Posted in MARTYRS, SAINT of the DAY

Saint of the Day – 22 August – St John Kemble (1599 – 1679) Martyr

Saint of the Day – 22 August – St John Kemble (1599 – 1679) Priest and Martyr – born in  1599 at Rhydica Farm, Saint Weonard’s Parish, Herefordshire, England and died by being hanged on 22 August 1679 at Widemarsh Common, Hereford, England.   Although the sentence had called for him to be hanged, drawn and quartered, he was so well respected in the area that he was permitted to die on the gallows (and by beheading to make sure he was dead) and avoid the agony of the drawing and quartering elements, he was 80 years old.   His body was buried in the Welsh Newton Churchyard.st john kemble lg glass

John Kemble (1599-1679) was a much-loved Catholic priest martyred during the madness of the “Popish Plot”.

In normal times, despite harsh anti-Catholic laws, the extent of persecution depended upon the sympathies of local landowners.   Around Hereford and Monmouth, for example, where the Catholic Earls (from 1642 Marquesses) of Worcester held sway at Raglan Castle, the old religion was for long periods practised with impunity.   From 1622 there was even a Jesuit College at Cwm, near Welsh Newton.   At nearby Dingestow 20-odd worshippers at the parish church would see some 60 Catholics trooping past on their way to Mass.

In 1678 the farrago of lies concocted by Titus Oates, that there was a Jesuit conspiracy to murder the King, gave disgruntled Protestants and ambitious chancers their opportunity. A Monmouthshire rogue called William Bedloe laid false information against the leading Catholics of the area.   One of those who suffered in the prevailing hysteria was John Kemble.   Born into a Catholic family at St Weonards, some five miles north of Welsh Newton, he had studied for the priesthood at the English College in Douai.

Ordained in 1625, he returned to Monmouthshire and served more than 50 years as an itinerant priest, winning admirers even among Protestants.   Based at Pembridge Castle, which his brother had leased in 1630, he had seemed immune from prosecution.img-Saint-John-Kemble

Moreover in 1651 his nephew Richard Kemble saved Charles II’s life at the battle of Worcester.   The King, however, was not a man to remember past services when his own preservation was at stake.

As the anti-Catholic furore boiled over in 1678 John Kemble rejected all warnings, declaring that he could do no better than to die for Christ.   In 1679 he was sentenced to be hanged under an Elizabethan statute which defined being ordained a Catholic priest overseas, as treason.

First, though, the 80-year-old was strapped on to a horse like a pack, facing backwards, and taken to Newgate in London for interrogation.   Kemble disdained to win his freedom by disclosing a non-existent plot.   The old man was then obliged to walk back to Hereford.

Informed on 22 August that he would be executed that day, he asked to be allowed to finish his prayers and smoke his pipe.

After being dragged on a hurdle to Widemarsh Common, Kemble declared on the scaffold that he died for the religion that had made this country Christian and that he forgave all his enemies.   He was then obliged to encourage the executioner, who had no stomach for his task.

The hanging was horribly botched, so that Kemble took half an hour to die.  Subsequently he was beheaded and his left hand cut off, this may still be seen at the church of St Francis Xavier in Hereford.ST JOHN KEMBLE 5

Author:

Passionate Catholic. Being Catholic is a way of life - a love affair both with God and Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, our most Blessed and Beloved Virgin Mother Mary and the Church. "Religion must be like the air we breathe..."- St John Bosco With the Saints, we "serve the Lord with one consent and serve the Lord with one pure language, not indeed to draw them forth from their secure dwelling-places, not superstitiously to honour them, or wilfully to rely on the, ... but silently to contemplate them for edification, thereby encouraging our faith, enlivening our patience..." Blessed John Henry Newman Prayer is what the world needs combined with the example of our lives which testify to the Light of Christ. This site will mainly concentrate on Daily Prayers, Novenas and the Memorials and Feast Days of our friends in Heaven, the Saints who went before us and the great blessings the Church provides in our Catholic Monthly Devotions. "For the saints are sent to us by God as so many sermons. We do not use them, it is they who move us and lead us, to where we had not expected to go.” Charles Cardinal Journet (1891-1975) This is a papal fidelity site. Loyal and Obedient to the Current Pope and to the Magisterium United With Him.

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