The Tudor Society
  • August 30 – A friar is starved to death

    On this day in Tudor history, 30th August 1534 (some sources state 1537), twenty-eight-year-old Observant Franciscan friar Thomas Belchiam died at Newgate Prison. He had starved to death.

    Belchiam and his fellow friars at Greenwich had invoked Henry VIII’s wrath by supporting Queen Catherine of Aragon during the king’s Great Matter and by refusing the oath of supremacy. Belchiam had also reportedly called the king a heretic.

    It was alleged that there was an earthquake at the time of Belchiam’s death.

    [Read More...]
  • August 28 – The execution of Thomas Felton, Catholic priest

    Fresco of Blessed Thomas Felton by Greco Bernardino

    On this day in Tudor history, 28th August 1588, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Franciscan friar Thomas Felton was hanged near Brentford, Middlesex.

    Felton was executed for his beliefs, and for proclaiming that he could not accept a woman as supreme head of the Church.

    Here are some facts about Thomas Felton:

    [Read More...]
  • Monday Martyr – James Claxton

    Silhouette of a man's head

    This week’s Monday Martyr is priest James Claxton, who was executed on 28th August 1588, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

    He was condemned and executed with fellow priest Thomas Felton at Brentford.

    [Read More...]
  • Monday Martyr – Thomas Abell (Abel)

    A carving of a bell with the letter A at the Beauchamp Tower, Tower of London, by Thomas Abell

    As yesterday was the anniversary of the martyrdom of Catholic Thomas Abell, on 30th July 1540, I thought he could be this week’s #MondayMartyr.

    Here are some facts about this Henrician martyr:

    – Thomas Abell’s birthdate is unknown but he’d been ordained as a Catholic priest by 1513.
    – He studied at the University of Oxford, attaining a BA in 1514 and an MA in 1518.
    – In 1522, Abell became rector at Great Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire…

    [Read More...]
  • Monday Martyr – Durham martyr John Boste

    An illustration of John Boste from "The Life and Times of Saint John Boste: Catholic Martyr of Durham 1544 - 1594" by Simon Webb

    Today is the anniversary of the execution of Durham martyr John Boste in 1594, so I thought I’d share more details on Boste’s life and how he came to be martyred in Elizabeth I’s reign.

    [Read More...]
  • Monday Martyr – John Cornelius

    A 17th century engraving of John Cornelius being tortured

    This week’s Monday Martyr is Catholic martyr John Cornelius, who was executed for treason, for being a priest and returning to England as a priest, on 3rd or 4th July 1594, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

    John Cornelius, who had Irish parents, was born in Bodmin in Cornwall in around 1557. Under the patronage of Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, Cornelius was educated at Oxford University, but was expelled due to his Catholic faith in August 1578. In 1579, he travelled to the English College at Rheims, in France, and then on to the English College in Rome, where he was ordained in 1583.

    [Read More...]
  • July 5 – A shoemaker is executed

    A silhouette of a man's side profile

    On this day in Tudor history, 5th July 1583, shoemaker and religious radical John Copping was executed for ‘dispersing’ books by Robert Browne and Richard Harrison, which were viewed as “sundry seditious, schismatical and erroneous printed books”.

    Copping had been arrested with his friend Elias Thacker, a tailor, and Thacker was executed the day before. Books were burned at each of their executions.

    [Read More...]
  • Monday Martyr – Hugh Faringdon (Cook), Abbot of Reading

    A plaque showing Hugh Faringdon

    This week’s Monday Martyr is Blessed Hugh Faringdon, born Hugh Cook, Abbot of Reading, who was hanged at the gate of his abbey on 14th November 1539 for treason, for allegedly upholding the supremacy of the pope. He was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 13th May 1895.

    [Read More...]
  • April 19 – Bookseller James Duckett is hanged

    On this day in Tudor history, 19th April 1601, in the reign of Elizabeth I, bookseller James Duckett was hanged at Tyburn after being found guilty of felony for dealing in Catholic books. He was executed alongside the man who had informed on him, bookbinder Peter Bullock.

    Duckett came from Westmorland and although he was named after his godfather James Leybourn, who was hanged, drawn and quartered at Lancaster in 1588 for denying Queen Elizabeth I’s supremacy, Duckette was brought up as a Protestant. However, he converted to Catholicism during his apprenticeship in London, when a man named Peter Mason gave him a copy of “The Foundation of the Catholic Religion”. His newfound zeal for Catholicism led to him being questioned and imprisoned for not attending Protestant services.

    [Read More...]
  • March 12 – Roman Catholic martyr Christopher Bales

    High Coniscliffe by Linda Spashett

    Photo of High Coniscliffe by Linda SpashettOn this day in Tudor history, 12th March 1564, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Roman Catholic priest and martyr Christopher Bales was baptised in Coniscliffe, in County Durham, in the north of England.

    Bales ended up being executed by hanging on 4th March 1590.

    Let me tell you a bit more about Bales and how he came to this sad end…

    [Read More...]

