Priest and Martyr
B. January 25, 1540------D. December 1,
Feast Day: December
"There will never want in England men that will have care of their
own salvation, nor such as shall advance other men's; neither
shall this Church here ever fail so long as priests and pastors
shall be found for their sheep, rage man nor devil never so much."
touching our Societie, be it known to you that we have made a
league----all the Jesuits in the world,
whose succession and multitude
must overreach all the practices of England----cheerfully
to carry the
cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while
we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your
torments, or consumed with your prisons. The expense is reckoned,
enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood.
So the Faith
was planted: so it must be restored."
be advised that in some reference works, as best as I can determine,
Father Parsons is Father
Persons, much like the British convention of Davies for Davis. When we
write from memory in a compilation portion we use Parsons, when citing
verbatim, whichever the text uses.
The year was 1566 in the
reign of Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Sts. John
Fisher and Thomas More had been Martyred and buried for almost a
generation. By now merry Olde England was becoming drenched with the
blood of Martyrs who died for the Faith, which was on the horizon, the
bright horizon of Truth, to be for the sake of
the Holy Roman Mass, the immemorial Mass given to the Church by Christ
Himself and safeguarded by the Apostles and the sainted Popes, handed
down to Catholics as their especial patrimony, not to be touched by
innovation, apart from an occasional organic addition, neither a
rupture nor a dissolving, whether by priest alone or committee, for it
was, is sacred, to be held
inviolable as promulgated by Pope St. Pius V and the Council of Trent, complete with anathemas, even for
the suggestion of such a possibility, and in
the words of English priest, Fr. Fabian Fortescue, "the nearest
thing to Heaven."
I was reminded of the indispensable need of the Holy Roman Mass, the
Traditional Mass as we now refer to it as I was coming out of church,
this last Sunday in August, 2006 A.D. Three people were visiting the
locale and had stopped in for Mass. As they exited just ahead of me
they were enrapt in conversation, filled with awe. One of the women was
almost moved to tears. Her words, as close as I can recall: "How
beautiful is that Mass in Latin! I remember it from years ago, when we
had it every day in our parish. We need it back again . . ." I dared
not intrude . . . Since we
do have the Mass, because it
never went away------never
officially abrogated by the Holy See despite the claims of the
Modernists who are ever so willing to cite the modern tendencies in the
useless and ceaseless documents from Rome, yet remain mute when the
highest cardinals in the Vatican admit at last that such is the case,
had always been the case------I
am presuming wherever those visitors are from, they are even more
impoverished than those of us in Maine, for they were so struck that
there could be once again the Mass
of the ages, the Mass that has given us countless Saints and Martyrs,
and not this little runted stump, this banal imitation of the Anglican
service or "mass" as some still call it, the Novus Ordo sacrilege, the
"mass" so beloved by heretics and compromisers with the world. We have
had this so-called "mass" or "mess" more like it, for a over generation
now, and can anyone tell me how many Martyrs, apart from those Saints
who were forced to endure it, how many Saints actually died for it, specifically for it? No,
no one has yet to recount to me the number, even one. But lo! a time is
coming fast upon us when the number of Martyrs, dry and otherwise, for
the Roman Rite of Mass, the Mass of Tradition, will increase to the
point where even the most sand-immersed ostrich will take note at last!
For now it is a little dry martyrdom, the odd withering look from
someone when they learn you attend the Mass of Tradition, as if you had
an incurable contagion, the inconvenience of time and location, the
uncertainty of when it will be taken away, for now . . . the time is coming
when we will be known once more as recusants,
in hiding, hunted down like heretics and a threat to the public order.
Elizabeth had gone to Oxford, where there were to be a round of
speeches and debates, in the interest of garnering intellectuals for
the Protestant cause. One such academic shone apart from the others
that day, Edmund Campion, a spell-binding orator. The royal
entourage, including the Earl of Leicester, close confidante of the
Queen, met with him privately, promising him advancement in his
endeavors. Campion was invited to speak on the need for learning at
the Royal Court on several occasions. He did not as yet realize this
heady atmosphere was not his future, for he was still practicing
Anglicism and was indeed, preparing for the "priesthood" [Anglican
orders are invalid] and had taken
"the Oath of Supremacy". He had received the "deaconate" and because he
had taken the Oath, he was already excommunicated in reality. His
intellectual honesty and keen penetration
of the facts at hand were to be his undoing as an Anglican and would be
the instruments by which he would be ordained, instead, a Catholic
in order to serve as a missionary in his own land, now blighted with
the revolution against Pope and True Church and her most beautiful
legacy, the Holy Mass.
In the course of his studies, Campion came upon the Fathers of the
Church and from them, many of whom are Saints, he realized with
that the Church of Elizabeth and Cranmer was not the Church of
St. Augustine and St. Thomas à
Beckett. Now Campion, thoroughly honest, was also thoroughly frank and
thus he discussed his disposition with everyone in a time when any
leaning towards Catholicism was politically dangerous. Meanwhile a
close friend of his at Oxford, Gregory Martin, had gone to Douay and
suggested that Campion join him. Martin was a Catholic. It was now the
summer of 1569, but still, Edmund Campion was not prepared to go the
full way and was diligently looking for the so-called "middle way".
This attempt failed when he saw that there was none and that
"Anglicanism" just would not work. It was untenable without foundation
in Tradition, in Scripture. And yet, when he knew that
Catholicism was required for the salvation of his soul and that he must
leave Oxford, he could not bring himself to go to Douay, where there
was an English Catholic College. Rather, he accepted the invitation of
an Irish family, the Stannihursts, as household tutor. There was
discussion to establish a college in Dublin and he hoped to be
part of that enterprise. This was where he wrote his History of Ireland. His
life there was serene and appealing but even then the same religious
and political divisions that had brought England to such turmoil were
brewing in Ireland and before long, Campion found himself again almost
a fugitive. Despite the tensions and conflict, Campion was certain of
one thing, he was called to the priesthood, so two years after landing
in Ireland he was sailing for Douay as a "religious heretic" to study
with Richard Allen, the founder of the seminary there. He was there for
two years when he felt drawn to the Jesuits, which Allen, later to be a
Cardinal, encouraged him in because he thought it was better for
his growth in sanctity.
Campion went to Rome where he was accepted by the Society of St.
Ignatius or the Jesuits, and was sent to the novitiate in Prague. He
studied and prayed and worked for five more years, and was ordained in
in 1578, saying his first Mass that September. At the time the Jesuits
were not established as missionaries in England, but Campion was bound
to try, so he went in June of 1580, to find the Catholics still left in
England, almost in despair, certainly demoralized and at the point of
what can only be called desperation. Many of the more fervent Catholics
were in prison, had been executed or sent into exile. Those who
remained were so driven by hopelessness of ever being able to openly
practice their faith that some
of them joined plots whereby the Queen might be assassinated or
otherwise dispensed with. This unfortunately lent credence to the
government's claim that Catholics were seditious. In any event, setting
aside the moral problems with sedition, these attempts would have been
short-sighted and impractical since Anglicism was now inbred in most of
the powerful and Elizabeth or no Elizabeth it would still be "the law
of the land".
