After serving as a cook in the English colleges of Douai, France
and Valladolid, Spain, the young Englishman Ralph Ashley sought admission to the Jesuit Order, but ill health compelled him to head back to England before he could complete his novitiate. Along the way, Ralph was captured by Dutch Protestants and detained by them. Nonetheless, in March of 1598, he managed to reach his native land, where he became a Jesuit lay brother and an assistant to the Jesuit priest, (Blessed) Edward Oldcorne. The two worked together in the service of England's persecuted Catholics for the next eight years, until they were both captured by the Protestant English authorities. They were subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London, where Ralph was tortured with another Jesuit lay brother, (Blessed) Nicholas Owen. Ralph was tried and condemned to death with Father Oldcorne. The latter was executed first, after which Ralph kissed the martyred priest's feet, declaring, "How happy I am to follow in the steps of my sweet father."