The Tudor Society

1 December 1581 – The martyrdom of St Alexander Briant

by; or by Matthaus Greuter (Greuther); Paul Maupin (Maupain),print,published 1608

Today marks the feast day of St Alexander Briant, the Roman Catholic priest who was hanged, drawn and quartered on 1st December 1581 at Tyburn.

Briant studied at Hart Hall and Balliol College, Oxford, where his tutors included Richard Holtby and Robert Persons, who later became Jesuits. Their influence led to him abandoning his studies and joining the seminary at Douai. On 29th March 1578, he was ordained as a priest and in August 1579, he was sent on a mission to England.

In March 1581, men with a warrant for Father Persons, Briant's former tutor and now his friend, arrested Briant at a London bookseller's. He was taken to the Tower of London and subjected to torture to try and get him to talk about Persons and the mission he had been sent on. In a confession made on 6th May 1581, Briant affirmed that Elizabeth I was the queen, but that he could not "affirm that she is so lawfully".

In November 1581, Briant, along with some other Roman Catholic priests, was arraigned for high treason and condemned to death for plotting against the queen. Briant was executed on 1st December 1581 along with Ralph Sherwin and Edmund Campion. All three men were canonised in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

(Taken from On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway)

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