To quote Dr. Malcolm Brennan in his work, MARTYRS OF THE
ENGLISH REFORMATION [Remnant Bookstore], p. 46:
"Seminary priests, following
the bloody footsteps of Saint Cuthbert Mayne, had continued to filter
into the country, and an unknown number of priests who had remained
faithful since the reign of Queen Mary twenty years before, continued
their perilous ministry. But so many of these were captured, and their
visitations were so erratic and brief, and they had to remain in such
secrecy, and recourse to them was so dangerous, and so many leading
families had been ruined by confiscations and imprisonments and
executions, that a mood of desolation oppressed the scattered flock.
"The way in which Saint
Edmund announced new hope to English Catholics was clearly
providential. After establishing their necessary contacts in London,
and before beginning their ministry in the provinces, Saint Edmund and
Father Robert Parsons, S.J., his friend and superior, were persuaded to
write a brief defense of their purpose and case. The idea for this was
proposed by Thomas Pounde, a Catholic gentleman imprisoned in the
Marshalsea, a notoriously lax prison. He had escaped for the day, or
bribed his way out, to caution the fathers that when they were captured------as
was inevitable sooner or later------they
might be executed summarily and false evidence of treason produced
against them afterwards. Why not state your cause and your defense, he
argued, before the event? They agreed and spent half an hour following
his advice before proceeding on their separate journeys.
"Back at the
Marshalsea, Pounde read Campion's paper, and its effect on him was
intoxicating. He showed it to other prisoners, copies were made and
found their way into London and indeed across England. It electrified
Catholics with new confidence, and it established Campion as the leader
and spokesman for the Catholic cause."
This paper became known
as "Campion's Brag". We reproduce it HERE.
Father Campion, unaware of the sensation his paper caused, went about
his missionary work, traveling in disguise by necessity, as a Catholic
gentleman. He had opportunity to stop off at Protestant estates and
unknown to the owner, administer the Sacraments to the Catholic
servants, and even family members.
The "Brag" gave rise to refutations from government officials; Father
Parsons had launched a counter-refutation before the end of the week.
The Fathers had acquired a small printing press, but they deemed it of
more benefit to souls for a larger sort of publication than a
reproduction of the "Brag". Campion wrote Ten Reasons
which was a well-documented, highly reasoned argumentation for
Catholicism and was less easily disputed by the Protestants. Campion
and Parsons were bold and daring. When the Anglican Oxfordians went to
church they found copies on their seats!
1. All heretics have been obliged to mutilate Holy Scripture in their
own interest. The Lutherans and Calvinists have done this in several
2. In other cases they retain the text, but pervert the clear meaning
of the passage.
3. The Protestants by denying the existence of a visible Church, deny,
for all practical purpose, the existence of any Church.
4. The Protestants pretend to revere the first four General Councils,
but deny many of their doctrines.
5. and 6. The Protestants are obliged to disregard the Fathers.
7. The history of the Church is continuous. The Protestants are without
8. The works of Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin contain many grossly
9. The Protestants are obliged to employ many empty tricks of argument.
10. The variety and extent of Catholic witness are impressive.
This section contains the eloquent passage: "Listen,
Elizabeth, most powerful Queen . . . I tell thee; one and the same
cannot hold Calvin and the Princes whom I have named [Elizabeth's
ancestors, and the great heroes of Christendom]. With these Princes
then associate thyself, and so make thee worthy of thy ancestors,
worthy of thy genius, worthy of thy excellence in letters, worthy of
thy praises, worthy of thy fortune. To this effect only do I labor
about thy person, and will labor, whatever shall become of me) for whom
these adversaries so often augur the gallows) as though I were an enemy
of thy life. Hail, good Cross. There will come, Elizabeth, the day that
will show thee clearly which have loved thee, the Society of Jesus or
the offspring of Luther." . . .
We now cite extensively from the Waugh book referred to on the page, Campion's Brag:
The government's reply was a proclamation dated January 10, 1581, for
"recalling Her Majesty's subjects which under pretense of studies do
live beyond the seas both contrary to the laws of God and of the realm,
and against such as do receive or retain Jesuits and massing priests,
sowers of sedition and of other treasonable attempts."
By this proclamation the relatives of seminarists had to recall them,
or lose all civil rights. It was illegal to send them any supplies.
Jesuits and priests must be surrendered; anyone knowingly harboring
them was guilty of sedition and treason.
The Jesuits were already outlaws, and as regards the legal position of
them and their hosts the proclamation made little change, but its
significance was that by forcibly reaffirming the existing law, the
council was giving warning of a further increase of severity in its
application. Already, on December 10, the council had started in the
case of Kirby
and Cottam what was henceforth to be its consistent policy, of putting
their religious prisoners to the torture. In the next four weeks, Sherwin,
Johnson, Hart, Orton, Thomson, and Roscarock were racked, Sherwin on
two succeeding days. On January 25 Sir Walter Mildmay, in the House of
Commons, rose to move the Bill for "the retaining of Her Majesty's
subjects in due obedience".
. . . News of these events reached Campion in Lancashire and Yorkshire.
six months passed between the conference at Uxbridge and Campion's
return to London. They were spent, as before, in visiting Catholic
houses of whose names we have some fragmentary information. He spent
Christmas with the Pierrepoints of Holme Pierrepoint; on the Tuesday
after Twelfth Night he was in Derbyshire at Henry Sacheverell's, from
whom he went to Mr. Langford, to Lady Foljambe of Walton, and to Mr.
Powdrell, where he met George Gilbert . . .
in the third week of January Mr. Tempest took him in charge and led him
into Yorkshire. On January 28 he was at Yeafford as the guest of Mr.
John Rookby. In the succeeding weeks he visited Dr. Vavasour, Mrs.
Bulmer, Sir William Bapthorpe of Osgodby, Mr. Grimston (probably Mr.
Ralph Grimston of Nidd, who was hanged seventeen years later for
harboring Father Snow), Mr. Hawkeworth, and Mr. Askulph Cleesby.
Tempest was then succeeded by a Mr. Smyth, who took him to his
brother-in-law's, Mr. William Harrington of Mount St. John, where
Campion made a stay of twelve days, and so impressed William, one of
his host's six sons, that he became a priest, and was later hanged.
From Mount St. John, Campion traveled with a Mr. More and his wife into
Lancashire, where almost the whole county was Catholic in sympathy.
