Friday, February 20, 2015

Blessed Thomas Pormort: Friends, Relatives and One Great Enemy

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

English martyr, b. at Hull about 1559; d. at St. Paul's Churchyard, 20 Feb., 1592. He was probably related to the family of Pormort of Great Grimsby and Saltfletby, Lincoln shire. George Pormort, Mayor of Grimsby in 1565, had a second son Thomas baptized, 7 February, 1566, but this can hardly be the martyr. After receiving some education at Cambridge, he went to Rheims, 15 January, 1581, and thence, 20 March following, to Rome, where he was ordained priest in 1587. He entered the household of Owen Lewis, Bishop of Cassano, 6 March, 1587. On 25 April, 1590, Pormort became prefect of studies in the Swiss college at Milan. He was relieved of this office, and started for England, 15 September, without waiting for his faculties. Crossing the St. Gotthard Pass, he reached Brussels before 29 November. There he became man servant to Mrs. Geoffrey Pole, under the name of Whitgift, the Protestant archbishop being his godfather. With her he went to Antwerp, intending to proceed to Flushing, and thence to England. He was arrested in London on St. James's Day (25 July), 1591, but he managed to escape. In August or September, 1591, he was again taken, and committed to Bridewell, whence he was removed to Topcliffe's house. He was repeatedly racked and sustained a rupture in consequence. On 8 February following he was convicted of high treason for being a seminary priest, and for reconciling John Barwys, or Burrows, haberdasher. He pleaded that he had no faculties; but he was found guilty. At the bar he accused Topcliffe of having boasted to him of indecent familiarities with the queen. Hence Topcliffe obtained a mandamus to the sheriff to proceed with the execution, though Archbishop Whitgift endeavoured to delay it and make his godson conform, and though (it is said) Pormort would have admitted conference with Protestant ministers. The gibbet was erected over against the haberdasher's shop, and the martyr was kept standing two hours in his shirt upon the ladder on a very cold day, while Topcliffe vainly urged him to withdraw his accusation.

There are several interesting names in this account: Mrs. Geoffrey Pole might be Catherine Pole, the daughter-in-law of Sir Geoffrey Pole, Blessed Margaret Pole's youngest son. He died in 1558 before his brother, Reginald Cardinal Pole, and "He left five sons and six daughters, two of whom were married, and one a nun of Sion." One of his sons was Geoffrey Pole of Lordington, Sussex, and of West Stoke, Sussex (1546-before 9 March 1590/1591), who was educated at Winchester College, Winchester, Hampshire, married Catherine Dutton sometime before 1573, who died after 1608. Geoffrey and Catherine had three sons: Henry Pole (bef. 1570-aft. 1570), Arthur Pole of Lordington, Sussex, and of West Stoke, Sussex (c. 1575-murdered, Rome, 23 June 1605), who was educated at the Palazzo Farnese, in Rome, Italy, along with the son of Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma, and became Lord of the Manor of Walderton, Sussex, and a Member of the Household of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, unmarried and without issue, and Geoffrey Pole of Lordington, Sussex, and of West Stoke, Sussex (c. 1577-assassinated, Rome, bef. 7 January 1619), who was educated at the seminaries, in Douai, France, and at the English College, in Rome, Italy, unmarried and without issue. Now why Arthur was murdered in Rome on 23 June 1605 and Geoffrey assassinated in Rome sometime before 7 January 1619, I have not been able to ascertain.

The Whitgift mentioned is John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured above), nominated by Elizabeth I in 1583, after the death of William Grindal, her second Archbishop of Canterbury.

Richard Topcliffe, is, of course, Queen Elizabeth's servant who had the duties of finding and torturing priests. The History of Parliament website provides some detail of his career, with definite hints of unpopularity, and unsavory behavior. In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription required) his entry begins: "Topcliffe, Richard (1531–1604), interrogator and torturer."

Pormort was included among the 85 Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Pope St. John Paul in 1987.

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