Friday 27 November 2020

Father Arthur Mac Geoghegan, O.P.

On November 27 1633 an Irish Dominican, Westmeath man Arthur Mac Geoghegan, was dragged on a hurdle to Tyburn and there suffered death by hanging, drawing and quartering. He had been accused of stating that it would be no sin to kill King Charles I and indeed he would willingly do the deed himself as the king was a heretic. The man who reported this to the authorities was a sea captain who Father Mac Geoghegan had encountered in Portugal and with whom he had held a theoretical discussion. Captain Edward Bust harboured resentment against the priest, despite the fact that he had interceded for English sailors who were having difficulties with the Spanish authorities. Two years after the pair had last met Bust spotted Father Arthur in London and made the accusations of treachery against him. There was an audience only too receptive to such stories of 'Popish plots' to be found in the English capital and the priest was arrested, tried and condemned to a traitor's death. Charles I himself seems to have accepted Father Mac Geoghegan's innocence, as did Queen Henrietta Maria, but failed to save him.  Below is an account from the Postulator of the Cause of the Irish Dominican martyrs, Reginald Walsh, O.P. (1855-1932), who featured the case of his confrère in a series published in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Father Walsh carried out detailed, thorough research into the cases he presented and so I have omitted some parts of his article to try and keep the narrative flowing, but have included a link at the end to the original. It is worth noting that although Father Mac Geoghegan suffered the full penalty reserved for traitors his quartered remains were not displayed on the four gates of the city but seem to have been privately buried. This small measure of mercy is attributed to the efforts of the royal couple. Father Walsh concludes with Father Mac Geoghegan's last words on the scaffold, the supernatural occurrences which took place at the time of the execution and the fate of those who had betrayed the priest, all of which reflect familiar tropes found in accounts of martyrs at that time.




Hastings. "If they have done this deed, my noble lord" 

Glo'ster. "If! . . Talk'st thou to me of 'ifs' ? 'Thou art a traitor."

SHAKESPEARE, Richard III., Act iii., Sc. 4.

HOW much depends on the presence of that little word "if!" If Archimedes had a fulcrum, he would have moved the earth ; there is no doubt whatever about it. But Archimedes had not, and the earth remains in its old position. The Greek philosopher, however, postulated an impossibility; and, though he spoke logically, what he said was only in illustration of his system or theory.

Let us take another case, a real one. A theologian, a priest engaged in a religious controvery, makes a hypothesis, and it is as true as he can make it: as an argument ad hominem it is unanswerable. But suppose it to be as orthodox as the Nicene Creed, or as loyal as an oath of fealty, yet it can be turned into heresy, or into high treason, by merely taking away the supposition on which it rests. In exact proportion to its original truth and force will its falsehood and wickedness now be. In such cases the monosyllabic particle is all-powerful. Let the priest have some malicious accusers; let them suppress the conditional manner in which he spoke, and falsely ascribe an absolute statement to him, then at once he is made to affirm what he has in reality denied. Let some enemies of Catholicity, who are unwilling that their odium fidei should be detected, but who are determined on ending the priest's life, be his judges,  they will eagerly take advantage of the absence in the evidence of that short word ''if." All the priest's protests are in vain; his proffered explanation of the "whole truth" will not be listened to, simply because his death is a foregone conclusion. To keep up appearances, to condemn him ostensibly for high treason, it is necessary to fasten the crime on him ; and what more efficacious means of doing so can be conceived, than quoting one-half of his own words?

We who live in quiet times may find it difficult to conceive how a priest's death could be brought about by such knavery and bigotry; but this is what really happened to the holy martyr, Arthur MacGeoghegan, whose history is contained in the following pages. He was accused of having said, "It would be no sin to kill Charles I, King of England." The preliminary examination, before a committee of the Privy Council, was held with the utmost secrecy; it lasted three months. The State Papers, &c., contain allusions to this examination which throw considerable light on the real motives of some of the chief actors, as well as on the hopes and sentiments of their sympathizers. The subsequent proceedings in the Court of King's Bench, London, were watched with the deepest interest. On one side, the Catholics were in anxious suspense, though there could hardly be a doubt as to the ultimate issue; on the  other, the Protestants, especially those of the Puritan party,  were confident that the priest would be condemned. Both the public trial for high treason and the execution at Tyburn, on November 27th (O.S.), 1633, have been graphically described by eye-witnesses. They appear to have been the chief topic of the day. Ambassadors mentioned the occurrence in their despatches, and missionary priests wrote one, that the dangers of his position were greatly increased on account of the excited state of the London populace; another, that he had been thrown into prison on suspicion of his being a fellow-conspirator of the Irish priest; and a third, that a sudden change took place that a general belief in the Dominican's innocence was manifested immediately after his death.

