The Tudor Society

Monday Martyr – Robert or Roger Ashton: martyred for a dispensation?

This week's Monday Martyr is Robert or Roger Ashton.

In his 18th century book, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, Bishop Richard Challoner states that Robert (also referred to as Roger) Ashton was born in Croston in Lancashire and that he was executed at Tyburn on 23rd June 1592, in the reign of Elizabeth I, for "procuring a dispensation from Rome to marry his second cousin”. However, that may not be the only reason.

During his time serving under Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in the Netherlands, Ashton and Sir William Stanley had surrendered Deventer to the Spanish. Not only that, they had both changed sides and entered the service of Philip of Spain.

Patrick Ryan, in his biography of Ashton in the Catholic Encyclopedia, writes that Sir William Stanley also tasked Ashton with bringing his wife to him from Ireland, which he couldn't as she'd already been apprehended, and then sent him to Rome. It was on his return to England from Rome that Ashton was apprehended in Kent and found in possession of the dispensation. He was thrown in the Tower of London and then moved to the Marshalsea after he became ill. He escaped and fled to Lancashire, where his brothers were, intending to flee abroad, but was arrested near Newcastle. He was sent to Durham, then York, and eventually tried at Canterbury, where he was sentenced to death.

He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, dying “very resolute”.


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Monday Martyr – Robert or Roger Ashton: martyred for a dispensation?