Not many people have heard of Walter Marsh, an Englishman who was burned to death in Rome's Campo dei Fiori after having his tongue cut out, his right hand cut off and his skin scorched with torches, so I thought I'd share what I've found out about him and how he came to this brutal end in Rome.
Notes and Sources
- 'Cecil Papers: June 1595 ,16-30', in Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House: Volume 5, 1594-1595, ed. R A Roberts (London, 1894), pp. 246-264. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-cecil-papers/vol5/pp246-264 [accessed 16 October 2018].
- ‘The memoirs of Father Robert Persons’, ed. Rev. J. H. Pollen, Miscellanea, II, Catholic Record Society, Arden Press (1906), p. 12-218, https://archive.org/details/miscellanea02cath/page/n229, the mention of Parsons is on p. 208.
- R. Sheldon, The motives of Richard Sheldon, priest, for his just, voluntary, and free renouncing of communion with the bishop of Rome (1612), Preface, https://archive.org/details/motivesrichards00shelgoog/page/n8.
While his death was horrible and obviously nobody deserved such a terrible fate, he was not a Protestant martyr, he was a spy whose sole purpose was to cause the death of real martyrs in England. He was there to spy on the priests training at the English College who if arrested in England would have been tortured, hanged, drawn and quartered for their faith. He may have been an assassin. However, his fate was terrible and cruel and excessive but it was for sacrilegious acts as seen at the time, not as a martyr. His actions in the pay of Elizabeth would have caused the deaths of many innocent people and although I agree his fate was cruel and terrible I can’t accept him as a martyr.