  • January 25 – St Edmund Campion, Catholic Martyr

    Engraving of St Edmund Campion with a knife in his chest

    On this day in Tudor history, 25th January 1540, St Edmund Campion, Jesuit and martyr, was born in London.

    Campion was hanged, drawn and quartered on 1st December 1581 for treasonable conspiracy.  He was beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII and canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

    [Read More...]
  • January 11 – Blessed William Carter

    The Tyburn Tree, the gallows at Tyburn

    On 11th January 1584, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Blessed William Carter was executed for treason.

    Printer William Carter, who was about thirty-six years of age at his death, had been found guilty of treason for printing a book which allegedly contained a passage inciting the queen’s assassination. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

    [Read More...]
  • December 1 – Priest Alexander Briant is executed

    Alexander Briant by Matthaus Greuter (Greuther), or by Paul Maupin (Maupain) line engraving, National Portrait Gallery.

    On this day in Tudor history, 1st December 1581, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Alexander Briant was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, along with Ralph Sherwin and Edmund Campion.

    The twenty-five-year-old Roman Catholic priest had been imprisoned, and had suffered being starved, racked and tortured in other awful ways, but claimed that he felt no pain due to God’s help. He also refused to give his interrogators the information they wanted. Briant was tried for treason and suffered a full traitor’s death.

    [Read More...]
  • October 15 – Schoolteacher Richard Gwyn is executed

    On this day in Tudor history, 15th October 1584, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Richard Gwyn (Richard White) was hanged, drawn and quartered at Wrexham in Wales.

    The schoolteacher and poet was executed for high treason for his Catholic faith.

    Find out about Richard Gwyn’s life, how an attack by crows and kites made him steadfast in his faith, his arrest and downfall, his works, and the legends associated with his death…

    [Read More...]
  • 24 July – A converted priest loses his life

    On this day in Tudor history, 24th July 1594, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Catholic priest John Boste was executed in Durham.

    Find out more about Boste and what led to his brutal end in this edition of #TudorHistoryShorts…

    [Read More...]
  • Polydore Plasden (1563-1591)

    Polydore Plasden was born in 1563 and was the son of a London horner. He was educated at Rheims and then at the English College in Rome. He was ordained as a priest on 7th December 1586. He remained in Rome for a year after his ordination and then moved back to Rheims, where he stayed from 8th April to 2nd September 1588.

    When Polydore returned to England in 1588, he ministered in Sussex and London until 1591, at which point he was captured on 2nd November. He was captured in London at Swithun Wells’ house, where Edmund Gennings was celebrating Mass alongside other fellow Catholics who were captured beside Polydore.

    [Read More...]
  • Richard Leigh (1557-1588)

    Richard Leigh was born in 1557, the son of Richard Leigh and Clemence Holcroft, daughter of Sir John Holcroft.

    Leigh was the subject of an arranged marriage in 1562 with Anne Belfield, daughter of Ralph Belfield of Clegg Hall. Anne’s sister, Elizabeth, was also married that day to Alexander Barlow. However, both marriages were annulled at a later date on the grounds that they were all too young to be legally married.

    [Read More...]
  • Margaret Ward (c.1550-1588)

    Margaret Ward was born in Congleton, Cheshire, in around 1550; however, this is an estimated guess as we know very little information regarding her early life.

    What we do know is that Margaret was living in London, working in the service of a lady, when she found out about the suffering of Richard Watson, a Catholic priest who was imprisoned at Bridewell Prison. She eventually obtained permission to visit him, and over the course of her visits, the guards became less cautious. This lack of caution enabled Margaret to formulate an escape plan for Watson. Margaret’s plan involved commissioning a boatman to take him to safety after he had escaped using some rope that she would provide.

    [Read More...]
  • A priest in the Little Ease, death from plague, and heretics meet their ends – January 25 – 31, Part 1

    On 25th January 1540, Jesuit priest and martyr, St Edmund Campion, was born in London. Although he was close to the Earl of Leicester and William Cecil at one point, he ended up being thrown into the Tower of London’s Little Ease and being executed as a traitor. Let me tell you his story in today’s video.

    On 26th January 1528, diplomat and courtier Sir Francis Poyntz died of the plague.

    On 27th January 1556, in the reign of Queen Mary I, Bartholomew Green, also known as Bartlet Green, was burnt at the stake for heresy with six other Protestants. He could have got away with receiving communion according to Protestant rites, but he did something that brought him to the attention of the queen and her government. Find out what he did, and about his sad end…

    [Read More...]
  • 19 June – A bad end for a priest threatening William Cecil with hell

    On this day in Tudor history, 19th June 1573, Jesuit priest and former rector of a Lincolnshire parish, Thomas Woodhouse, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

    Blessed Thomas Woodhouse was the first priest to be executed in Elizabeth I’s reign, and he was beatified in December 1886 by Pope Leo XIII.

    When you hear what he said to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, you can understand just why he was seen as a traitor by Burghley and Elizabeth I’s government. Not wise words in those times, but he stuck to his faith and principles.

    Find out more in today’s video.

