G. Inf. 206.
|1040. From a Letter of Don Alfonso di Velasco, Ambassador of the Catholic King in England, from London,|
The Catholics of the kingdom suffered less persecution from the beginning of July, when parliament was adjourned, until the 12th November, when they met again. They then gave orders to the bishops, in whose care are the affairs of religion, to see that the edicts recently published were enforced with new rigour, especially against the priests. Those of this city began to show great diligence, sending spies to all parts to find them. On the first Sunday in Advent they came upon a private house where a number of people had assembled to hear mass, confess and receive the most holy sacrament. The culprits were taken, among them Father John Robert, a Benedictine monk, who had been banished the kingdom with five others, and condemned to death, one of them escaping from a window of the cell.
On the day following his capture he was brought before the bishop and asked to take the oath which they have invented for the complete discovery of the Catholics. He replied that he neither could nor would take such an oath, which contained among other things that the king was head of the Church, a thing contrary to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
That same day Augustin Perez, priest and secretary in this embassy, wrote to him in my name, comforting him and assuring him that every effort would be made for his release. He replied that he counted himself happy to be able to die and to seal with his blood the doctrine which he had preached and asked us for the love of God not to obstruct the road which leads so swiftly to the crown of martyrdom. They returned in order to take his confession. They began with some questions, and he said that he was ready to answer singly or collectively all that was laid against him. They charged him with being a Catholic priest and a false traitor, who went about misleading and deceiving the lieges with false doctrines. He admitted that he was a priest and Benedictine monk and in his discourse for several years he had tried to undeceive souls here and draw them to a knowledge of the truth, moved by zeal for the honour of God and the good of his country. Inasmuch as they called him traitor priest, he warned them that Christ was the head from whom he held the authority, which was lacking to the bishop and his ministers, to administer the sacraments and consecrate his soul and body. He said this with so much earnestness and courage that they were struck dumb. The bishop shrugged his shoulders and condemned him to death, upon which they took him to the Tower. There Augustin Perez visited him in my name. He spoke very joyfully of his martyrdom, despising the suffering and death which he would have to endure. They came back to inform him of his sentence, which was that he should be dragged from the prison to the place of execution, and there be hanged and quartered, his entrails being drawn and burned. He heard this with an expression of gladness, and answered with great tranquillity that he pardoned those who gave the sentence, but he feared greatly for those who were responsible, as if the bishop was a true minister of God and His Church he will be imbruing his hands in the blood of the innocent. They prevented him from saying more.
The moment I knew about the matter I made every effort to obtain his release by the most convenient ways, without openly discovering myself, but it was useless, as the king had determined to satisfy the parliament by this sacrifice, considering that the best way to induce them to grant him the succour in money for which he asks, and for which it has been early dismissed these last days.
The day of execution at length arrived, on the 20th December. They dragged him from the prison as far as the pit. He displayed remarkable joyfulness and on the way he gave his blessing to many Catholics, his acquaintances, who went to see the act, at which there was a great crowd of people. Arrived at the pit, he obtained leave to speak a little. This was of importance, as although the time was brief he seized the opportunity for an exhortation, declaring and admonishing the people that the Roman Catholic faith was the only true one in which they could live and die, as in his own case, and he rendered infinite thanks to God for his great mercy. When he had said this they carried out the sentence and on another priest as well, who also died with great constancy and courage. At the same time they executed sixteen thieves as well, a circumstance that renders the death of the just the more pitiful. This has been a great edification for the Catholics and has caused the conversion of many heretics.