Blessed George Haydock

Blessed George Haydock is an English martyr, he was born in 1556 and was the youngest son of Evan Haydock of Cottam Hall, Lancashire, and Helen, daughter of William Westby of Mowbreck Hall, Lancashire, was educated at the English Colleges at Douai and Rome and ordained priest (apparently at Reims) on the 21st December, 1581.

Soon after landing in London he was arrested and spent fifteen months in the strictest confinement in the Tower while still suffering from the effects of a severe malarial fever first contracted in the early summer of 1581 when visiting the seven churches of Rome.

About May, 1583, though he remained in the Tower, his imprisonment was relaxed to “free custody”, and he was able to administer the Sacraments to his fellow prisoners.

During the first period of his captivity he was accustomed to decorate his cell with the name and arms of the pope scratched or drawn in charcoal on the door or walls and throughout his career his devotion to the papacy amounted to a passion.  It therefore gave him particular pleasure that on the feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome (16th January) he and other priests imprisoned in the Tower were examined at the Guildhall by the recorder about their beliefs though he frankly confesses it was with reluctance that he was eventually obliged to declare that the queen was a heretic and so seal his fate.

On 5 February, 1584, he was indicted for having conspired against the queen but although he pleaded not guilty he was sentenced to death and executed at Tyburn on the 12th February, 1584.

An eyewitness gave an account of the martyrdom which Father Pollen, S.J., has printed in the fifth volume of the Catholic Record Society where George Haydock is described as “A man of complexion fayre, of countenance milde and in professing of his faith passing stoute”.  He had been reciting prayers all the way and, as he mounted the cart, said aloud the last verse of “Te lucis ante terminum”.  He acknowledged Elizabeth as his rightful queen but confessed that he had called her a heretic.  He then recited secretly a Latin hymn, refused to pray in English with the people but desired that all Catholics would pray for him and his country.

At this point, one bystander cried “Here be noe Catholicks” and another “We be all Catholicks” whereupon George Haydock explained “I meane Catholicks of the Catholick Roman Church and I pray God that my bloud may encrease the Catholick faith in England”.  Then the cart was driven away, and though “the officer strock at the rope sundry times before he fell downe”, Haydock was alive when he was disembowelled.

George Haydock was the first of five priests to be executed on the same day.