Thursday, 2 August 2018


Edward Powell was a Catholic priest who was born in Wales around 1478.  Powell had a brilliant mind and was a Fellow of Oriel College Oxford in 1495. 
King Henry VIII
He became a court preacher and was held in high esteem by King Henry VIII.  It is said that he helped Henry write Assertio Septem Sacramentorum’, a ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments,’ in reply to Luther’s attack on indulgences.  For this, Pope Leo X rewarded Henry with the title Fidei Defensor’, ‘Defender of the Faith’ in 1521.  (That’s another story!)  Then in 1523 Powell published his own work on this subject for which Oxford University wrote to the King calling Powell “the glory of the University”.

Fr Powell’s slide from favour began when he was one of the four theologians selected to defend the legality of the King’s marriage to Catherine of
Queen Catherine of Aragon
 Aragon.  Denouncing Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was another nail in his coffin and when he refused to take the oath of succession, he was deprived of his benefices and imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Found guilty of High Treason, Fr Powell received the usual sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering.  The sentence was carried out on 30 July 1540.  I suppose we could say King Henry was impartial, dispensing with all who opposed him, Catholic or Protestant!  Fr Powell, two other Catholics and three Protestants suffered together.  The six victims were dragged on hurdles from the Tower to Smithfield.  A Catholic and a Protestant shared each hurdle and Fr Powell’s companion was Robert Barnes, a Protestant divine.  The six suffered horrific deaths – the Catholics, considered traitors, were hanged drawn and quartered.  The Protestants, considered heretics, were burnt.  Fr Edward Powell was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 29th December 1886 (cultus confirmation).

The plaque in University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford (Photo J D Smith)

In the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, a plaque has been erected to remember both Catholics and Protestants who suffered death in the terrible times of religious strife in this country.  The Welsh scholar and priest, Fr Edward Powell, is the second name on the plaque.

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