Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Second Howard Martyr on the Block

Blessed William Howard, who was St. Philip Howard's grandson, was beheaded on December 29, 1680 on Tower Hill as a result of the Popish Plot; he had been tried in the House of Lords and found guilty. He protested his innocence throughout the trial and on the scaffold:
Next he lift up his hands, standing up, and said. "I beseech Thee, God, not to avenge my innocent blood upon any man in the Whole kingdom ; no, not against those who by their perjuries have brought me here. For I profess before Almighty God that I never combined against the King's life, nor any body else, but whatever I did was only to procure liberty for the Romish religion. And, as for the Duke of York, I do here declare, upon my Salvation, I know of no design that he ever had against the King, but hath ever behaved himself, for ought I know, as a loving, loyal brother ought to do.
So now, upon my Salvation, I have said true all that I have said. And I pray God to have mercy upon my soul." . . .
After which he went round the scaffold and spake to the multitude thus, "I pray God, bless the King, and bless you all, especially the King's loyal subjects (such as I am myself) for I know you have a good and gracious King as ever reigned. God forgive me my sins, I forgive all the world, even those fellows that brought me here, and pray God to send them no worse punishment than to repent and tell the truth. And so, God bless you all."
And some replyed, "God have mercy upon your soul." Then a minister applyed himself, and said, "Sir; you did disown the indulgences of the Romish Church."
To which he answered, with a great passion.
" Sir ; what have you to do with my religion? Pray do not trouble me. However, I do say that the Church of Rome allows no indulgences for murder, lying, &c., and whatever I have said is true. What need you trouble yourself? "
Min. "Have you received no absolution?"
Answ. "I have received none at all. Sir, trouble not yourself, nor me."
Min. "You said that you never saw those witnesses."
Answ. "I never saw any of them but Dugdale, and that was at a time when I spoke to him about a footboy, or a foot match."
Then his man took off his periwig and upper coat, and with a pair of sizers (sic) cut off the collar of his masters shirt, after which, W.S. lyes down in a white satin waistcoat, a quilted sky-coloured silk cap, with lace turn 'd up, &c.
He gave his watch to a gentleman, crucifix to his page, his staff and paper to another.
Having fitted his neck to the block, rise up upon his knees and prayed to himself, then takes the block and embraced it, then 'his servants cut off more of the linen, in all which time he sent up short prayers, that Christ would receive his spirit. Then lying down and praying upon the block, the sheriff Cornish askt' of the headsman, in kindness to W.S., if he had given him any sign. He answered "No." Whereupon W.S. rose up in a consternation and asked what they wanted. To which it was answered, "What sign will you give, Sir?"
Answ. "No sign at all. Take your own time. God's will be done."
Whereupon the executioner said, " I hope you forgive me?"
He made answer, "I do." Then lying down again, two of his servants came with a piece of black silk to receive the head. Then the headsman took the Axe in 'his hand, and after some pause gave the blow, Which was cleverly done, save the cutting off a little skin, which was cut off immediately with a knife. 
Pope Pius XI beatified William Howard in 1929.

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