Maurice Abbot was a clothier in a village 20 miles from London. One night his pregnant wife, Alice, dreamed that if she could catch a pike, her child would be a boy. She rushed to the nearby river and trapped a young pike in her pitcher. She cooked it, ate it, and on October 29, 1562, bore a son.
The story spread through the superstitious town, and many people offered to finance the boy’s education. Consequently, George entered Oxford at age 16. The Abbots were staunch Protestants, and the young man entered the ministry. His powerful, Puritan-leaning sermons, though often dull, were always scholarly. When King James approved a new version of the Bible, George became a translator of the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation.
In 1611, the year the King James Version was released, George became head of the Church of England, the archbishop of Canterbury—the only KJV translator to reach that office. When James died, it was Abbot who crowned the new king, Charles I. He thus became the only kjv translator to crown a monarch.
But he was also the only translator and the only archbishop of Canterbury ever to kill a man. It happened when he joined friends in a hunting party, midsummer of 1621. Abbot was stout, stodgy, and unfamiliar with bows. When a buck came into sight, he drew back his arrow and let it fly. It flew right into poor Peter Harkins who quickly bled to death. All England was stunned, and many were critical of the archbishop, who was himself doubled over in grief. A special council absolved him of guilt, more or less; and the king issued a pardon. But many churchgoers whispered doubts about the holiness of a man who had killed another. Abbot soon became ill with “the stone and gravel,” and with gout. He began fasting every Tuesday in sorrow for his poor marksmanship. But he was never again well—or well-accepted by the people. Yet he still speaks to us every time we read the Gospels, Acts, or Revelation in the King James Version of the Bible.
I am about to collapse from constant pain.
I told you my sins, and I am sorry for them.
Many deadly and powerful enemies hate me,
And they repay evil for good because I try to do right.
You are the Lord God!
Stay nearby and don’t desert me. (Psalm 38:17-21)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.29.