Thursday, 15 October 2015


On this day in 1584 Richard Gwyn became the protomartyr of Wales. 

Richard Gwyn (White in English) was born in Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire, Wales, about 1537.  Richard studied at both Oxford and Cambridge and eventually returned to Wales and became a schoolmaster in Wrexham and then in Flintshire.

Richard and his wife Catherine had six children.   Richard was a church papist i.e., outwardly conforming to the Protestant religion while secretly holding to the Catholic Faith.  His minimal attendance at Protestant services was noted by the Bishop of Chester who urged him to conform more wholeheartedly.  The  pressure grew and Richard eventually gave in.

One day as Richard emerged from a Protestant service he was attacked by a murder of crows.  He was so shaken by this event that he returned to the Catholic faith and ceased all attendance at the Established Church.

Of course it was soon noticed that Richard was no longer attending the services which were demanded by law.  In 1580, he was arrested and committed to Ruthin Gaol by Justice Pilson.  For three months he was held there in chains.  At the next assizes he was brought to the bar and offered the chance to have his crime forgiven if he would attend just one Protestant service.  Richard refused and he was returned to prison.

After being tried and remanded several times, Richard was brought to trial in Wrexham on 9th October 1584.   Witnesses testified falsely against him and Judge Bromley ordered the jury to find him guilty.  He was found guilty and condemned to death. 

Two days before his execution, Richard was offered his freedom if he would conform to the State Religion.  He refused!  Thus, on 15th October 1584, Richard Gwyn was hanged, cut down while still alive, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered. His head and one of his quarters were displayed atop of Denbigh Castle.  The other quarters were displayed in Wrexham, Howlet and Ruthin.


Pope Paul VI, on 25th October 1970, canonised Richard Gwyn and thirty-nine other martyrs.  They are known collectively as the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
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