Here Campion stayed with the Worthingtons, Talbots, Heskeths, Mrs.
Allen, widowed sister-in-law of the Cardinal, Houghtons, Westbys, and
Rigmaidens. In the middle of May he was summoned to return to London.
These names are taken from Burghley's list, drawn up after Campion's
arrest. It is far from complete . . . Probably twice its number
remained undetected, if,
as it is reasonable to suppose, Campion maintained the practice of
constant change of residence. It is significant that much of Burghley's
information seems to be of places where Campion remained some days and
thus risked attracting the attention of Protestant informers; other
names, such as Sir William Bapthorpe's and Dr. Vavasour's, were already
well known to the authorities; Vavasour had been in prison at Hull in
the preceding August, and Bapthorpe had given a bond of £200 to
the Archbishop for his good behavior.
His work in the north was apostolic, as it had been in the Midlands.
Nearly a century later Father Henry More found that the tradition of
Campion's passage was still fresh in Lancashire, and that Catholics
still spoke of his sermons on the Hail Mary, the ten lepers, the king
who went on a journey, and the Last Judgment. . . .
With the publication of the Ten Reasons the first part of Campion's
task was accomplished. He had been in England now for over a year; that
was his achievement, that in all Her centuries the English Church was
to count one year of Her life by his devotion; others were now ready to
take over the guard; since Easter thirty of Allens priests had crossed
the Channel and landed successfully; the work would go on; Mass would
still be offered in England; the growing generation would still learn
the truths of the Faith; the Church of Augustine and Edward and Thomas
would still live; for Campion there remained only the final sacrifice.
His road to Harrow took him past Tyburn gibbet, and here, Persons
records, he would often pause, hat in hand, "both because of the sign
of the Cross and in honor of some martyres who had suffered there, and
also because he used to say that he would have his combat there." . . .
[Father Campion, a naturally
friendly and trusting person, had allowed
himself to be on too familar terms with the people about him as
he served as priest. He was captured at Lyford Grange, a Catholic
house, by George Eliot, who had been a servant in two such households
and had been jailed for rape and murder. To win his release he offered
on "religious services".-----Web
. . . As SOON AS NEWS of the discovery reached him, the High
Sheriff, Humphrey Foster, rode over from Aldermaston to take charge of
the house. He saw to it that Campion
and the other prisoners were decently used, and dispatched a messenger
to the court for further instructions. Eliot, however, had anticipated
him, arrived first with the news and was given, as was very clearly his
right, full credit for the capture. Before Thursday he was back at
Lyford with authority to bring Campion and the men taken with him to
London as his own prisoners. The Sheriff was instructed to provide a
In Eliot's absence there had been another arrest, of a fourth priest
named William Filby, who unwittingly came to call at Lyford Grange and
found the magistrates in possession.
The party set out on the twentieth, passed through Abingdon, and rested
the first night at Henley. At every stage of the journey large numbers
turned out to see them, some with open sympathy. Persons was still in
hiding at Stonor; he sent his servant to see how Campion was looking,
and the man brought back word that his gentleness and charm had
already put him on easy terms with his captors. The party dined
together at the same table. Campion chatted easily with them, as well
as with several members of the university who had been allowed to
Eliot was ignored; neither magistrates nor soldiers troubled to hide
their dislike of the man; once or twice on the road there had been
hostile movements in the crowd as the informer passed, and cries of
"Judas"; his first elation was exhausted; the praise which he had
received at court sounded faint and distorted; it was almost as though
this were Campion's triumph, and he the malefactor.
At last he could bear Campion's neglect no longer, and so broke out:
"Mr. Campion, you look cheerfully upon everyone but me. I know you are
angry with me for this work."
Then, perhaps for the first time since Sunday morning, when Eliot had
knelt after Mass to receive the holy bread from his hands, Campion
turned his eyes on him. "God forgive thee, Eliot," he said, "for so
judging of me; I forgive thee and in token thereof, I drink to thee."
He raised his cup, and then added more gravely, "Yea, and if thou
repent and come to confession, I will absolve thee; but large penance
must thou have."
According to Eliot, Campion warned him that no good would result from
the service he had done; which prediction Eliot, as was his nature,
took as a threat of Catholic vengeance; from that day he imagined he
was being followed and bewitched, and, though no attempt was ever
made at reprisal, went in fear of his life, so that the report gained
credence that he had lost his wits.
At Henley, that night, after they had all retired to bed, there was a
sudden wild shouting; the guards took alarm that an attempt was being
made to rescue the prisoners; torches were brought and it was
discovered that Father Filby was suffering from nightmare; he had
dreamed that someone was ripping down his body and taking out his
They spent the succeeding night at Colebrook and there, on special
instructions from the council, the character of the procession was
altered. The prisoners were pinioned on their horses; their elbows
being tied behind them and their wrists in front; their ankles were
strapped together under the horses' bellies. Campion was driven on in
front with a paper stuck in his hat reading "Campion the Seditious
Jesuit: In this way they were paraded through the London streets,
crowded for the Saturday market. At Cheapside, the statues at the foot
of the old cross were all defaced by the Protestants, but the cross
itself still stood beyond their reach. As he passed it, Campion made a
low reverence. Finally they reached the Tower, where the Governor, Sir
Owen Hopton, took them into his custody. Before he parted with the
Berkshire guard, who had had no responsibility for his humiliation,
Campion thanked them and blessed them. Then the gates of the Tower shut
The conditions of imprisonment in the Tower were very different from
the sociable, haphazard life at the Marshalsea. The regulations for
solitary confinement are on record; the windows were blocked up; light
and ventilation came through a "slope tunnel," barred at top and
bottom, so that nothing could be conveyed to the prisoner from outside.
The lieutenant had to be present whenever a keeper entered the cell,
and it was rarely possible, and then only under the strictest
supervision, for prisoners to receive a visitor. In some cases, no
doubt, severity was tempered by venality, but Campion was a prisoner of
the highest importance, suspect of having wide, subterranean
connections, and Hopton treated him with more than customary harshness.
He was placed in the Little Ease, the cell, still an object of interest
in the Tower dungeons, in which it was impossible for a full-grown man
to stand erect or lie at full length. Here, crouching in the half-dark,
he remained for four days. Then the cage was opened and he was summoned
to emerge; under a strong guard he was led up to the level of the
ground, out into the air and sunshine, across the yard to the water
gate, where a boat awaited them; they rowed upstream among the ferrymen
and barges and busy river traffic. Presently they reached Leicester
We cannot know what hopes may have stirred in Campion's heart as he
recognized the home of his old friend and patron, as the guard led him
through the familiar, frequented anterooms to the Earl's apartment. The
doors were thrown open; the soldiers at Campion's side stiffened;
they were in the presence of the Queen. Beside her chair stood
Leicester, Bedford, and two Secretaries of State. The guards stood back
and Campion advanced to make his salutations.
