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Edmund Campion by Alexander Haydon

All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society

CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE


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CONTENTS Edmund Campion ....................................................................3 Birth and background ............................................................3 Death, Trial and Capture ........................................................6 Trial: ‘Nothing to swear by’ ................................................12 The Tower: Imprisonment and torture ................................17 Campion in context ................................................................20 Henry VIII: Official schism ................................................20 Edward VI and Mary Tudor: Protestant and Catholic interludes .......................................21 Elizabeth I: The Established Church ...................................22 Dublin: Still within the Pale? ..............................................23 Betrayal: Lyford Grange .....................................................31 Rome: The English Mission is Conceived ............................38 Rome: The Mission sets out ................................................39 The Mission comes to England: Campion’s ‘Brag’ ................................................................49 England: The Mission visits Catholics: Life in the saddle .................................................................54 England: The Mission: The secret presses ..........................57 ‘Ten Reasons’: Campion ‘Declares War’ on the Heretics ............................61 England: The conferences in the Tower: Unquiet audiences ...............................................................69 England: Westminster Hall: The Arraignment: ‘Totally to subvert and destroy the state’ ............................80 Disputation: Campion’s ‘Proofs innumerable’ ...................81 The English Mission: Campion’s Charisma: What fruit did it bear? ...........................................................85 Further reading ....................................................................88


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EDMUND CAMPION Birth and background On January 25th 1540, Edmund Campion was born in London, the son of a bookseller, in Paternoster Row, a street so-called because many of its inhabitants were makers of ‘paternoster beads’ or rosaries, others sellers of devotional books. It is an appropriate beginning for one who is to become both a scholar and a priest. The street, which still exists, was on the north side of old St Paul’s Cathedral. This Norman construction with 13th Century additions was an even more imposing structure than Wren’s 17th Century building. It was both higher and longer, and the relative scale of the surrounding mediaeval buildings ensured that its bulk, crowned by a spire of 450 feet, dominated the city. Campion grew up literally in the shadow of a church dedicated to the dramatically converted Apostle whose preaching first brought the Faith to the gentiles. He must have attended his first Masses there as a little boy. And within easy walking distance loomed the Tower, where he would later suffer such bitter agony. Of his parents we know almost nothing; literally nothing of his mother. He had two brothers and a sister. He was educated first at a London grammar school, and


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then at Christ’s Hospital, Edward VI’s 1552 foundation for orphans and poor children; for all we know he may have been an orphan by the time he entered the school. Here he flourished, winning every academic debate in which he took part. He enjoyed remembering his prizes in later life. Such a fine speaker was he, that at 13 he was chosen to make the scholars’ address to Queen Mary when she rode through the City to the Tower on the evening of 3rd August 1553. One can but speculate on his religious views at this time, if he had any. Having been taught Protestantism in Edward’s reign, which had opened in his eighth year, he now, as a boy of 13, had to learn about the Mass and go to confession. Five years later, when Elizabeth came to the throne, he had to start re-learning Protestantism again. At the then usual age of 15, he won an exhibition to the newly founded St John’s College, Oxford in 1555. At 17, Campion became Junior Fellow. From the first, his good looks, charm and brilliance made him popular and admired. When he became a tutor at St John’s, his students copied his dress and mannerisms. This must have been a strong temptation to pride, and he may well have succumbed a little. He took his degree in 1564, aged 24, and became a Fellow of the college. He described his studies thus: ‘First I learned grammar in my native place; I went to Oxford where I studied philosophy for seven years and theology for about six - Aristotle, Positive Theology. And the Fathers.’


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In 1566 Queen Elizabeth visited Oxford in the company of Sir William Cecil (the future Lord Burghley), her Principal Secretary, and Sir Robert Dudley, recently created Earl of Leicester, the man the Virgin Queen loved most. In a series of set debates in Latin and Greek on subjects carefully chosen to sidestep religious controversy, Campion so impressed the Queen that when the Spanish ambassador suggested that the speeches had been learnt by heart, she put the scholars to the test with an impromptu debate. Again Campion won. Summoned to Woodstock and at first dazzled by the grandeur of the Court, he showed again that his eloquence needed no rehearsal. The Queen commended him to Leicester and Cecil and both promised their patronage. Leicester soon made his promise good by asking Campion back to court from time to time when there was a mood for sober recreation. In a church that was struggling to attract sufficient recruits to the ministry, he was being groomed as a potential bishop - or even, perhaps, Archbishop of Canterbury. But gradually, while studying at Oxford, and partly through the influence of the ‘High Church’ bishop of Gloucester, Richard Cheyney, who became his friend, and partly by the writings of the Fathers, he began to have his doubts about the Church of England.


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DEATH, TRIAL AND CAPTURE The prisoners had been condemned on 20th and 21st November 1581. Executions were usually performed within days of sentence, but this time there was some delay in deciding the date. The Councillors disagreed on this point. Some may have felt that the public trial, which was soon being criticised, did not put the government in the best light. There was also Campion’s reputation to think of; how would people react to his execution? At first, the agreed date was 25th November; then it was changed to 1st December. And the decision was taken to execute Ralph Sherwin and Alexander Briant on the same day: nine days’ grace to prepare for death. During this period, Campion had two visitors. He fasted and was awake on his knees for two nights in prayer and meditation. The first visitor was his sister, who, it is said, had been told to offer him a place in the Church of England and a pension if he conformed. If this is true, then, as with Thomas More, the government showed an almost commendable persistence. The second visitor was the very man who had informed on him, the apostate George Eliot. ‘If I had thought that you would have to suffer aught but imprisonment through my accusing of you, I would never have done it, however I might have lost by it.’


