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Who were the female English martyrs?

Of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, three women joined the thirty-seven men in bravely risking their lives for the Catholic faith during the Reformation. Sts Margaret Clitherow & Anne Line harboured priests – the former was pressed to death, the latter hanged at Tyburn. St Margaret Ward attempted to help a priest escape prison & was hanged at Tyburn. Read their inspiring stories in this blog.

Inside the lives of the only female English martyrs to be canonised: Sts Margaret Clitherow, Margaret Ward, and Anne Line.

St Anne Line

St Anne was born Alice Higham around 1563 to a Puritan family in Essex. In the 1580s she and her brother William converted to Catholicism, and not long after she married Roger Line, also a Catholic; from the time of her marriage she was known as Anne. The three moved to London to live their Catholic faith more intensely and to assist the suffering Church there. In 1585 while assisting at Mass Roger and William were arrested; Roger was sent into exile and died abroad in 1594. Anne sought work as a maid, but renounced it to work in houses of refuge for priests, eventually running there such houses. Well known for her recusancy, her home was raided at Candlemas 1601 while Mass was being celebrated. Ensuring the priest escaped, Anne was arrested and committed for trial. Condemned to death at the Old Bailey for her activities, she was hanged at Tyburn on the 27th February 1601.

Novena of Charity

Through the intercession of St Anne Line

True servant of charity, St Anne,
pray for us that we, like you,
may the greet the stranger as Christ;
feed the poor, as Christ;
clothe the naked, as Christ;
tend the sick, as Christ;
visit those in prison, as Christ;
love our neighbour, as Christ;
pray for our enemies, as Christ;
lay down our lives, as you did,
in the service of holy charity.

St Margaret Ward

Humble and good, innovative and pure, St Margaret was born in Congleton, Cheshire, though little else is known of her life. She came to London to seek work and was taken into service by a wealthy Catholic lady. Devoted to priests, St Margaret began to visit Fr William Watson who had been imprisoned in the Bridewell for his faith. As she gained the trust of the guards, she hatched a plan to help the priest escape. When she discerned the time was right she smuggled a rope into the priest and told him to climb out in the middle hours of the next morning. At about 2am, an Irish servant, Blessed John Roche awaited the priest in a boat. As the rope was not long enough the priest crashed down onto a shed, alerting the prison guards. Blessed John managed to get the priest and spirit him away to safety. When the rope was discovered, suspicion fell on St Margaret. She was arrested, tried, found guilty and hanged at Tyburn on the 30th August 1588. Blessed John Roche was later discovered and condemned to hang with her and other Catholics who had been found guilty of helping priests, the young Welsh martyr Blessed Richard Flower among them. They all died singing hymns.

Prayer to St Margaret Ward

You chose the better part, St Margaret, pray that I too may choose this path: that forgetful of self, I may devote my life to the joyful service of my Lord and neighbour. With you may I proclaim the Holy Name of Jesus, be his humble and faithful witness in the world, and offer myself as an oblation to his glory. Amen.

St Margaret Clitherow

St Margaret was born in York in 1556, the daughter of a chandler. In 1571 she married John Clitherow, a butcher who lived in the Shambles. She was a loving wife, a devoted mother of five children and a conscientious neighbour. Though brought up Anglican, she converted to Catholicism in 1574 and thereafter offered her home and resources to assist the persecuted Catholics of York, with the blessing of her husband. Among her most daring works was her protection of priests, and she gained a reputation as the foremost activist in the North. When her son Henry left England to study for the priesthood, the family fell under greater suspicion than usual, and she was denounced for hiding fugitives. Brought to trial in 1586 she refused to plead to protect her husband and children, and so was condemned to ‘peine forte et dure’, to be crushed until she confessed, or die in the process. Although found to be pregnant with her fourth child, St Margaret was pressed to death on Good Friday, the 25th March 1586.

Prayer of Supplication to St Margaret Clitherow

O Pearl of York, bright jewel of Christian England, beloved wife and mother, refuge of the persecuted, I commend myself to your prayers.

O blessed Margaret, true daughter of the Church, pray that my heart is ever open to Christ so I may find true sustenance in the Gospel, comfort in his holy mysteries, and authentic joy in the sacraments. Be my companion on the way of discipleship and instruct me on the life of virtue and self-denial.

Intercede for my needs, and pray before the Lord for the request I now place in your hands…………. By your prayers, St Margaret, help me be a true witness to Christ in the world. May he triumph in me, so I may rejoice in him. Amen.

Continue Reading About the Martyrs of Great Britain:

Book of MartyrsVeneration of martyrs is one of the earliest devotions in the Church. For centuries Christians looked upon the martyrs as the great heroes of the faith, offering the supreme testimony to Christ and the Gospel by laying down their lives rather than renounce their Christian faith.

A Book of Martyrs is intended to remind the faithful of some of these powerful men and women who lived and suffered in the British Isles. Among the many Saints and Blesseds of England, Scotland and Wales are extraordinary figures who – through our devotion – provide us today with many wonderful gifts, such as wisdom, strength and comfort.

Click here to get your copy of A Book of Martyrs today