In the history of the numerous martyrs of the Irish Province, we meet with few accounts so complete, and, from a certain point of view, so interesting, as that of Father Arthur MacGeoghegan. A great many of his contemporaries have given us their impressions, and have described the event minutely. We can realize it all, the whole scene seems to pass before our eyes, while, on the contrary, we know comparatively little about some others of our martyrs. They passed their days in the silence and retirement of their cloisters, where life glided calmly on unnoticed save by God, till its sudden close revealed in a moment to the world the brightness of perfect sanctity. And when the cloisters lay in ruins, the remainder of their brethren continued the missionary work of the order as long as they could do so,  till the hour came when they too sealed their preaching with heir blood. But, in either case, the death of a martyr was so common, that unless some unusual circumstances called for special mention, a place on the long roll published in various General Chapters was almost all that these heroic servants of God received.

And how few and short are the words that tell us of many a glorious end! The martyr's name, the place, the date, and sometimes not even these. Of Father Arthur's life in the cloister nothing is recorded, the account of the martyrdom in the Acts of the General Chapter, 1644, does not extend beyond eight lines as the reader may see, nor should we perhaps know more about his death than about those of many others, but for a series of extraordinary events which preceded it. Occurrences which happened outside his convent home, transactions which did not belong to his ordinary personal duty as a religious, are precisely those which have left their mark in history. During his stay in Portugal, which was at the time, as our readers know, under the dominion of Spain, Father Arthur was brought into close relations with a high Spanish official; and the faithful discharge of his duty as theological censor, his fulfilment of the trust reposed in him, and his charity, were the occasion of his subsequent arrest in London, and of his martyrdom.

As regards the various sources of information already enumerated, most of these documents are short, and their contents, especially those of the dispatches, almost identical. Without interrupting the course of our narrative we shall insert them in their proper places. In putting them before the reader for comparison, there will, occasionally, be some slight repetition; this, of course, is unavoidable where accounts coincide ; but such repetition is amply compensated for by seeing the mutual illustration which these statements afford. It is indeed most interesting to note the complete agreement that exist between all these independent accounts; for instance, between that of an English official and that of a  priest, or between that of an ambassador and that of a Dominican historian.

Among them all, three claim pre-eminence, and these accordingly have been selected to form the basis of the present article. Two of them, moreover, supplement each other. One narrates at length what took place in Lisbon, the other what happened afterwards in London; one informs us of the real cause of Father Arthur's death, of the events which originally led to it, and of the miracles that followed it; the other describes his arrest, and the scenes in the King's Bench and at Tyburn. They are respectively the Palma Fidei, by Malpe, and the Moystyn MS. Father Malpe who was Prior of the Dominican house in Brussels, says he took down from the words of eye-witnesses what he relates about the miracles. He does not indicate the source of the rest of his knowledge, but he probably heard the whole tale from the lips of some Irish Dominicans that had lived with Father Arthur in Lisbon, and had subsequently been present at his martyrdom. At the time there were a good many members of the Province in Louvain. In his description of some other martyrdoms, Malpe says his informant was a certain Irish Dominican, Father Thaddeus, who, after spending years in prison for the faith, ended his days in Flanders. Father Thaddeus, who died about 1620 (?), could not have told about Father Arthur, but after 1633 there were  several who could.