It was a singular meeting. The grime of the dungeon was still on
Campion; his limbs as he knelt were stiff from his imprisonment.
The vast red wig nodded acknowledgment; the jewels and braid and gold
lace glittered and the sunken, painted face smiled in recognition. They
received him courteously, almost affectionately. "There is none that
knoweth me familiarly," Campion had written to Leicester ten years
earlier, "but he knoweth withal how many ways I have been beholden to
your lordship. How often at Oxford, how often at the Court, how at
Rycote, how at Windsor, how by letters, how by reports, you have not
ceased to further with advice and to countenance with authority, the
hope and expectation of me, a single student."
Campion had followed other advice, recognized another authority, in
those ten years; he had lived in a different hope and expectation; he
stood before them now as an outcast, momentarily interrupted in his
passage from the dungeon to the scaffold. But, for the occasion,
politeness was maintained.
They questioned Campion about his purpose in coming to England, about
Persons, about his instructions from Rome. He answered easily and
quietly; he had come for the salvation of souls. The harsh, peremptory
tones of Elizabeth broke in; did he acknowledge her as his Queen or no?
Campion replied that he did indeed recognize her as his lawful Queen
and governess, and was bound to her in obedience in all temporal
matters. She pressed him with the question of her deposition. He
answered, with perfect candor, that it was a subject upon which
theologians were still divided, and began to explain the distinction
between the potestas ordinata and
potestas inordinata of the
and quoted the text "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." [Matt. 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke
But the politicians were not in the mood for a debate upon canon law.
They were satisfied that he had no treasonable designs, and told him
that they had no fault to find with him except that he was a papist.
"Which is my greatest glory," Campion replied. They then made the
proposal for which he had been summoned. The past ten years should be
forgotten; the road of preferment was still open; if he would publicly
adjure his Faith and enter the Protestant ministry there was still no
limit to the heights he might reach. The offer was kind in its
intention. They had no desire to kill the virtuous and gifted man who
had once been their friend, a man, moreover, who could still be of good
service to them. From earliest youth, among those nearest them, they
had been used to the spectacle of men who would risk their lives for
power, but to die deliberately, without hope of release, for an idea,
was something beyond their comprehension.
They knew that it happened; they had seen it in the preceding reign,
but not among people of their own acquaintance; humble, eccentric men
had gone to the stake; argumentative men had gone into exile in Germany
and Geneva, but Elizabeth and Cecil and Dudley had quietly conformed
to the prevailing fashion; they had told their beads and eaten fish on
Fridays, confessed and taken Communion. Faith------as something concrete
and indestructible, of such transcendent value that, once it was held,
all other possessions became a mere encumbrance------was unknown to them; in
rare, pensive moments shadows loomed and flickered across their minds,
sentiment, conscience, fear of the unknown; some years Leicester
patronized the Catholics, at others "the Family of Love"; Elizabeth
looked now on the crucifix, now on a talisman; Bible and demonology lay
together beside her bed. What correspondence, even in their charity,
could they have with Campion?
He returned to the Tower, and, five days later, Leicester and Burghley
signed the warrant to put him to the torture.
From now until December 1, when he was dragged out to Tyburn, Campion
disappeared from the world. He was seen again at the conference in
September with the Anglican clergy, and at his trial in November, but
of the agony and endurance of those four months we have only hints and
fragments of information. The little that we know was hidden from his
contemporaries, and rumor was busy with his name.
First it was said that he had turned Protestant, had accepted a
bishopric, and was about to make a public avowal of his apostasy and
burn the Ten Reasons at St.
Paul's Cross. Hopton himself seems to have
been responsible for this report, and so authoritatively that it was
made an official announcement at many of the pulpits of London. Then it
was said that he had taken his own life; then that he had purchased his
safety by accusing his former friends of treason. No one was allowed to
see him. All over the country gentlemen were being arrested and charged
with Catholicism on Campion's authority. His friends were thrown into
despair and shame. The Protestants taunted them with their champion's
treachery. Then he reappeared, at the conferences, at his trial, at
Tyburn. In those brief glimpses they recognized the man whom they had
known and trusted, the old gentleness, the old inflexible constancy.
Opinion veered again; the confessions were challenged and could not
be produced. They were denounced as forgeries. Only in recent years,
when the archives are open and the bitter passions still, can we begin
to pierce the subterranean gloom and guess at the atrocious secrets of
the torture chamber.
Two things seem certain, that Campion told something and that he told
very little. The purpose of his captors was to make him convict himself
and his friends of treason, and in this they failed absolutely.
Hardened criminals, at the mere sight of the rack, would break down and
testify to whatever their jailers demanded. Campion, the gentle
scholar, was tortured on three occasions and said nothing that was
untrue; nothing to which he was bound in secrecy by the seal of
confession; nothing which, in the actual event, brought disaster to
anyone. He seems, however, to have made certain admissions with which
his scrupulous conscience, always more ready with accusation than
with excuse, troubled him on the scaffold.
These all dealt with the hospitality he had received during his
mission. His first examination took place on July 30 or 31, and
immediately afterwards Burghley wrote to Lord Shrewsbury that "he would
confess nothing of moment." The subject upon which the council
particularly desired a "confession" was the sum of £30,000 which
he was reputed to have conveyed to the rebels in Ireland, how the money
had been collected, how transferred. On this topic they could obtain no
information. Immediately afterwards, however, they had knowledge of
names of several people associated with Campion. On August 2 Burghley
drew up a list of his hosts in Lancashire, on the fourth in Yorkshire,
the sixth in Northamptonshire, and the seventh and fourteenth in
Derbyshire. He attributed these to Campion's confessions. Thirty-two
persons in all were questioned as a result of the lists, but in no case
was the evidence considered strong enough for a conviction.
What importance Campion's admissions had in the compilation, and how
those admissions were extorted, cannot be certainly known, but it is
possible to make a conjecture.
The examiners were men proficient in every trick of their profession,
and they were already well informed from other sources. For months the
pursuit had been closing in; there had been other arrests; the two
servants, taken at Lyford, had turned Queen's evidence. For over a year
spies had been at work all over the country bribing and threatening;
indiscreet conversations at the Marshalsea had been overheard; scraps
of information from count- less sources had been collected and
arranged. Before the examination began the Crown lawyers had a fair
idea of Campion's movements.
All the devices of cross-examination were then employed. They would
pretend to certain knowledge, where they had only a suspicion. "When
you were at such-and-such a house you spoke about Mary Queen of Scots";
"No, we spoke only of religion"; "Then you were at that house"; they
would quote to him spurious confessions of others; they would tell him
of arrests that had not been made, of false betrayals. All the bluffs
and traps which, in a court of law, will confuse a witness, cool-headed
and protected by counsel, were now used upon a man stretched in the
last extremity of physical agony.
