Thursday, August 8, 2013
Father and Son Martyrs: The Feltons of Bermondsey Abbey
Almost all of what is known about Felton's background comes from the narrative of his daughter, Frances Salisbury. The manuscript that holds her story has a blank where his age should be, but it does say that he was a wealthy man of Norfolk ancestry, who lived at Bermondsey Abbey near Southwark. He "was a man of stature little and of complexion black". His wife had been a playmate of Elizabeth I, a maid-of-honour to Queen Mary and the widow of one of Mary's auditors (a legal official of the papal court).
Felton was arrested for fixing a copy of Pope Pius V's Bull Regnans in Excelsis ("reigning on high"), excommunicating Queen Elizabeth, to the gates of the Bishop of London's palace near St. Paul's. This was a significant act of treason as the document, which released Elizabeth's subjects from their allegiance, needed to be promulgated in England before it could take legal effect. The deed brought about the end of the previous policy of tolerance towards those Catholics who were content occasionally to attend their parish church while keeping their true beliefs to themselves. . . .
[this policy had already ended, and not just with the Northern Rebellion of 1569; the fines for recusancy had been mounting because the government was becoming frustrated with how Catholics were holding out against conformity]