Saturday, 11 February 2012


Who are the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales? They are a group of Catholic martyrs executed by the authorities during the Reformation. More than 600 Catholics, priests, laymen and women, are known to have died during the persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries. Some offences were so trivial as to be almost unbelievable to us today. For instance, there were those who were executed for obtaining a papal license to marry. Then there was one Thomas Bosgrave. Bosgrave met on the road a priest named John Cornelius who was being taken away by the priest hunters. The priest had been hastily dragged off and was bareheaded. Thomas Bosgrave offered his cap to the priest and for this he was immediately arrested. Several months later Thomas Bosgrave was executed - for offering his cap to a priest!

The Forty Martyrs of England and Wales were selected from the hundreds who gave their lives for the Catholic Faith. As early as 1642 the first steps were taken to initiate the canonical process but owing to the ongoing persecutions the process had to be suspended. After the restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850 the Cause was resumed. Eventually, on 15th December 1929, Pope Pius XI beatified 136 of the martyrs. At last, after long and careful investigation and deliberation, three Carthusians, one Brigittine, thirteen secular priests, ten Jesuits, three Benedictines, two Franciscans, one Augustinian, four laymen and three laywomen were canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25th October 1970. Collectively, they are known as the "Forty Martyrs of England and Wales".

Before concluding this post, I think it right to remind ourselves that this unfortunate period of English history was a time of great upheaval in the country. It was a time of turmoil, suspicion, mistrust and of fear. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants, Catholics and Non-Conformists all suffered for their religious beliefs, depending on who was in power at the time. Under Catholic Queen Mary hundreds of Protestants were burnt at the stake. Her father, Henry VIII, executed all who had the temerity to oppose him, notwithstanding their religious beliefs! Thank God we live in saner times, at least in this country. Surely it behoves us to pray for those who live in countries where to be a Christian still marks one out for persecution and death.


  1. Thanks for your very informative post. Hope you have been well.

  2. "Under Catholic Queen Mary hundreds of Protestants were burnt at the stake."

    Apologies for criticising an otherwise excellent post but I think it is generally known now that the figures of burnings under Queen Mary have been somewhat exaggerated.

  3. Hello Sr Ann Marie

    Thank you for your comment. It is really nice to hear from you again. Yes, thank God, I am well but present circumstances don't allow me to spend as much time at the computer as I once did. However, I am trying to keep the blog going & to have the occasional look at some of my favourite blogs. Hopefully, I will get back to more regular blogging in the not too distant future.

    Take care & God bless you, dear Sister.

  4. Hello Patricius

    Thank you for looking in & for taking the time to comment. I didn't put a specific number on Mary's victims because, in my research, I found almost as many totals as I found articles about Mary. I came up with, among others, 289, 284, 300, 278 and 277. The lowest was 277 & that was in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    However, please don't apologise. I appreciate your input and I welcome any suggestions you make. I hope you will continue to put me right when needed. I really do appreciate your interest and taking the time to leave a comment.

    Thank you again and God bless you, my friend.


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