Robert Drury, Venerable
Martyr (1567-1607), one of the appellants against the archpriest Blackwell
Drury, ROBERT, VENERABLE, Martyr (1567-1607), was born of a good Buckinghamshire family and was received into the English College at Reims, April 1, 1588. On September 17, 1590, he was sent to the new College at Valladolid; here he finished his studies, was ordained priest and returned to England in 1593. He labored chiefly in London, where his learning and virtue made him much respected among his brethren. He was one of the appellants against the archpriest Blackwell, and his name is affixed to the appeal of November 17, 1600, dated from the prison at Wisbech. An invitation from the Government to these priests to acknowledge their allegiance and duty to the queen (dated November 5, 1602) led to the famous loyal address of January 31, 1603, drawn up by Dr. William Bishop, and signed by thirteen of the leading priests, including the two martyrs, Drury and Cadwallador. In this address they acknowledged the queen as their lawful sovereign, repudiated the claim of the pope to release them from their duty of allegiance to her, and expressed their abhorrence of the forcible attempts already made to restore the Catholic religion and their determination to reveal any further conspiracies against the Government which should come to their knowledge. In return they ingenuously pleaded that as they were ready to render to Caesar the things that were Caesar’s, so they might be permitted to yield to the successor of Peter that obedience which Peter himself might have claimed under the commission of Christ, and so to distinguish between their several duties and obligations as to be ready on the one hand “to spend their blood in defense of her Majesty”, but on the other “rather to lose their lives than infringe the lawful authority of Christ’s Catholic Church“. This bold repudiation of the pope’s deposing power was condemned by the theological faculty of Louvain; but it is noteworthy that its author was selected by the pope himself as the very man in whose person he would revive the episcopal authority in England; Dr. William Bishop being nominated Bishop of Chalcedon and first vicar Apostolic in that country in 1623.
The results of the address were disappointing; Elizabeth died within three months of its signature, and James I soon proved that he would not be satisfied with any purely civil allegiance. He thirsted for spiritual authority, and, with the assistance of an apostate Jesuit, a new oath of allegiance was drawn up, which in its subtlety was designed to trouble the conscience of Catholics and divide them on the lawfulness of taking it. It was imposed July 5, 1606, and about this time Drury was arrested. He was condemned for his priesthood, but was offered his life if he would take the new oath. A letter from Father Persons, S.J., against its lawfulness was found on him. The oath declared that the “damnable doctrine” of the deposing power was “impious and heretical”, and it was condemned by Pope Paul V, September 22, 1606, “as containing many things contrary to the Faith and Salvation“. This brief, however, was suppressed by the arch-priest, and Drury probably did not know of it. But he felt that his conscience would not permit him to take the oath, and he died a martyr at Tyburn, February 26, 1606-7. A curious contemporary account of his martyrdom, entitled “A true Report of the Arraignment… of a Popish Priest named Robert Drewrie” (London, 1607), which has been reprinted in the “Harleian Miscellany”, calls him a Benedictine, and says he wore his monastic habit at the execution.
But this “habit” as described proves to be the cassock and cap worn by the secular clergy. The writer adds, “There were certain papers shown at Tyburn which had been found about him, of a very dangerous and traitorous nature, and among them also was his Benedictine faculty under seal, expressing what power and authority he had from the pope to make men, women, and children here of his order; what indulgence and pardons he could grant them”, etc. He may have been a conf rater or oblate of the order.