Although the Armada had been destroyed, antiCatholicism was rife in England, as Stephen and Elizabeth Usherwood show us
By Elizabeth and Stephen Usherwood
THE NEW MARTYRS
NEWS reached London from Ireland in August 1588 that many Spanish ships had been wrecked. The invasion danger was over, but the Privy Council had already ordered six new gibbets to be erected in the City and nearby suburbs for the execution of Catholics, and Ven Henry Webley, a Gloucestershire man, arrested in Chichester and condemned to death for harbouring a priest, was sent to London.
The date and place fixed for his execution, and that of BI William Dean, was August 28 at Mile End Green. In the cart that took them was a group of convicts, one of whom attacked Fr Dean and would have strangled him if Webley had not intervened.
Also with them was B1 William Gunter, a seminary priest of Raglan in Monmouthshire, who prayed for them during their sufferings, and was then carried on to another gibbet at Hollywell Fields, near the theatre in Shoreditch, for execution.
That day Londoners also saw the martyrdoms of Hugh More and Fr Robert Morton in Lincoln's Inn Fields; Fr Thomas Holford in Clerkenwell; and Thomas Felton and Fr James Clarkson in Isleworth. All five have since been beatified.
Two days later six martyrs suffered at Tyburn. Information about them had been gathered by Thomas Dodswell, a spy who had persuaded the staff at Douai College in Rheims to accept him as a student and later reported on Catholics imprisoned in the Marshalsea.
An official, Lord Keeper Puckering, kept the death list, which was marked in a particularly cold-blooded way; against each name Lord Burghley wrote: "Treason" or "Felony", then Puckering added a Latin abbreviation sus or susp, meaning either suspensus (hanged), or suspendatur (let him be hanged).
If the abbreviation was put in front of the name it meant the prisoner was to hang; if after, that he or she had been hanged. On the list for the August 30th St Margaret Ward had not been included, because she was a lastminute substitution for someone due for execution who recanted and was spared.
Four others, Fr Richard Leigh, Edward Shelley, Richard Martin and John Roche have already been beatified; the last, a layman, Ven Richard Flower, is to be so honoured next November.
Born in Anglesey in 1566 of Catholic parents, he had an elder brother, Owen, and two sisters. The family name Lloyd, pronounced "Floyd", being misunderstood by the English,. was entered as "Flower".
Fr Owen Lloyd, ordained at Douai in 1578, was on mission from 1581 until kis death at the age of forty-five, in 1590, and it was he who instructed Richard in the faith, to which he held firm when facing trial at the age of twenty-two for "receiving and maintaining Fr William Horner".
After Richard's name on Puckering's list was written "take the Queen's part" indicating that he had been asked the hypothetical question: "In the case of an invasion by the Pope or any of his agents, whose part would you take?" and had given an answer that at first satisfied his questioners, but this had been crossed out when it was realized that he was not disloyal to the Pope.
Outside Newgate prison the laymen asked a blessing of Fr Leigh (who had been arrested when he spoke on behalf of a Catholic gentleman being questioned by the Bishop of London), and in the cart on the way to Tyburn, led by him, they sang psalms.
First the priest was hanged, drawn and quartered, then his fellow martyrs were hanged. Richard Flower's heroism, because of his youth, and his being executed far from those who knew him in Wales, would have been forgotten but for an anti-Catholic pamphlet sold on the day of his execution, linking his name with the others who suffered at that time.
At the end of Armada year, when many Spanish prisoners were still being held to ransom in England, and the prisons were overflowing with English Catholics, Ven Edward Burden, a native of the bishopric of Durham, was captured at Skinningrove on the Yorkshire coast by John Constable, who stripped him of his money and possessions before taking him to York Castle.
Fr Burden was forty-eight and before his conversion had graduated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
At some time during the next seventeen years he had been received into the Church before applying, in 1583, to enter Douai College. During his studies he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis, but this did not prevent his being ordained by Cardinal de Guise at Rheims in 1584 and joining the English mission two years later.
Among the people of Yorkshire he was known as a kind and patient priest who gave penitents great understanding and help. In prison he met B1 Robert Dalbie, who had been condemned for priesthood and was martyred in 1589.
Confinement naturally made his illness worse and yet he faced the Council of the North, and, asked by their Lordships for the names of the people and places he had visited, boldly replied: "you inquire things of me for no good end, therefore I will not answer."
He received sentence of death with joy, and on November 29, before leaving for the place of execution, celebrated Mass.
At the scaffold he said only: "Beware of false wolves who seek your destruction." This angered some of the crowd, who shouted: "Despatch him. He is able to do us much harm." Yet for their salvation this gentle man was laying down his life.
Besides those executed, many Catholics had died in prison of cold, hunger and ill-treatment. A recusant, Sir Thomas Tresham, writing to his wife from Hoxton, described November 2 as "this present weeping All Souls' Day, which exceedeth all the extreme wet days of this long, matchless wettest season".
As so often in war, the weather had decided the fate of combatants and noncombatants alike.