It is certain that neither then, nor in his subsequent examinations,
did Campion ever break down. He never blurted out all that he knew,
anything his tormentors required of him, only so that he might be
released from the unendurable pain. There are no signed depositions. It
was the custom of the time for the clerk, seated beside the rack, to
record all that the witness said; then, when he was released, as soon
as his fingers could hold a pen, he was required to put his name at the
foot of each sheet. The pitiful, straggling, barely recognizable
signatures were then admissible as evidence. In Campion's case they
could produce no such testimony; if in the last minutes before the
senses failed, in the delirium of pain before unconsciousness
gratefully intervened and he was taken inert from the rack; as the
pitiless questioning went on and on and the body lost its dependence
upon the will------if then he spoke of things that
should have been kept
secret, his first conscious act was to repudiate them; the confessions
were useful as a bluff to use against other prisoners, but they were
valueless in a court of law.
And, even so, it was very little that was wrung from him. . . .
It was recognized that the itinerary was incomplete and the details
inadequate. On August 7 the council dispatched to the Earl of
Huntingdon a list of some of Campion's Yorkshire hosts with
instructions to examine "bothe of them and others of their familyes and
neighbourhood . . . how long he continued in their said houses or anie
others, from where he came, whither he went and with whom; how often he
or anie other jesuite or priest said anie masse in their houses .
. . whether they themselves or anie other have heard masse or been
reconciled or confessed."
On the back of the letter was a list similar to the one quoted:
"Campion confesseth he was in the City of York at the house of D.
Vavasour. Thither resorted soche of the neighbours as Mrs. Vavasour
called her husband being then in prison. He was also at the house of
one Mrs. Boulmer. He hath forgotten who brought him thither neither did
he know the company" and so on.
The Vavasours were notorious recusants; their house would be under
surveillance; Dr. Vavasour was in prison for his religion; it was a
common practice to shut up a spy with the prisoners to gain their
confidence; a secret note from his wife may have fallen into the
jailer's hands. There are many ways in which the council might have
information about Campion's visit. But of the details which only
Campion could tell, the waverers who conformed in public to the state
Church but came to him secretly for advice, there is not a word. "He
hath forgotten who brought him thither." One can guess what efforts
were made to stimulate his memory; what endurance and triumph is
recorded in that phrase.
It will be seen from the above quotations that Campion very rarely
admitted to having performed any priestly office, and without that
admission the case against his hosts was extremely slender. The recent
proclamation had made it treasonable to harbor a priest, but Campion
had traveled in disguise and under an assumed name. In the open
hospitality of the age, the mere fact of Campion having slept under a
certain roof was not enough to convict the master of complicity.
Persons's letter, quoted in the preceding chapter, shows that he
frequently stayed, unsuspected, in the houses of irreproachable
But the men who were now arrested and questioned on the authority of
Campion's "confessions" had no means of judging the weakness of the
case against them. They were told that Campion had betrayed them. The
news reached Pounde in prison, and impetuous as ever, he wrote a letter
to Campion, which his jailer accepted a bribe to deliver. The whole
incident is obscure. He may have written in reproach or in inquiry
about the authenticity of the "confessions:' In any case, the message
was shown to Hopton who, having read it, told the man to deliver it to
Campion and bring him back the answer.
This note has not been preserved, nor have we any exact transcript of
its terms; it was quoted at the trial of Lord Vaux, Tresham, Catesby,
and others before the Star Chamber as follows: "A letter produced, said
to be intercepted, which Mr. Campion should seem to write to a fellow
prisoner of his, namely, Mr. Pounde; wherein he did take notice that by
frailty he had confessed of some houses where he had been which now he
repented him, and desired Mr. Pounde to beg pardon of the Catholics
therein, saying that in this he rejoiced, that he had discovered no
things of secret, nor would he, come rack, come rope. Without Pounde's
letter, to which it was a reply, this message is
capable of more than one interpretation. Its value to the council was
as evidence of conspiracy, "the things of secret" being taken as a
political plot. The plainest and most probable meaning would seem to
be that by "frailty", either of endurance or astuteness, Campion had
been forced into admissions which he now repented, but that he had
merely confirmed what they already knew and had given no new
information to the inquisitors------nothing that had hitherto been
to them. His anxiety was not to defend his own reputation, but to warn
his friends against an attempt to bluff them, as he had himself been
One other point must be noticed regarding the "confessions." At the
beginning of his conferences with the Anglican clergy there was some
discussion of Campion's treatment on the rack. Beale, the Clerk of the
Council, asked if he had been examined on any point of religion.
Campion answered, "that he was not indeed directly examined of
religion, but moved to confess in what places he had been conversant
since his repair into the realm." Beale replied, "that this was
required of him because many of his fellows and by likelihood himself
also, had reconciled divers of her Highnesses subjects to the Romish
Church." To which Campion replied, "that forasmuch as the Christians of
old time being commanded to deliver up the books of their religion to
such as persecuted them, refused so to do, and misliked with them that
did so, calling them traditores, he might not betray his Catholic
brethren which were, as he said, the temples of the Holy Ghost."
Now Beale himself had been present at the racking; Hopton, Hammond, and
Norton, the other examiners, were present in the conference room. The
chief purpose of the meeting was to discredit Campion publicly in every
way they could. And yet when he made this provocative comparison of
himself with the Christian Martyrs in ancient Rome, no one retorted
that he had betrayed his brethren, the temples of the Holy Ghost, and
that out of his own mouth he was condemned as traditor. Instead the
question was immediately dropped. The examiners did not wish to give
Campion the opportunity of challenging the "confessions" that were
being circulated under his name.
The conferences referred to above were four in number. They were held
at the express orders of the council, who were anxious that Campion's
challenge, contained in the Brag
and in the Ten Reasons,
seem to go unanswered. Aylmer, the Bishop of London, chose the
The first took place in the Tower of London on September 1. No
opportunity was given to Campion to prepare himself; he was roused
without warning, unfettered, and led from his cell. Sherwin, Bosgrave,
Pounde, and some other Catholic prisoners were waiting under escort.
They may well have supposed that their hour had come, and that they
were being taken to summary execution. Instead they were marched to the
chapel, where they found a formidable array drawn up to meet them. On
one side a state box had been erected in which lounged members of the
court and council; opposite stood a table littered with books and
papers, behind which were enthroned two clergymen, in starched linen
and voluminous, academic robes. They were Nowell, the Dean of St.