The Mostyn MS. may, perhaps, be best described by saying that it is what would be called at the present day a special correspondent's report. It has, however, a semi- official look, and it evidently is the work of a legal expert who took down minutely what he saw and heard. What it contains is more circumstantially narrated than it is even in the Palma Fidei. In those days such descriptions were often written separately or printed on a single sheet. Noblemen and others residing at a distance from London  usually got in this way the news of important trials, &c. Collections of such accounts form the series which is now known as the State Trials. But while many of them betray the author's bigotry, and are distinctly anti-Catholic in tone, the Mostyn MS. shows no sign of Protestant origin; indeed one or two phrases would almost indicate that the writer was a Catholic, or at any rate had strong sympathies with the martyr. The Mostyns were a powerful Catholic family until the time of James II., and the elder branch (Sir Piers Mostyn) still keeps the faith. The MS. has never been printed or given to the public before, and of all the English MSS. relating to any of our martyrs, it is unquestionably one of the most interesting.

The third, namely, Nicolaldi's description has many points of contact with both these accounts. It informs us of what happened both in Lisbon and in London, but it also contains a great many important details which are not in Malpe's work nor in the Mostyn MS. For instance, it is our only source of information about Father Arthur's sufferings in prison, and the efforts made for his release up to the last by Nicolaldi himself. As the document is long, and the old Spanish seems to require a translation, instead of being inserted here, both have been relegated to the appendix. This arrangement will be more convenient, and the great value of Nicolaldi's narrative will be better appreciated when one has got a clear idea of the whole transaction. As far as possible it has been sought to let each of our authorities in turn speak for himself. Many of Nicolaldi's details are passed over here, interesting though they are; only those have been introduced which clear up obscure points, or seemed necessary to prevent incidental misconceptions on the part of some readers.

Around these accounts, all the others naturally group themselves. The most important of the latter for our narrative are the Vatican account, Passio, &c., and the Carmelite. Besides giving them in extenso in the appendix, we shall sometimes have occasion here to quote them for a passing illustration. In this case they will be referred to by their initials, thus, V. C., and in the same way the Mostyn account by M., and Nicolaldi's by N. The Palma Fidei is in a sense the groundwork of our whole description of Father Arthur MacGeoghegan's career, or rather the original of which the present article is little more than a translation. It has been strictly adhered to throughout, and whatever statements are made relative to the martyr for which no authority is here given, are all to be understood as taken from it.

The greater part of Father Arthur's life as a religious was spent in Spain, where he made his ecclesiastical studies apparently at Toledo. As we saw already  during the first half of the seventeenth century, the novices of the Irish Dominican Province were on account of the persecution at home sent abroad soon after their profession some to Italy, others to Belgium or France, but the majority to Spain. In 1613 the famous Peter Lombard, Archbishop of Armagh, wrote to Philip III. in behalf of the many Irish Dominican students resident in his Catholic Majesty's realms, especially in Spain; and a list of the members of the Irish Province sent to the Propaganda in 1629, shows that there were then in Spain about fifty students. Both documents may be seen in the Spicilegium Ossoriense. In the Propaganda list we find the name of "Frater Arturus Geoghegan," the subject of the present article. He had already shown exceptional tact and aptitude for transacting difficult affairs, when after a short stay in Corpo Santo, Lisbon, which was then recently founded (begun in 1615, finally established in 1629, by  Dominic of the Rosary), he was commanded to go to Ireland in order to procure subjects for the new missionary institution. The Chronicle of the Portuguese Province in its account of Father Arthur's martyrdom states that he left Lisbon with some companions, and the Agiologia Domenicana (or Lives of Dominican Saints, &c., for Every Day in the Year), Lisbon, 1719, in the chapter which it devotes to his memory remarks that his companions on his journey homewards are all commemorated elsewhere in the work itself on their respective days as martyrs. Neither work, however, informs us who these companions were. But if their names are those which we see near his in the 1629 list, and of this there can hardly be a doubt, the little band destined to wear in heaven the crown of martyrdom consisted besides, of Terence Albert O'Brien, the future Bishop of Emly; Thaddeus O'Moriarty, and John O'Cuillain.  The first two were certainly Toledo students, as we saw in the articles just referred to; hence it is very probable that our martyr read his theology in that grand old university city; and as Terence Albert O'Brien commenced his studies there in 1622, and as our martyr said on the scaffold, "I have been eleven years in Spain" (M.), it is equally probable that he and the future bishop travelled out together.

We do riot know whether Father Arthur's companions separated from him early on their journey home, or whether they came with him as far as London. As he was already two months in England (N.) when he was apprehended in July (M. and Eex. Boll.), he is probably the person referred to in the following correspondence: "May 18th, 1633, Whitehall. Secretary Windebank, to write to Lieutenant N of Dover, to examine the Irish priest to know upon what errand he goes thither into Ireland." Endorsed by Sir John  Coke. And the answer "May 22nd, London. Sir Francis Windebank, for your Honour. The French Ambassador is gone from hence, but such course shall be taken with the priest as you have directed."  Sir John Coke was, as we shall see, one of the Privy Councillors that subsequently examined  Father MacGeoghegan. As the latter, so far as we are informed, was the only one of the young Dominicans that had business in London, it may have been judged more expedient that he should enter England alone. At that time, even though Charles I. was disposed to act leniently, and though his Queen was a devout Catholic, still it might have been dangerous for four priests to return from the Continent  together. However, they may have done so, for at this period a great many priests did go back from France to England. 

In the State Papers we find it asserted that Father MacGeoghegan had three companions. The letter dated 17th December, which contains the assertion, is addressed to Lord Newburgh who had been one of the Privy Councillors that had sent him to be tried at King's Bench. In it by mistake he is called a Jesuit. The writers, Sir Benjamin Ayloffe and Sir Thomas Wiseman, magistrates of Colchester, say that they have committed to jail a certain Francis Barrett, "for speakeing wordes which amounte to Treason  (as we conceave), being uttered in this manner. The said Brewer demanding of him if hee came from London, the said Barrett answered hee did. Then you heard, said Brewer, of a Jesuit lately executed for treason, to which hee replyed hee did, and there is Three more of the companie, but it skills not wheare theay be, I knowe not. These words Brewer, &c." It is amusing to observe the trepidation of these worthy justices of the peace, and their nervous anxiety that none of the "Jesuit's" fellow-conspirators should escape. They appear to have been at the same time desirous of impressing on Lord Newburgh that their loyalty and zeal in no small degree resembled his own. We learn also from the Mostyn MS. that when Father Arthur was apprehended in London, there were "two of his countrymen in the chamber with him who spake Irishe among themselves;" but whether they were Dominicans that had travelled with him, or only friends who came to visit him while he was in London, is quite uncertain.

But to return to himself, and the purpose of his journey homeward to the island he was never more to see. Joyfully did Father Arthur set forth on his perilous mission, which he fulfilled, as we shall now find, but in a way which he and his superiors could hardly have hoped for. The blood of martyrs had ever been the seed of Christians; it was now, moreover, to be the seed of Apostles. Father Arthur did, in fact, draw many fervent postulants to Corpo Santo, there to be clothed with the white habit and to be prepared for the toils and dangers of the Irish mission ; but the sacrifice of his own life had first to be made, the grain was to fall into the ground that it might bring forth much fruit.

The singular occurrence which, as we said above, took place during his sojourn in Lisbon, must be described here, for it is the turning-point of his life, and it eventually led to his betrayal and martyrdom In London. Father MacGeoghegan stood high in the favour of the Duke of Maqueda, Don Jorge de Cardenas y Manrique, who in 1626 was appointed Lord High Admiral of the Spanish fleets in the Atlantic (Capitan General del Mar Oceano) and Councillor of State. Malpe calls him Viceroy of Portugal; but this appears to be a mistake according to one of the greatest living authorities on Spanish history. According to this writer, there was at the time no Viceroy of Portugal, but the Duke of Villahermosa governed there as President of the Council. If this were so, it would follow that Maqueda had, properly speaking, no authority in Lisbon itself, but only over the ships which entered its port. He had been Viceroy of Sicily from 1601, the date of his father's death, until the arrival of the Duke of Feria. In 1618 he was made Governor of Oran and Meraquiver in Algiers, and when next heard of he is Admiral; and, as we shall see, Admiral he remained up to 1641, at least.  However, as two of Maqueda's own contemporaries, Malpe and Father Arthur ("at Lisbon, with the Duke of Macada, Governor there," M.; "que governava en Portugal," N.), who ought to know, state that in 1631 the Duke had authority; they must be believed, even though there is an uncertainty on our part about the duration, or the correct name of his office. The question does not affect Father Arthur's history very much; so far as it is concerned, it is enough to know that the Duke of Maqueda had a high position in the Government of Lisbon. An error, however, which may be noticed in passing is mentioned in Vincenzo Gussoni's dispatch. He writes: "It is reported that the Dominican was confessor of the Viceroy of Seville." If it is meant by this that Maqueda was Governor there, the rumour was unfounded; and it may be added, there is no trace of the confessorship in the Seville archives.

However this may be, the Duke did really avail himself of Father Arthur's services as censor of books (in Catholic countries an object of close scrutiny at the douane or custom-house) in the ordinary inspection of vessels that entered the port of Lisbon. In this capacity the Irish priest, well versed in theology, who in addition to his own language spoke at least English, Spanish, and Portuguese, rendered valuable services to all, but received a bad return from some whom he had especially befriended. It happened in this way. An English ship which had captured a Dutch one came up the Tagus with its prize, and the latter was immediately declared forfeit to the Spanish treasury in consequence of the treaty then existing between Spain and England.  But such was the address of Father MacGeoghegan, and his influence with the Lord High Admiral, that the vessel was released on the condition that some other Dutch ship when captured should within a certain time be sent to Lisbon. The English sailors also  who had been thrown into prison, either because they violated the terms of the treaty by not delivering up their prize, or because they were with good reason suspected of being secretly in league with the Dutch, so that the seizure of the vessel was a pretended one, were liberated at Father Arthur's intercession. He innocently believed the Englishmen's profession of their intention to fulfil the condition, and pledged his word for them; so they were allowed to weigh anchor and depart. The Dutch vessel with her cargo would be a valuable prize for the Spanish Exchequer; Malpe says it was worth fifty thousand florins. But the promised one never arrived, the result of which was that the Duke of Maqueda removed Father MacGeoghegan from his position of trust.

In order that that his patron should not be overreached, so far as he could prevent it, the latter then resolved to go to London on his way home, as the reader already knows. He met the captain of the ship there, told him why he came, and requested him to fulfil the engagement made with the Spanish Admiral. The captain, as if willing to keep his promise, expressed his happiness at seeing his benefactor once more, and asked him where he was staying. Father Arthur little suspecting the motive of the man's inquiry, gave his address, and before long to his utter amazement saw a number of constables enter his room to apprehend him on a charge of high treason. He knew well that his being a priest was the real and only cause of his arrest.  On the charge, however, of high treason, the one commonly resorted to against Catholics, he was taken before Lord Coventry, Keeper of the Great Seal; Sir John Coke, Secretary of State; Lord Newburgh, and Lord Falkland.

On that day, we may be sure, the humble religious felt that in all likelihood his fate was sealed, and began to prepare for death. He understood now the purpose of the captain's question. Falkland and Newburgh had issued the warrant for his arrest (M.), and the King afterwards appointed the first two noblemen to take part in the committee of inquiry (N.). All four were rank Puritans. In the Star Chamber, however, Coventry was usually on the side of clemency.  As regards Coke, Gardiner says: "He was a man without any fixed political views, except a hatred of everything that savoured of the Papacy." He was also, according to Prynne, "a most bitter hater of the Jesuits, from whom he intercepted access to the King; he entertained many according to their deserts, he diligently inquired into their factions."  The Puritan divine, perhaps, had Father MacGeoghegan's examination before his mind as he wrote these line; at any rate, we may be sure it was congenial occupation for Coke. Lord Newburgh is best known on account of his loyal adherence to Charles I. Lord Falkland, of whom more anon, was of the four most inimical to our martyr. (N.)

All were Privy Councillors. The Privy Council did not, however, act in its corporate capacity. All its extant records have been carefully searched, page by page; but nowhere is there mention of this inquiry. The King named these four to examine the prisoner; that is, to find out whether there were grounds for proceeding against him in the public law courts. Charles gave express orders that Father MacGeoghegan should not be interfered with on account of his religion; but in case he had offended against his allegiance as a subject, that justice should take its course. (C.) Malpe remarks that the Privy Counsellors, with the exception of Lord Falkland, viewed the matter very quietly, and were disposed, in appearance at least, to acquit the prisoner. ...

Lord Falkland, as he himself soon afterwards acknowledged, was punished by God for the part he took in the condemnation of Father Arthur MacGeoghegan. (V.) After his decease, however, as it would appear, the other noblemen answered the King's question in the affirmative, and instructed the Attorney General (Sir William Noye) to prosecute. The Committee of Council had made its investigation with ominous slowness. It would appear from the Mostyn MS. that the secret examination began early in August, and, from the Coram Rege Roll, that it ended late in November. The Privy Councillors were probably desirous of appearing to act irrespectively of difference in religion, or perhaps they hoped to elicit from the accused some valuable information about other ecclesiastics in England, about  private negotiations with those in Spain, &c. The writer of the Vatican MS., who was thoroughly cognizant of all the external or public facts, conjectures that Father Arthur's judges (apparently including those of the King's Bench) condemned him to death either because one of the judges bore an ill-will to him, or because they wanted to satisfy the Puritans, who were discontented, and murmuring at  Charles's clemency towards the Catholics; or, again, because they intended to strike terror into the Puritans, to deter them from reviling the King, as they were accustomed to do in conversation; or, lastly, because they wished to clear themselves from the imputation of being so partial to Catholics as was commonly said.

Salvetti, the Florentine Ambassador, who was equally well informed, writes thus: "It was a long time since any regular had been put to death; and it fell to the lot of this poor victim that in his person the old maxims of persecution should once more be put into practice; and this simply to please the Puritans, and, at the same time, to hinder the Catholic party from increasing." ....

....  And, as we shall see, the Spanish Ambassador Nicoldaldi, says (December 9th) that he had used his utmost endeavours with the King and his ministers to save the life of the martyr, but all in vain; and that he would be glad to leave a country where malice, enmity to Catholics, and lies, abound.

Meanwhile Father MacGeoghegan was a close prisoner in Newgate.  On Friday, November 22nd, he was taken from the Gatehouse Prison (Newgate), in custody of Aquila Wykes, gentleman jailor, to the court assembled at Westminster. At the bar he pleaded not guilty; and, as the Roll, has it, "thereof he put himself upon his country," or submitted his case to the justice of his fellow-countrymen. The jury was empanelled on Monday, November 25th. The Dominican was sentenced to death, and handed over to the custody of the marshal, by whom he was then taken to the Marshalsea, in Southwark, there to remain till he should be drawn on a hurdle through the middle of the city to Tyburn.  

But to return to Malpe's narrative. At length, to the general surprise, on November 25th, it was sworn in open court that Arthur MacGeoghegan was guilty of high treason of the worst possible kind. The charge was, that he asserted, in September, 1631, while in Portugal, that it would be no sin to kill the King of England, Charles I., because he was a heretic; and that if he ever got the opportunity, he would do so himself. His accusers alleged, in addition, that he had actually came to England with this regicidal intention.

The only witnesses were two companions of the captain, two merchants (V.), to whom Father Arthur had been so kind when his ship had been seized in Lisbon. Their testimony was accepted, of course. The captain deposed that he had not heard Arthur MacGeoghegan say these words, but only heard the others state that he had said them. The prisoner answered the Lord Chief Justice (Thomas Richardson, C. R. Roll) that he had never, even in thought, held that the King of England might lawfully be killed. What he had really asserted in a discussion with a man who denied free will was, that if his tenets were true, it would be no sin to take the life even of a king. He was, moreover, at the time, alone with this man, the ship's pilot, so that the captain's companions could not have overheard his words. On that occasion, he had gone on board the English ship to examine all books, as was his duty; and a Lutheran or Calvinist work which had been submitted to his judgment by the pilot was the cause of the discussion. But the malicious suppression of that little word if decided the Dominican's fate. At the time, in England, any pretext was sufficient to ensure the condemnation of a priest; Father MacGeoghegan was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, while, as a matter of course, the public crier proclaimed by the command of the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General, that he was condemned to death, not because he was a priest, nor because he was a religious, nor for any other cause connected with the Catholic creed, but because he was a criminal convicted of high treason. Many were found who openly disapproved of the iniquitous sentence, and various expedients were suggested, by which the unoffending victim might be delivered, but all in vain; the Puritans were resolved on doing away with the priest, and no time was to be lost, for they were thirsting for his blood. On the 27th of the same month he was dragged on a hurdle, through the city to Tyburn, where six thousand persons had gathered to witness his execution, when he reached it, sore and bruised as he was, he loudly expressed his happiness at being permitted to die on the spot made holy by the sufferings of all those who had given their lives there for the faith, and thanked God for the privilege. He then protested that he forgave from his heart his false accusers, and everyone else that had a hand in his death, and entreated the bystanders that if, after his death, the truth should come to light, and his innocence should be made manifest, they would intercede with the King for his enemies' pardon. He also called God to witness that he never even harboured the thought of doing that for which he was now ostensibly to be executed. Lastly, he gave expression to his grief, at not being allowed to have a confessor, but hoped that God would accept his desire, and have mercy on him; declared that he was a Dominican and a priest; then he recited the Creed, commended himself particularly to the Blessed Virgin, made the sign of the cross, and gave himself into the hands of the executioner. While actually hanging he was seen, with joy depicted on his saintly countenance, frequently to make the sign of the cross; for, in the final struggle with the powers of evil, the great truth, "In this sign thou shalt conquer," was borne in upon him with more vividness than ever before. According to the barbarous practice then customary in England, he was cut down when half dead, disembowelled, and his heart torn out. The hangman held up the heart that the crowd might gaze upon it, saying as he did so, "Behold the heart of the traitor." Instantly the body, more dead than alive, turned its eyes towards him, as if in abhorrence of the crime of treason, to reproach him with the calumny, and to protest that death was being endured for the holy Catholic faith.

