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William Hartley, Venerable

Martyr; b. at Wyn, in Derbyshire, England, of a yeoman family about 1557; d. October 5, 1588

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Hartley, WILLIAM, VENERABLE, martyr; b. at Wyn, in Derbyshire, England, of a yeoman family about 1557; d. October 5, 1588. At eighteen he matriculated at St. John’s, Oxford, where he became a chaplain. Being ejected by the vice-chancellor, Tobie Mathew, in 1579, he went to Reims in August, was ordained at Chalons, and returned to England in June, 1580. He was of great service to Fathers Persons and Campion in printing and distributing their books, but was eventually arrested, August 13, 1581, and sent to the Marshalsea Prison, London. Here he was detected saying Mass in a cell before Lord Vaux, and for this he was laid in irons (December 5, 1583). He was indicted for high treason, February 7, 1584, but, for some unknown reason, not tried. In January, 1585, he was sent into exile. He then spent some little time at Reims recovering his health, and made a pilgrimage to Rome (April 15, 1586) before returning to his perilous mission. In September, 1588, he was arrested in Holborn, London, and, as his friend Father Warford says, “being beset by the deceits of the heretics, incurred the suspicion of having apostatized. But the event showed how unjust that suspicion was; for when he suffered at Tyburn he won the greatest credit for constancy. He was a man of the meekest disposition and naturally virtuous, modest, and grave, with a sober and peaceful look. His beard was blackish and his height moderate” (“Acts of English Martyrs”, cited below, 272).

The Armada year was for Catholics the time both of the worst bloodshed and of the greatest dearth of news, and this explains why we know but little of Hartley’s companions. The first was a priest, the Venerable John Hewett, son of a draper at York and a student at Caius College, Cambridge. He had once been in a York prison, but was arrested in Gray’s Inn Lane, London, March 10, 1587, going under the name of Weldon, and died under that name; this has led several early martyrologists into the curious mistake of making him into two martyrs, Hewett dying at York, and Weldon in London. Hartley’s second companion was the Venerable Robert Sutton, layman, a tutor or schoolmaster, born at Kegworth in Leicestershire, who had practiced his profession in Paternoster Row, London. The fourth was John Harrison, alias Symons, who had carried letters from one priest to another. As he had before “been slandered to be a spy”, we can guess why his fame suffered some obscurity. It is also hardly doubtful that his name, Harrison, was confounded with that of either Matthias or James Harrison, priests, who suffered martyrdom in 1599 and 1602 respectively. This perhaps explains why his name has fallen out of the process of the English martyrs, and in its place we find inserted that of the Venerable Richard Williams, a “Queen Mary Priest“, who really suffered four years later.



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