engraving shows Naylor as a broken man after his sentence was passed. He hadn’t been in the best of health anyway, but after this and an episode when he was robbed and beaten on his way to Yorkshire he died in 1660. He is wearing a doublet under his preaching gown and a small linen collar. The letter B for blasphemer branded on his forehead was also part of his punishment in 1656. This plate was engraved for Ephraim Pagett’s Heresiography, the new specially illustrated edition of 1662. Image © The Trustees of the British Museum

James Naylor

2 Comments to “James Naylor”

  1. Naylor was already well known for preaching while in the army. He was discharged due to ill health after serving with Lambert. One wonders how much of what he saw during the wars effected him later. Along with George Fox, with whom he travelled for a while, he is now acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of the Society of Friends (Quakers), although by the time of his imprisonment he had been disowned by Fox for the perceived direction he was taking the Quaker movement (too close to the Ranters). They made their peace shortly before Naylor died. I’ve read somewhere that he was made an example of because of political problems with the direction Parliament was taking at the time. I’ll have to look it up again.

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