Carthusian Martyrs – the Second Group
After little more than a month after the first group, it was the turn of three leading monks of the London house: Doms Humphrey Middlemore, William Exmew and Sebastian Newdigate, who were to die at Tyburn, London on the 19 June. Newdigate was a personal friend of Henry VIII, who twice visited him in the prison to persuade him to give in, in vain.
St. Humphrey Middlemore
St. Humphrey Middlemore
English Carthusian martyr, date of birth uncertain; died at Tyburn, London, 19 June, 1535. His father, Thomas Middlemore of Edgbaston, Warwickshire, represented one of the oldest families in that county, and had acquired his estate at Edgbaston by marriage with the heiress of Sir Henry Edgbaston; his mother was Ann Lyttleton, of Pillaton Hall, Staffordshire. Attracted to the Carthusian Order, he was professed at the Charterhouse, London, ordained, and subsequently appointed to the office of procurator. Although few details of his life have come down, it is certain that he was greatly esteemed for his learning and piety by the prior, [Saint] John Houghton, and by the community generally. In 1534 the question of Henry VIII’s marriage with Anne Boleyn arose to trouble conscientious Catholics, as the king was determined that the more prominent of his subjects should expressly acknowledge the validity of the marriage, and the right of succession of any issue therefrom. Accordingly, the royal commissions paid a visit to the Charterhouse, and required the monks to take the oath to that effect.
Chapter House at Parkminster has several paintings of the sufferings of the English Carthusian martyrs. This painting shows one monk hanging while another forgives the man who is about to execute him.
Father [John] Houghton and Father Humphrey refused, and were, in consequence, imprisoned in the Tower; but, after a month’s imprisonment, they were persuaded to take the oath conditionally, and were released. In the following year Father John was executed for refusing to take the new oath of supremacy, and Father Humphrey became vicar of the Charterhouse. Meanwhile, Thomas Bedyll, one of the royal commissioners, had again visited the Charterhouse, and endeavored, both by conversation and writing, to shake the faith of Father Humphrey and his community in the papal supremacy. His efforts left them unmoved, and, after expostulating with them in a violent manner, he obtained authority from Thomas Cromwell to arrest the vicar and two other monks, [Blessed Sebastian Newdigate and Blessed William Exmew,] and throw them into prison, where they were treated with inhuman cruelty, being bound to posts with chains round their necks and legs, and compelled so to remain day and night for two weeks. They were then brought before the council, and required to take the oath. Not only did they refuse, but justified their attitude by able arguments from Scripture and the Fathers in favor of the papal claims. They were accordingly condemned to death, and suffered at Tyburn with the greatest fortitude and resignation.
GILLOW, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath., s.v. Middlemore; MORRIS, Troubles, I; DODD, Church History, I, 240; DUGDALE, Monasticon, VI (ed. 1846), 8.
St. William Exmew
St. William Exmew
Carthusian monk and martyr; suffered at Tyburn, 19 June, 1535. He studied at Christ’s College, Cambridge, and became a proficient classical scholar. Entering the London Charterhouse, he was soon raised to the office of vicar (sub- prior); in 1534 he was named procurator. Chauncy says that for virtue and learning his like could not be found in the English province of the order. Two days after the Prior of the Charterhouse, St. John Houghton, had been put to death (4 May, 1535), W. Exmew and the vicar, Humphrey Middlemore, were denounced to Thomas Cromwell by Thomas Bedyll, one of the royal commissioners, as being “obstinately determined to suffer all extremities rather than to alter their opinion” with regard to the primacy of the pope.
Two Carthusian Monks are being hung, while another Monk was cut down while still alive to be disembowelled and then quartered.
Three weeks later they and another monk of the Charterhouse, Sebastian Newdigate, were arrested and thrown into the Marshalsea, where they were made to stand in chains, bound to posts, and were left in that position for thirteen days. After that, they were removed to the Tower. Named in the same indictment as St. John Fisher, they were brought to trial at Westminster, 11 June following, and pleaded not guilty, i.e., of high treason, but asserted their staunch adhesion to what the Church taught on the subject of spiritual supremacy and denied that King Henry VIII had any right to the title of head of the Church of England. They were consequently condemned to death as traitors, and were hanged, drawn, and quartered. W. Exmew is one of the fifty-four English martyrs beatified by Leo XIII, 9 December, 1886.
HENDRIKS, The London Charterhouse (London, 1889); CHAUNCY, Hist. aliquot Martyrum Anglorum (Montreuil-sur-Mer, 1888).
St. Sebastian Newdigate
St. Sebastian Newdigate
Executed at Tyburn, 19 June, 1535. A younger son of John Newdigate of Harefield Place, Middlesex, king’s sergeant, and Amphelys, daughter and heiress of John Nevill of Sutton, Lincolnshire. He was educated at Cambridge, and on going to Court became and intimate friend of Henry VIII and a privy councilor. He married and had a daughter, named Amphelys, but his wife dying in 1524, he entered the London Charterhouse and became a monk there. He signed the Oath of Succession “in as far as the law of God permits”, 6 June, 1534. Arrested on 25 May, 1535, for denying the king’s supremacy, he was thrown into the Marshalsea prison, where he was kept for fourteen days bound to a pillar, standing upright, with iron rings round his neck, hands, and feet. There he was visited by the king who offered to load him with riches and honors if he would conform. He was then brought before the Council, and sent to the Tower, where Henry visited him again. His trial took place, 11 June, and after condemnation he was sent back to the Tower. With him suffered Saint William Exmew and Saint Humphrey Middlemore.
An axeman is quartering one of the Monks who has just been hanged.
(source: Catholic Encyclopedia)
[Note: Humphrey Middlemore, Sebastian Newdigate, and William Exmew were beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. John Houghton was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.]
Third Group of Carthusian Martyrs will be posted later.
Nobility.org Editorial comment: —
These Carthusian monks, among them scions of old English families, suffered martyrdom because they refused to take the Oath of Supremacy that made Henry VIII head of the Church of England.
They remained true and loyal to the Church which teaches that the Pope is Christ’s Vicar, and that to him alone, as represented by St. Peter, Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatsoever you bind upon earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in Heaven” (Matt. 16:19).
The Pope has primacy over things spiritual, while the State has sovereignty over things temporal.