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‘If that is the case, I beseech you, in God’s name, to do penance, and confess your crime, to God’s glory and your own salvation.’ But Eliot was frightened for his life, not his soul. Ever since the journey from Lyford, (where he had engineered Campion’s arrest), when he had been called ‘Judas’ by the crowd, he had lived in fear. Campion tried to reassure him: ‘You are much deceived, 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 Eliot went back on the spying game. Delahays, Campion’s gaoler, who was present at the meeting, became a Catholic. Then came the usual ordeal of the Protestant divines haranguing the condemned man in his cell. According to an eyewitness account, on the morning of December 1st, Campion was taken from his cell in the tower to the Coldharbour Prison, where he was joined by two fellow saints, Ralph Sherwin and Alexander Briant. It had been decided to kill him in his disguise of buff leather jerkin and velvet Venetians that had been so mocked at his trial, but these had been stolen, so he was led out in the gown of Irish frieze (a coarse woolen cloth) he had worn in prison. Several days of winter rain had left the streets foul with wheel-rutted mud, and it was raining now. At the


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gates of the Tower, a crowd had gathered. ‘God save you all, gentlemen,’ said Campion. ‘God bless you, and make you good Catholics.’ Two horses were standing ready, each harnessed to a hurdle, the rectangular wooden frame on which traitors, bound head downwards, were dragged to the gallows. Campion was tied to one, Briant and Sherwin together to the other. Then they were pulled slowly through the damp and dirt of Cheapside, past Newgate, and finally along Holborn to Tyburn. Charke, with a handful of Anglican ministers, walked beside them, still earnestly trying to save their souls by persuading them of the novel doctrines of the Reformed faith. But Campion had given his final answers in the Tower; now he made no response. At Newgate Arch was a statue of Our Lady, overlooked as yet by the Anglican iconoclasts. Campion bent his head upwards in salute. From time to time a Catholic jostled through the crowd to ask his blessing and even his advice ‘in cases of conscience and religion’. Some wiped the mud from his face. Waiting eagerly at Tyburn were gathered Lords of the Privy Council; ‘many other persons of honour’ and ‘an infinite multitude of people’. The mud-spattered Campion was first to mount the cart beneath the gibbet. His neck was placed in the noose. A continuous roaring came from the crowd, so that only the front few rows could hear him. There was a


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brief pause, then he spoke: “Spectaculum facti sumus Deo, angelis et hominibus.” These are the words of St Paul, “We are made a spectacle unto God, unto His angels and unto men,” ‘verified this day in me, who am here a spectacle unto my Lord God, a spectacle unto His angels and unto you men’ - ‘Confess your treason!’ It was the voice of the Puritan Sir Francis Knollys, and the Sheriffs for the execution. ‘For the treasons which have been laid to my charge, and I am come here to suffer for, I desire you all to bear witness with me that thereof I am altogether innocent.’ One of the Council broke in: ‘You cannot deny what has been proved by sufficient evidence.’ ‘Well, my lord, I am a Catholic man and a priest: in that faith have I lived and in that faith do I intend to die. And if you esteem my religion treason, then am I guilty. As for any other treason, I never committed, 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 gibbet would not let him continue; they still demanded a confession. Again he protested his innocence: ‘Believe me; this is the last answer made upon my death and soul. The jury might easily be deceived, but I forgive all, as I desire to be forgiven. I also desire forgiveness of any whose names I


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confessed upon the rack, for upon the Commissioners’ oaths that no harm should come to them, I uttered some persons with whom I had been.’ ‘What of your letter to Pounde? What of “the secrets you would not disclose?”’ ‘As to the letter that I sent from prison to Mr Pounde, in which I said I “would not disclose the secrets of some houses where I had been entertained”, upon my soul, the secrets I meant in that were not those of conspiracy, or any matter else against her Majesty or the State, but saying of Mass, hearing confessions, preaching and suchlike functions of priesthood. This is true as I shall answer before God.’ But still the gentlemen shouted out their questions: ‘What do you say of Pius Quintus, his Bull? Did he do right to excommunicate the Queen?’ Campion made no answer. Their anger rising, now they roared: ‘Do you renounce the Pope?’ ‘I am a Catholic.’ Said one: ‘In your “Catholicism” all treasons are contained!’ A proclamation was read that the execution was for treason, not religion. Campion was attempting to compose himself for death, when an Anglican minister asked him to join him in prayer. He softly answered: ‘You and I are not one in religion, wherefore I pray you content yourself. I bar none of prayer, only I desire them that are of the household of the Faith to pray with me, and in my agony to say one Creed. Credo in unum Deum’ -


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‘Pray in English!’, some now cried. ‘I will pray in a language I well understand.’ ‘Ask forgiveness of her Majesty!’ ‘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.’ Lord Howard broke in with: ‘What Queen do you pray for? For Elizabeth the Queen?’. ‘Yes, for Elizabeth, your Queen and my Queen.’ As the cart was drawn away, Campion uttered his last words: ‘I die a perfect Catholic.’ He was left dangling for a while, as he began to choke; then, while still alive, cut down for the next degrading stage of the sentence: his ‘privy parts cut off.’ Next, his bowels were hooked out and ‘burnt in [his] sight’; then his head cut off, and his body ‘divided in four parts, to be disposed of at her Majesty’s pleasure.’ For the Elizabethan mob, the first felon of the day had been good entertainment. Having long been the Blessed Edmund Campion, our saint was canonised by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Their collective feast is kept on 25th October; but those with a special devotion to this heroic son of St Ignatius will want also to keep the day of his death (with SS. Alexander Briant and Ralph Sherwin), 1st December, as a feast.

Edmund Campion  
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