William Barrow was born in Lancashire in 1609. He studied at St Omer and entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1632 at Watten. In 1644 Fr William Barrow S J returned to England to work in the London district. Using the aliases of Waring and Harcourt, he spent thirty-five years labouring in dangerous conditions.
In the late summer of 1678 Titus Oates set off a frenzy of fear, suspicion and hatred that resulted in the deaths of many innocent Catholics. Oates fabricated a story, remembered in history as the Oates Plot or the Popish Plot, in which Catholics, led by the Jesuits, were planning to restore the country to Catholicism by murdering the King and bringing down the Protestant Establishment. As the fury grew, Oates found others willing to join him in his heinous deception, notably William Bedloe and Stephen Dugdale. Of course, money was also a great incentive as the Government offered a reward for the capture of any priest. As expected, this brought in many a rogue who was willing to perjure himself.
Through all this, Fr Harcourt urged his fellow Jesuits to flee abroad. However, he remained in London and did his utmost to care for his imprisoned brethren. The priest changed his residence daily but he was betrayed by a servant at one of the houses and, on 7th May 1679, he was arrested. He was thrown into Newgate Prison, joining fellow Jesuits Thomas Whitbread, John Fenwick, John Gavan and Anthony Turner. With the others, Fr Harcourt came to trial on 13th June.
Chief Justice Scroggs presided at the trial and the abhorrent trio of Oates, Bedloe and Dugdale were the chief witnesses against the priest. It was a surprise to no one that the Jesuit was found guilty and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered, the usual sentence for High Treason. The gruesome execution was carried out at Tyburn on 20th June 1679. His martyred remains were claimed by friends who interred them in the Churchyard of St Giles in the Fields.
Although his real name was William Barrow a Papal Decree of 4th December 1886 introduced his cause for canonisation under the name of William Harcourt. It was under the name of William Harcourt that he was beatified in 1929.
LINKS TO THIS POST:
THE PERJURER TITUS OATES AND EIGHT JESUITS (PART1)
(PART 2) (PART 3) (PART 4) (PART 5) (PART 6)