    [Read More...]
  • 20 March – St Cuthbert Mayne, an Elizabethan priest and martyr

    On this day in Tudor history, 20th March 1544, Cuthbert Mayne (Main/Maine) or St Cuthbert Mayne, Roman Catholic priest and martyr, was baptised in Youlston in North Devon.

    Cuthbert Mayne has gone down in history as the first seminary priest to be martyred. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at Launceston on 30th November 1577, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

    Let me tell you a bit more about this Elizabethan martyr.

    [Read More...]
  • Blessed William Carter – Claire Chats video

    It’s not unusual for my interest to be piqued when I’m going through my list of “on this day” events, and today it was William Carter’s execution, on 11th January 1584, which made me want to dig a bit deeper into his story.

    [Read More...]
  • The 1580 Rome and Rheims Plot

    In today’s Claire Chats video talk, I talk about the Rome and Rheims Plot, a fictional plot in which 20 men, mostly Catholic priests, were implicated. Many of them were tortured, tried and executed.

    [Read More...]
  • Thomas Forde, John Shert and Robert Johnson: Catholic Martyrs

    On 28th May 1582, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, Roman Catholic priests Thomas Forde, John Shert and Robert Johnson were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

    In his Memoirs of Missionary Priests, Bishop Richard Challoner gives a biography of each of these Catholic martyrs. You can read it online at, but here are a few details about these men and what led to their horrific ends.

    Thomas Forde was a Devonshire man who was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, where he graduated MA in 1567 before becoming a fellow there. He resigned his fellowship due to the college’s Protestant stance and in 1571 he travelled to the English College, a Catholic seminary, at Douai in France, to study divinity. In 1573, Forde entered the priesthood and in 1576 he attained his degree in divinity. He then returned to England to evangelise, i.e. spread the Catholic faith. He was arrested on 17th July 1581 with Edmund Campion in Berkshire and taken to London. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and condemned to death on 21st November 1581 for being involved in what Challoner describes as “the pretended conspiracy of the Rhemes [Rheims] and Rome”, although, as Challoner points out “he had never been in his life either at Rhemes or Rome; nor had the witnesses that appeared against him […] ever so much as seen Mr Forde before his imprisonment.

    [Read More...]
  • William Spenser and Robert Hardesty, Catholic martyrs

    On 24th September 1589, William Spenser, a Roman Catholic priest, and layman Robert Hardesty were executed at York. Spenser was executed for being a priest, and Hardesty for sheltering Spenser.

    In his book Acts of English martyrs, John Hungerford Pollen, writes that William Spenser was born in Gisburn in Yorkshire and that he was educated at Trinity College, Oxford, supported by his uncle William Horn. There he was a scholar and fellow, and graduated MA in 1580. Pollen states that he met Spenser at Oxford:

    “There I knew him for about eight years, always leading a most upright life, but suffering much at the hands of the heretics even before he left the university, because he was looked on as leaning somewhat towards the Catholic faith. They brought many charges against him, and he would argue against them, but never recklessly. From the time he was a boy his zeal for souls was marvellous, and he never neglected the first rudiments of faith taught him by his uncles, but acted up to them with zeal and constancy to the time of his death.”

    [Read More...]
  • 4 July 1597 – Executions of William Anlaby, Thomas Warcop and Edward Fulthrop

    On this day in history, 4th July 1597, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, three men were martyred at Knavesmire, York. They were William Anlaby (or Andleby), Catholic priest; layman Thomas Warcop, who had been charged with harbouring Anlaby, and layman Edward Fulthrop.

    William Anlaby was born c.1552 in Etton, Yorkshire, and was the second son of John Anlaby of Etton and his wife, Dorothy. Anlaby graduated BA from St John’s College, Cambridge, in 1571. He converted from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1577 after meeting Cardinal William Allen at Douai while travelling. Anlaby joined Allen’s college, or seminary, there and was ordained as a Catholic priest at Cateau-Cambrésis. In 1578, Anlaby was sent as a missionary to England, where he worked in Lincolnshire, Huntingdonshire, Durham and Yorkshire, including ministering to Catholic prisoners at Hull gaol.

    [Read More...]
  • Blessed Thomas Woodhouse – the first priest to be executed in Elizabeth I’s reign

    On this day in history, 19th July 1573, Blessed Thomas Woodhouse, former rector of a parish in Lincolnshire and private tutor, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

    Woodhouse was apprehended on 14th May 1561 and taken to the Fleet Prison. He was received into the Society of Jesus, the Roman Catholic order of religious men founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola and known as Jesuits, while he was in prison.

    On 19th November 1572, his twelfth year of imprisonment, Woodhouse wrote a letter to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, a letter which is said to have led to his martyrdom. Here is the text of the letter:

    [Read More...]
  • St Henry Walpole

    On this day in history, 17th April 1595, Henry Walpole, the Jesuit martyr, was hanged, drawn and quartered in the city of York. Walpole had been accused of treason on three counts: that he “had abjured the realm without licence; that he had received holy orders overseas; and that he had returned to England as a Jesuit priest to exercise his priestly functions”. Walpole was beatified in 1929 and canonised in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

    [Read More...]