August 8 – He gloried in his crime

August 5, 2019

Bl. John Felton

Martyr, date and place of birth unknown, was executed in St. Paul’s Churchyard, London, 8 August, 1570, for having, about eleven o’clock at night on the previous 24 May, affixed a copy of the Bull of St. Pius V excommunicating the queen to the gates of the Bishop of London’s palace near St. Paul’s.

Queen Mary I painted by Hans Eworth

His daughter, Frances Salisbury, says that this exploit actually took place between two and three on the morning of the next day, on which that year the feast of Corpus Christi happened to fall. The MS. which preserves- her narrative contains a blank where the age of her father should be recorded, but she gives us other particulars fully. He was a wealthy gentleman of Norfolk extraction, and lived at Bermondsey Abbey near Southwark. He had married a lady who had been maid of honour to Queen Mary and playmate of Queen Elizabeth, and who was the widow of an auditor of the former queen. He himself “was a man of stature little and of complexion black”. Of the copies of the Bull which he had received at Calais he had given one to William Mellowes of Lincoln’s Inn, a special friend of his.

Hung, Drawn and Quartered. This barbaric form of execution, popular during the reign of Elizabeth I, where they are hanged till they are almost dead, cut down, and quartered alive; after that, their members and bowels are cut from their bodies, and thrown into a fire.This copy was discovered on 25 May, and Mellowes on the rack confessed to having received it from him. On 26 May he was arrested and taken to the Tower, where he was thrice racked, though he from the first confessed and gloried in his deed. He was condemned on 4 August and executed four days later. He was cut down alive, and his daughter says that he uttered the holy name of Jesus once or twice when the hangman had his heart in his hand.


POLLEN, Acts of English Martyrs (London, 1891), 209; CAMM, Lives Of English Martyrs, II (London, 1904-5), 1, and xix, n. 2; COOPER in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v.

John B. Wainewright (Catholic Encyclopedia)


Previous post:

Next post: