This is the first volume of a series of books sharing the stories of the English Catholic Martyrs. Perhaps not as well known as some, but their stories are well worth sharing and preserving for future generations.
One of the most beautiful features of the faith of our Catholic forefathers was their love for the Religious life. Under circumstances which would have justified, if any could do so, their attending solely to those essentials of their Catholic profession that were becoming every day more difficult to secure, they showed the depth and earnestness of their love of God by their resolve that, at least in exile, the counsels of perfection should be practised among them. The Carthusians of Sheen, and the Bridgettines of Sion, had been driven abroad, and all other Monasteries in England were suppressed. But in the beginning of the seventeenth century a considerable number of English Religious houses came into existence on the Continent. The Orders of men were the English Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits, besides the Carthusians already mentioned. Some of the ancient houses, founded in the times of persecution, are amongst us to this day. The great Anglo-Benedictine Congregation, on the French revolution, transferred St. Gregory's College from Douay to Downside; and on the restitution of Douay, it was taken possession of by the survivors of St. Edmund's Monastery, Paris. The celebrated College of Bornheim, of the Order of St. Dominic, is now represented by the Priory of the Annunciation, Woodchester. And under the charge of the Society of Jesus, the College of Liege survives at Stony hurst.
The holy martyrs, whose cheerful bearing and happy end aroused the brave old Chancellor's holy envy, were Richard Reynolds, a Monk of Sion House, and three Carthusians, John Houghton, Prior of the London Charterhouse; Augustine Webster, a Monk of Sheen, Prior of the House of the Visitation, near Eppeworth, in the Isle of Axholme; and Robert Laurence, Prior of Beau vale, in Nottinghamshire. They were tried on the 29th of April, 1535, for that, "traitorously machinating to deprive the King of his title as Supreme Head of the Church of England, they did, on the 26th of April, at the Tower of London, openly declare and say - 'The King, our Sovereign Lord, is not Supreme Head in earth of the Church of England.'" They suffered on the 4th of May, and with them a Secular Priest, John Hale, of Isleworth, who has not been accounted with them a martyr for religion, as he pleaded guilty to traitorous speeches against the King.
In addition to these great martyrs, who gloriously gave their lives sooner than deny the supremacy of Christ's Vicar upon earth, the London Charterhouse gave to the Church other heroic souls, who were not less constant in the faith, though it was to an end less conspicuous, though not less trying. It was towards these holy martyrs that Margaret Clement, More's adopted daughter, showed her loving sympathy, as in the following narrative we learn from her daughter's life. But in order rightly to understand the cause of their death, and to appreciate their heroic constancy, it will be necessary to relate the manner of the suppression of their beautiful Charterhouse.