...Inquiries about the martyr's burial-place have been made without result in Holland, Belgium, France, and Spain, and none of the many documents discovered up to the present gives the desired information... 

Malpe relates two prodigies which then took place, as he heard on good authority one, that when the executioner was throwing the heart, &c., into the fire prepared on such occasions, a young man in the crowd perceived that a part had fallen on the ground outside, and put it into the fire with his walking-stick, at the same time cursing the Popish priest and his belief. He had hardly done so, when he was seized with violent interior pains, and trembled like an aspen leaf from head to foot. He fell helplessly to the ground, and could only tell by faint groans the agony he was enduring when some nobleman went to his assistance.

The other wonderful occurrence that Malpe describes testifies still more clearly to Father Arthur's sanctity. Two women, who were going by chance towards Tyburn after the martyr's death, perceived that the air was redolent with fragrance, sweeter than they had ever inhaled before; and the fragrance became stronger as they approached the spot, where, to their amazement, they found that only mangled  remains were lying. Though one of the women was not a Catholic, yet she openly acknowledged that it was from the priest's dead body the heavenly aroma proceeded. A German perfumer also, who happened to pass that way, asserted, on his part, that in all his experience he had never known any odour comparable to it.

These supernatural signs, by which God glorified His servant, could not be concealed. Queen Henrietta Maria, the Catholic consort of Charles I., was informed of all that had occurred. Ever since her coming into England, Henrietta whose married life, as her god-father, Pope Urban VIII., is said to have predicted, was a series of afflictions had done all that piety and zeal could suggest for the support of the Catholic religion. In the first year of their marriage, Parliament reproached the King with having, "through the Queen's influence, spared the lives of twenty priests who had been condemned to die as
traitors; " and, later on, Buckingham had the insolence to tell his sovereign "to beware how she behaved, for in England queens had their heads cut off before now."

Notwithstanding this dastardly opposition and persecution, which must have cost her many a tear, the Queen held out courageously, and as an angel of peace calmly continued her mission of doing good. One of her favourite practices of devotion was a pilgrimage to Tyburn. She went as an act of reparation to the memory of those who had unjustly suffered there, and as a public profession of the veneration in which she held the martyrs. To her the spot was hallowed and dear, even though, while she knelt there, as Queen of England she could not but fear that it called to heaven for vengeance on many of her blinded subjects.

She had now a new reason for sorrow. For the first time in her own reign a martyr's blood had been shed at Tyburn. She communicated to Charles the sad tidings of Father MacGeoghegan's execution, and the King, in consequence, ordered an investigation of the whole trial to be made, with the result that the sentence of condemnation was retrospectively reversed when too late. All, however, that could  be done in atonement was faithfully performed: the King ordered that the quartered remains of the victim of the Star Chamber should not be exposed to view. ...

