Sunday, August 19, 2012

Not for the Faint of Heart: Blessed Hugh Green

Hugh Green was born in 1584 of Protestant parents; he took his degree at Cambridge in 1605, but then converted to Catholicism and went to Douai to study for the priesthood in 1610. He tried his vocation as a Capuchin, but left that order and was ordained in 1612.

In England he served the Catholics of Dorchester and was given refuge by Lady Blanche Arundell of Lanherne. The Mad Monarchist offers this profile of Lady Blanche, who certainly did not blanch at danger!:

Lady Blanche Arundell was a monarchist I wish I knew more about, but from what I do know she was my kind of girl. The Lady Blanche was born in 1583, the sixth daughter of Lord Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester and Lady Elizabeth Hastings a well respected, Catholic and staunchly royalist family. On May 11, 1607 she married Lord Thomas Baron Arundell of Wardour who, went King Charles I of Britain raised the royal standard at Nottingham was quick to cast his lot with his monarch. While her husband was away at the front Lady Blanche Arundell showed her own heroism when Wardour Castle, Wiltshire, came under attack by the forces of Parliament. With only herself, her children, a handful of maid-servants and 25 men she resolved to defend the castle, her home and family against 1,300 Roundhead troops, including artillery, led by Colonel Edward Ludlow and Sir Edward Hungerford. For eight grueling days Lady Blanche defended the castle against the hopeless odds until she was finally forced to capitulate. However, thanks to her staunch defense she was able to negotiate honorable terms for her surrender which were signed on May 8, 1643. Lady Blanche was able to leave the castle with her head held high but she had no money and no place to go. Fortunately Lord Hertford provided her with accommodations at Salisbury. Her husband later returned at the head of royalist column and took back the castle his wife had so heroically defended but sadly he was later wounded in battle and died at Oxford the same year. When Lady Blanche Arundell died at Winchester on October 28, 1649 she was buried alongside her husband at Tisbury. Her brave defense of her hearth and home, her children and family honor, all in the cause of her King warrants Lady Blanche being listed among the pantheon of great English royalists of the Civil War.

Just before the beginning of the Civil War, Charles I passed another law making the presence of Catholic priests in England a crime punishable by death (forced by Parliament). Although Hugh Green intended to leave England under this ban, he was too late.

He was captured near Lyme Regis, imprisoned and then executed on August 19, 1642. In prison his constancy so affected his fellow-captives that two or three women sentenced to die with him sent him word that they would ask his absolution before death. They did so after confessing their sins to the people, and were absolved by the martyr. A providential reward for his zeal immediately followed. A Jesuit Father, despite the danger, rode up in disguise on horseback, and at a given sign absolved the martyr, who made a noble confession of faith before death.

The story of his execution is more appalling than usual: there was no experienced executioner available, so a barber-cum-executioner spent almost half an hour trying to locate his heart after he had been hung. Finally a soldier mercifully ended this torture. When his head was cut off, the Puritans used it as a football! As Archbishop Challoner notes, this was not an event repeated in the annals of the English martyrs. Blessed Hugh Green is honored at the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs and St. Ignatius, Chideock, as one of the Dorset martyrs. Here is a link to some pictures of the church.

Please note that this is Jane Austen country, and any reader of Persuasion would remember Anne Elliott's fateful visit to Lyme Regis!

In a very strange coincidence, there was an American style football player named Hugh Green, who was born in 1959. He played for both the Miami Dolphins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


  1. You know football facts too?! Stephanie you are amazing! I loved Persuasion! Thanks for the imagery, it really helps give a sense of place.

  2. Thanks, Kris--just some trivia I found when researching this martyr's life. I wrote my Master's thesis on Austen's Persuasion; I love that novel too!