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Bl. Humphrey Middlemore

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English Carthusian martyr, date of birth uncertain; d. at Tyburn, London, 19 June, 1535. His father, Thomas Middlemore of Edgbaston, Warwickshire, represented one of the oldest families in that county, and had acquired his estate at Edgbaston by marriage with the heiress of Sir Henry Edgbaston; his mother was Ann Lyttleton, of Pillaton Hall, Staffordshire. Attracted to the Carthusian Order, he was professed at the Charterhouse, London, ordained, and subsequently appointed to the office of procurator. Although few details of his life have come down, it is certain that he was greatly esteemed for his learning and piety by the prior, [Saint] John Houghton, and by the community generally. In 1534 the question of Henry VIII's marriage with Anne Boleyn arose to trouble conscientious Catholics, as the king was determined that the more prominent of his subjects should expressly acknowledge the validity of the marriage, and the right of succession of any issue therefrom. Accordingly, the royal commissions paid a visit to the Charterhouse, and required the monks to take the oath to that effect. Father [John] Houghton and Father Humphrey refused, and were, in consequence, imprisoned in the Tower; but, after a month's imprisonment, they were persuaded to take the oath conditionally, and were released. In the following year Father John was executed for refusing to take the new oath of supremacy, and Father Humphrey became vicar of the Charterhouse. Meanwhile, Thomas Bedyll, one of the royal commissioners, had again visited the Charterhouse, and endeavoured, both by conversation and writing, to shake the faith of Father Humphrey and his community in the papal supremacy. His efforts left them unmoved, and, after expostulating with them in a violent manner, he obtained authority from Thomas Cromwell to arrest the vicar and two other monks [ Blessed Sebastian Newdigate and Blessed William Exmew ], and throw them into prison, where they were treated with inhuman cruelty, being bound to posts with chains round their necks and legs, and compelled so to remain day and night for two weeks. They were then brought before the council, and required to take the oath. Not only did they refuse, but justified their attitude by able arguments from Scripture and the Fathers in favour of the papal claims. They were accordingly condemned to death, and suffered at Tyburn with the greatest fortitude and resignation.

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[ Note: Humphrey Middlemore, Sebastian Newdigate, and William Exmew were beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. John Houghton was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, whose joint feast day is kept on 25 October.]

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