Public opinion certainly branded the action of all concerned in the priest's execution as one of consummate  iniquity. Rechac says that the judges acknowledged they had done wrong, but pleaded in self-defence that they had been imposed upon. However, notwithstanding all their protestations of impartiality, the occasion was seized for a renewal of hostilities against the Catholics. The accusation  which the judges had now reluctantly acknowledged to be false was nevertheless made a pretext for the necessity of taking further precautions for the King's safety, and by the very party which, a few years later, was to rebel against him, and to send him, too, to the scaffold...

Let us now see what befell some of the witnesses. The report of Father MacGeoghegan's fate soon reached people in Spain, and naturally created intense indignation against those who had sworn his life away. One of them [Henry Elzey of Southampton] was not slow in asking the Privy Council to indemnify him for the losses he sustained thereby, as well as to reimburse him for his travelling expenses...

We have not met his name before; but the name, Elsey of Southampton, occurs elsewhere in the State Papers in a letter to Sir John Coke, and there is also in the same collection a letter from a John Ellzey, Southampton, to the Secretary of the Admiralty, Nicholas, who was so desirous of seeing Father MacGeoghegan hanged,

A word about the betrayer, Captain Bust, and we have done. He appears also to have been rewarded according to his deserts. His petition for aid shows that Father Arthur's death was long remembered by the Duke of Maqueda.

"Edward Bust was Capt & Henry Fabian Mr wth him of a shipp in a voyadge to Lisbon 8 yeares now past, where abord the said shipp Arthur Graogan,an Irish preist, threatned to take away his Majts life.

"About 12 months after Capt. Bust did aprehend the said preist in London, whoe was tryed at the Kinges bench barr, & there convicted, and suffered death at Tyburne according to his demerrits.

"Since wch time neither the said Capt. nor Mr durst travell into those parts by reason of threats against themselves and their company for the death of the said preiste.

" This winter Fabian went to Barselona, where the Duke of Makeda is Admirall of the Spanish fleete, who was informed of Fabians beinge there, and therupon gave order for his present aprehendinge & execution, wh. Fabian had notice of by an English man, whoe is guner of the Admiral('s) Gaily, by whose helpe & the assistance of the company of 3 Dartmouth shipps he escaped, though the said shipps were serched for him.

" The Duke hath sollemly vowed to execute all that he can take that were in the said shipp wth Capt. Bust 8 years since, as the said guner enformed, w ch Fabian is able to prove by the testimony of above 40 men belonging to the Dartmouth shipps.

" Edward Bust being comanded by the Lords of his Mats most honoble Councell to attend hys tryall, whoe was then bound to sea, to trade between the Straights and the Spanish dominions, lost his imployment & before 6 monthes were past heard of these threats, therefore durst not since follow his usuall imployments, being forced to live heere wholly upon expence these 7 yeres, to the utter undooing of himself and his.

" Both pray to be releeved by some speedy imployment in his Mats Navy, & to be secured by the Spanish Embasador if they shall finde occasion to travell into those parts.

" And shall dayly pray, &c."

Such were the misfortunes that overtook Father Arthur's enemies, such was the just retribution of their crime. While events were passing thus on earth, never-ending glory was, we believe, the reward of the Dominican in heaven. He had confessed his Lord and Master before men, and now was honoured for it by angels and saints. Let us hope that the day may soon come when the Church on earth will unite with the Church triumphant in celebrating the martyr's praises.


Rev. Reginald Walsh, O.P., 'Some of Our Martyrs', Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 3rd series, Volume XV (1894), 885-916.

I have been unable to find out exactly where the cause of Father Arthur Mac Geoghegan currently stands. He was featured in the 1907 supplementary Catalogus Secundus of Irish Martyrs whose causes were submitted to Rome but I was surprised to see that his name does not appear to have then been translated to the 1918 Official List. It is customary for the cause of a martyr to fall under the jurisdiction of the bishop in whose diocese he was martyred. All of those executed at Tyburn thus fell under the remit of the Diocese of Westminster and had their causes included with those of the English Martyrs. However, I have been unable to find his name among the lists of the English martyrs either. I do hope that he hasn't been lost or overlooked somewhere between Ireland and England, it would grieve me to think that he has suffered another injustice.

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