Paul's, and Day, the Dean of Windsor; round them sat a number of
chaplains and clerks, helping to arrange the notes and mark the
passages to be quoted. Another table, and other high chairs,
accommodated Charke and Dr. Whitaker, the Regius Professor of Divinity
at Cambridge, who were to act as notaries. The Governor of the Tower
sat with the rack-master and other officials; a large and varied
audience filled every available space, for theological dispute was a
popular recreation of the day. Some Catholics were in the crowd, one of
whom took notes which furnished Bombinus with the material for his
description. The official reports, both of this and the subsequent
conferences, were not published until two years after Campion's death.
The Anglicans had then the opportunity to revise them, and one editor,
Field, admitted in his preface that "If Campion's answers be thought
shorter than they were, you must know that he had much waste speech,
which, being impertinent, is now omitted." Throughout all the
conferences Campion shows constant anxiety that he is not being
A little stool was set for him among the soldiers in the body of the
court. He had now been in solitary confinement for five weeks; his
second examination under torture had taken place ten days before and,
although he was gradually recovering the use of his limbs, his health
was broken. The Catholic witness reports that his face was colorless,
"his memory destroyed and his force of mind almost extinguished: With
unconscious irony the Dean of St. Paul's opened the discussion by
blandly rebuking Campion for having, in his Ten Reasons, dared to
accuse Her Majesty's most merciful government of "inusitata supplicia"------"uncommon cruelty"------and the Anglican bishops of
offering "tormenta non
scholas"------"tortures instead of
Campion replied by protesting against the manifest inequality of the
contest, his own lack of preparation, his deprivation of texts and
notes. It was here that the subject of his "confessions" was raised,
and hastily shelved, as described above.
The Deans then proceeded to the debate, the scheme of which was that
they should propose the subjects, taken from the Ten Reasons, should
state their argument in the form of a syllogism, and Campion should
answer them. In this way, with a recess for dinner, they continued
until nightfall. The chief topic was the Anglican defense of Luther's
doctrine of justification by faith alone. The report makes tedious and
shameful reading, and the results were inconclusive. Campion was freely
insulted, described as "os impudens"
and "miles gloriosus," and any
demonstration in his favor was instantly checked by the soldiers.
Only twice did he seem clearly to be in the wrong. He was unable to
verify his quotation from Luther that described the epistle of St.
James as "a thing of straw.' It occurred in the Jena edition, from
which he had taken it, but not in the expurgated Wittenberg edition,
with which he was now provided. The second occasion was when he became
confused in a passage from the Greek Testament, and refused to continue
the argument. His opponents eagerly seized upon this, and both now and
later asserted that his much-advertised scholarship was spurious.
Apologists have suggested that the type was too small for him to read,
but the simplest explanation is that his Greek was, in fact, rather
rusty. He was pre-eminently a Latinist. He had read Greek at Oxford and
Douay, could quote it familiarly and write it in a clear and scholarly
hand------of this there is abundant proof------but he had used it little at
Prague, and, when he did so, spoke it with the Bohemian accent which
was confusing in England. He regarded the conference as a test of the
truth of his creed, not of his own accomplishments, and he was
unwilling to compromise his case by straying on uncertain ground. At
the end of the day, when the Catholics returned to the cells and the
Deans to their comfortable lodgings, both sides were satisfied that
they had had the best of it.
Eighteen days passed, but Campion, in his sunless dungeon, had lost
count of time, and, lying in constant prayer, thought that it had been
only a week, when he was again led out to debate. This time his
opponents were Dr. Goode, the Provost of King's College, Cambridge, and
William Fulke, the popular preacher whose delight at the execution of
Dr. Storey has been reported earlier in this narrative. Fulke was a
contemporary of Campion's, and had been his unsuccessful rival for the
silver pen offered to the prize boy at the City schools. He was an
enthusiastic opponent of the surplice, and had inflamed a riot at the
university on that subject which led to his being sent down; he was
triumphantly reinstated in 1567, but was again expelled for conniving
at an incestuous marriage; court favor did not fail him, and in 1569 he
was restored to his fellowship, became Leicester's chaplain, a Doctor
of Divinity by royal mandate, and Master of Pembroke Hall, where he
augmented the Master's stipend by cutting down the number of
fellowships. From 1580 he was in regular employment as an official
Anglican controversialist, both against Catholics and the more
extreme Protestants of the "Family of Love."
On this occasion the conference took place in greater privacy, in
Hopton's Hall, but the method was the same as before, the Anglicans
stating their arguments and Campion objecting. In the morning the
Anglicans set themselves to deny the existence of a visible Church; in
the afternoon to prove that the Church was capable of error. As before,
Campion was forbidden to take any lead, and when he attempted to press
an argument was sharply reprimanded, "It is your part to answer, not to
oppose"------and Campion replied wearily, "I
have answered, but I wish to
God I had a notary. Well, I commit it all to God."
In the afternoon the dispute veered again to justification by works.
Campion asserted that children who died without sin were saved. The
Anglicans maintained the contrary doctrine, that they were damned
unless specially "elected"; that Baptism had no power to
. . Campion was never allowed to forget the difference of position
between himself and his opponents.
in the afternoon the Anglicans were denying the Real Presence in
the Mass, saying that the doctrine denied the bodily resurrection of
Christ. Campion broke out impatiently, "What? Will you make Him a
prisoner now in Heaven? Must He be bound to those properties of a
natural body? Heaven is His palace and you will make it His prison."
. . . Campion was consistently refused the courtesies of debate. "If
you dare, let me show you Augustine and Chrysostom:' he cried at one
moment, "if you dare."
[And so on it went.-----Web Master]
. . . A majority in the council favored Campion's execution; under the
recent laws his office as
priest made him guilty of high treason, but respect for public opinion,
both in the country and abroad, made them hesitate to bring him to the
scaffold upon this charge alone. Walsingham was in Paris that summer,
on an embassy connected with the Queen's marriage; he employed his
leisure in interviewing various informers and renegade emigres, and on
August 20 he was able to report to Cecil a popish plot for the conquest
of Scotland which was being offered for sale at twenty crowns, but the
council do not seem to have found it suitable. . . .
. . . On Tuesday, November 14, Campion, Sherwin, Kirby, Bosgrave,
Cottam, Johnson, Orton, and Rishton were arraigned at the bar of
Westminster Hall, and the preposterous charge was first read to them.
"I protest before God and His holy Angels," Campion replied, "before
Heaven and earth, before the world and I this bar whereat I stand,
which is but a small resemblance of the terrible judgment of the next
life, that I am not guilty of any part of the treason contained in the
indictment, or of any other treason whatever."
The jury was impaneled for the following Monday. "Is it possible,"
Campion said, "to find twelve men so wicked and void of all conscience
in this city or land that will find us guilty together of this one
crime, divers of us never meeting or knowing one the other before our
bringing to this bar?"
"The plain reason of our standing here is religion and not treason,"
Sir Christopher Wray, the Chief Justice of the King's Bench: "The time
is not yet come wherein you shall be tried, and therefore you must now
spare speech . . . wherefore now plead to the indictment whether you be
guilty or not."
