As a young man Edward travelled to Turkey with some English merchants. There he met and was befriended by a wealthy Turk who liked Edward so much that he offered his daughter in marriage if the Englishman would convert to Islam. Edward declined, but the incident set his mind on spiritual matters. The route home ran through Rome, Italy and Edward converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism in 1588. He visited the English College in Rome from 29 November-11 December, 1588. Entered the seminary at Rheims, France on 24 January 1589, received the tonsure and minor orders on 18 August 1590, subdiaconate on 21 September 1591, diaconate on 24 February 1592, and was ordained a priest on 11 March 1592. Returned to England on 24 June 1592 to minister to his countrymen in hiding for their faith. Arrested for the crime of priesthood soon after, he was abused in prison for several months before being martyred.
He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on 8 January 1593 at Newcastle-on-Tyne in northeast England, and there are some interesting details about his execution: the prison horses refused to drag Edward on the hurdle to the scaffold and when the guards finally got him there, the ladder jumped around to keep them from climbing it until Edward made the Sign of the Cross over it. Father Waterson was beatified on 15 December 1929 by Pope Pius XI.
Reading his story made me think of Thomas Costain's historical novel--I read all his Costain's books when I was growing up--The Black Rose, with the 13th-century protagonist Walter of Gurnie studying with Roger Bacon at Oxford and traveling in the East. Walter and his friend Tristam even meet a Nestorian priest during their journeys! As exciting as I thought that story was years ago, this martyr's adventures and sufferings are much more moving to me today.
Blessed Edward Waterson's intrepidness as a world traveler and his faithfulness to Christ served and prepared him well for his efforts as a missionary in England.