When they were called to take the oath, Campion, as was mentioned
above, could not lift his arm; his crippled hands were tucked into the
cuffs of his gown, whereupon one of his companions drew up the sleeve,
kissed his hand, and raised it for him.
Next day Collington, Richardson, Hart, Ford, Filby, Briant, and Short
were arraigned in the same manner on the same charge.
The trial took place on November 20. Three gentlemen, originally
impaneled as jurymen, refused their attendance, because they doubted
that justice would have a free course that day; their places were
filled with less scrupulous substitutes . . .
. . . Campion was now allowed to speak to the jury; he did so
courteously, reasonably, hopelessly.
"What charge this day you sustain, and what accompt you are to render
at the dreadful Day of Judgment, whereof I could wish this also were a
mirror, I trust there is no one of you but knoweth. I doubt not but in
like manner you forecast how dear the innocent is to God, and at what
price He holdeth man's blood. Here we are accused and impleaded to the
death. We have no whither to appeal but to your consciences." He showed
how the most part of the evidence was general and vague, a matter of
conjecture and capricious association. Only a few particulars had been
precise and damning, and those had emanated from the gang. "What truth
may you expect from their mouths? One hath confessed himself a murderer
[Eliot], the other [Munday] a detestable atheist, a profane heathen, a
destroyer of two men already. On your consciences, would you believe
them -they that have betrayed both God and man, nay, that have left
nothing to swear by, neither religion nor honesty? Though you would
believe them, can you? . . . I commit the rest to God, and our
convictions to your good discretions."
The jury retired. Ayloff was left alone on the bench, and, pulling off
his glove, found all his hand and signet ring bloody, "without any
wrong, pricking, or hurt." The jury returned with the inevitable
verdict. The Lord Chief Justice demanded whether there was any cause
why he should not pass sentence of death upon the prisoners.
It was then that Campion's voice rose in triumph. He was no longer
haggling with perjurers; he spoke now, not merely for the handful of
doomed men behind him, nor to that sordid court, but for the whole
gallant company of the English Counter-Reformation; to all his
contemporaries and all the posterity of his race:
"It was not our death that ever we feared. But we knew that we were not
lords of our own lives, and therefore for want of answer would not be
guilty of our deaths. The only thing that we have now to say is, that
if our religion do make us traitors, we are worthy to be condemned; but
otherwise are, and have been, as good subjects as ever the Queen had.
In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors------all
priests, bishops and kings------all that was once the glory of
the island of Saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.
"For what have we taught, however you may qualify it with the odious
name of treason, that they did not uniformly teach? To be condemned
with these lights------not of England only, but of the
degenerate descendants, is both gladness and glory to us.
"God lives; posterity will live; their judgment is not so liable to
corruption as that of those who are now going to sentence us to death."
The Lord Chief Justice answered: "You must go to the place from whence
you came, there to remain until ye shall be drawn through the open City
of London upon hurdles to the place of execution, and there be hanged
and let down alive, and your privy parts cut off, and your entrails
taken out and burnt in your sight; then your heads to be cut off and
your bodies divided into four parts, to be disposed of at Her Majesty's
pleasure. And God have mercy on your soul."
While the Lord Chief Justice's final commendation sounded, with
peculiar irony, through Westminster Hall, the condemned men broke into
the words of the Te Deum and
were led back in triumph to their several
Next day the remaining seven priests were tried on Burghley's
indictment and------except for Collington, who could
prove that he was in
Grays Inn in London when he was supposed to be at Rheims------were
condemned in the same way.
An alibi for Ford, similar to Collington's, was offered by a priest
named Nicholson, but the judges ordered the witness to be committed to
prison, where he came near to death from starvation.
Campion lay in irons for eleven days between his trial and his
execution. Hitherto his family have made no appearance in the story;
now a sister, of whom we know nothing, came to visit him, empowered to
make him a last offer of freedom and a benefice if he would renounce
There may have been other visitors------for
certain details of his life in
prison, such as his statement, quoted above, that in his last racking
he thought they intended to kill him, can only have reached Bombinus
through the report of friends------but the only one of whom we have
is George Eliot.
"If I had thought that you would have had to suffer aught but
imprisonment through my accusing of you, I would never have done it,"
he said, "however I might have lost by it."
"If that is the case," replied Campion, "I beseech you, in God's name,
to do penance, and confess your crime, to God's glory and your own
But it was fear for his life rather than for his soul that had brought
the informer to the Tower; ever since the journey from Lyford, when the
people had called him "Judas," he had been haunted by the specter of
"You are much deceived," said Campion, "if you think the Catholics push
their detestation and wrath as far as revenge; yet to make you quite
safe, I will, if you please, recommend you to a Catholic duke in
Germany, where you may live in perfect security."
But it was another man who was saved by the offer. Eliot went back to
his trade of spy; Delahays, Campion's jailer, who was present at the
interview, was so moved by Campion's generosity that he became a
Catholic. . . .
Campion's last days were occupied entirely with his preparation for
death; even in the cell he was able to practice mortifications; he
fasted and remained sleepless on his knees for two nights in prayer and
Sherwin and Briant had been chosen as his companions at the scaffold.
They met at the Coleharbour Tower, early in the morning of December 1,
 and were left together while a search was made for the clothes
in which Campion had been arrested; it had been decided to execute him
in the buff leather jerkin and velvet venetians which had been so
ridiculed at his trial. But the garments had already been
misappropriated, and he was finally led out in the gown of Irish frieze
which he had worn in prison.
It was raining; it had been raining for some days, and the roads of the
city were foul with mud. A great crowd had collected at the gates. "God
save you all, gentlemen," Campion greeted them. "God bless you, and
make you good Catholics." There were two horses, each with a hurdle at
his tail. Campion was bound to one of them, Briant and Sherwin together
on the other.
Then they were slowly dragged through the mud and rain, up Cheapside,
past St. Martin le Grand and Newgate, along Holborn to Tyburn. Charke
plodded along beside the hurdle, still eager to thrash out to the last
word the question of justification by faith alone, but Campion seemed
not to notice him; over Newgate Arch stood a figure of our Lady which
had so far survived the Anglican hammers. Campion saluted her as he
Here and there along the road a Catholic would push himself through the
crowd and ask Campion's blessing. One witness, who supplied Bombinus
with many details of this last morning, followed close at hand and
stood by the scaffold. He records how one gentleman, "either for pity
or affection, most courteously wiped" Campion's "face, all spattered
with mire and dirt, as he was drawn most miserably through thick and
thin; for which charity or haply some sudden moved affection, God
reward him and bless him."
The scene at Tyburn was tumultuous. Sir Thomas More had stepped out
into the summer sunshine, to meet death quietly and politely at a
single stroke of the ax. Every circumstance of Campion's execution was
vile and gross.
Sir Francis Knollys, Lord Howard, Sir Henry Lee, and other gentlemen of
fashion were already waiting beside the scaffold. When the procession
arrived, they were disputing whether the motion of the sun from east
to west was violent or natural; they postponed the discussion to watch
Campion, bedraggled and mud-stained, mount the cart which stood below
the gallows. The noose was put over his neck. The noise of the crowd
was continuous, and only those in his immediate neighborhood could hear
him as he began to speak. He had it in mind to make some religious
"Spectaculum facti sumus Deo, angelis
he began. "These are the words of St. Paul, Englished thus, 'We are
made a spectacle unto God, unto His Angels and unto men,' [1 Cor. 4:9] verified
this day in me, who am here a spectacle unto my Lord God, a spectacle
unto His Angels and unto you men." But he was not allowed to continue.
Sir Francis Knollys interrupted, shouting up at him to confess his
"As to the treasons which have been laid to my charge," he said, "and
for which I am come here to suffer, I desire you all to bear witness
with me that I am thereof altogether innocent."
One of the council cried that it was too late to deny what had been
proved in the court.
"Well, my Lord," he replied, "I am a Catholic man and a priest; in that
Faith have I lived and in that Faith I intend to die. If you esteem my
religion treason, then am I guilty; as for other treason I never
committed any, God is my judge. But you have now what you desire. I
beseech you to have patience, and suffer me to speak a word or two for
discharge of my conscience."
But the gentlemen round the gallows would not let him go forward; they
still heckled him . . .
In a few halting sentences he made himself heard above the clamor. He
forgave the jury and asked forgiveness of any whose names he might have
compromised during his examination; he addressed himself to Sir Francis
Knollys on Richardson's behalf, saying that, to his knowledge, that man
never in his possession a copy of the book which the informers declared
they had found in his baggage.
Then a schoolmaster named Hearne stood forward and read a proclamation
in the Queen's name, that the execution they were to witness that
morning was for treason and not for religion.
Campion stood in prayer. The lords of the council still shouted up
questions to him about the Bull of Excommunication, but now Campion
would not answer and stood with his head bowed and his hands folded on
his breast. An Anglican clergyman attempted to direct his prayers, but
he answered gently, "Sir, you and I are not one in religion, wherefore
I pray you content yourself. I bar none of prayer; but I only desire
them that are of the household of Faith to pray with me, and in mine
agony to say one creed."
They called to him to pray in English, but he replied with great
mildness that "he would pray God in a language which they both well
There was more noise; the councilors demanded that he should ask the
"Wherein have I offended her? In this I am innocent. This is my last
speech; in this give me credit------I
have and do pray for her."
Still the courtiers were not satisfied. Lord Howard demanded to know
what Queen he prayed for.
"Yea, for Elizabeth your Queen and my Queen, unto whom I wish a long
quiet reign with all prosperity."
The cart was then driven out from under him, the eager crowd swayed
forward, and Campion was left hanging, until, unconscious, perhaps
already dead, he was cut down and the butcher began his work.
When the spectacle was over the crowd dispersed. An emotional witness
records that several thousand were turned to the Faith by the events of
that day. Many thousands there have been, but they were not in that
assembly. The Elizabethan mob dearly loved a bloody execution, and any
felon was the hero of a few hours, whatever his crimes. If any felt
uneasy about the Queen's justice, there were gentler pleasures to
attract their minds; in particular two Dutchmen, who were the rage of
the moment; the one was seven feet seven inches in height, "comelie of
person but lame of the legs (for he had broken them of lifting a barrel
of beer)"; his companion was a midget who could walk between the
giant's legs, wearing a feather in his cap; he had "never a good foot
nor any knee at all and yet could dance a gallard, no arm but a stump
on which he could dance a cup and after toss it about three or four
times and every time receive the same on the said stump." With
distractions of this kind the fate of the three priests was soon
forgotten. One man, however, returned from Tyburn to Grays Inn
profoundly changed: Henry Walpole, Cambridge wit,
minor poet, satirist,
flaneur, a young man of birth,
popular, intelligent, slightly romantic.
He came of a Catholic family and occasionally expressed Catholic
sentiments, but until that day had kept at a discreet distance from
Gilbert and his circle, and was on good terms with authority. He was a
typical member of that easygoing majority, on whom the success of the
Elizabethan settlement depended, who would have preferred to live
under a Catholic regime but accepted the change without very serious
regret. He had an interest in theology and had attended Campion's
conferences with the Anglican clergy. He secured a front place at
Tyburn; so close that when Campion's entrails were torn out by the
butcher and thrown into the cauldron of boiling water, a spot of blood
splashed upon his coat. In that moment he was caught into a new life;
he crossed the sea, became a priest, and, thirteen years later, after
very terrible sufferings, died the same death as Campion's on the
gallows at York.
And so the work of Campion continued; so it continues. He was one of a
host of Martyrs, each, in their several ways, gallant and venerable;
some performed more sensational feats of adventure, some sacrificed
more conspicuous positions in the world, many suffered crueler
tortures, but to his own, and to each succeeding generation, Campion's
fame has burned with unique warmth and brilliance; it was his genius
to express, in sentences that have resounded across the centuries, the
spirit of chivalry in which they suffered, to typify in his zeal, his
innocence, his inflexible purpose, the pattern which they followed.
Years later, in the somber, skeptical atmosphere of the eighteenth
century, Bishop Challoner set himself to sift out and collect the
English Martyrology. The Catholic cause was very near to extinction in
England. Families who had resisted the onset of persecution were
quietly conforming under neglect. The Church survived here and there in
scattered households, regarded by the world as, at the best, something
Gothic and slightly absurd, like a ghost or a family curse.
Emancipation still lay in the distant future; no career was open to the
Catholics; their only ambition was to live quietly in their houses,
send their children to school abroad, pay the double land taxes, and,
as best they could, avoid antagonizing their neighbors. It was then,
when the whole gallant sacrifice appeared to have been prodigal and
vain, that the story of the Martyrs lent them strength.
We are the heirs of their conquest, and enjoy, at our ease, the plenty
which they died to win.
Today a chapel stands by the site of Tyburn; in Oxford, the city he
loved best, a noble college has risen dedicated in Campion's honor,
will never want in England men that will have care of their own
salvation, nor such as shall advance other men's; neither shall this
Church here ever fail so long as priests and pastors shall be found for
their sheep, rage man or devil never so much."
above portrait is held to be that of the Martyr-Saint, although it is
titled variously as "The English Gentleman" or "The Man with the
Sea-Green Eyes". Given the perils of the time, quite understandable.
Anyway it is the very likeness of the Martyr.
OF THE 40 ENGLISH MARTYRS