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John Hambley (martyr)

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The Venerable John Hambley (died 1587) was an English Catholic and martyr, who died during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Born and educated in Cornwall, Hambley was converted to Catholicism by reading one of Robert Persons' books in 1582. He studied at Rheims from 1583 to 1585 and then returned and worked in the Western Counties for around a year. Around Easter 1586, he was betrayed and captured, then tried and condemned at Taunton; however, he denied his faith to save his life and then broke prison. Having fled to Salisbury, he continued his labors there until the next August. Then, on the eve of the Assumption, the Protestant Bishop of Salisbury decided to search the houses of local Catholics, suspecting that he might catch a priest saying mass. During the raids Hambley was recaptured. Now worse off than ever, he became even more afraid than before and gave up the names of most of his Catholic friends, as well as denied his faith. Once again, he was free. Then, on the next Easter, he was tried again. This third time though, he did not break, and was executed near Salisbury, "standing to it manfully, and inveighing much against his former fault".

No one is sure what caused him to stand firm during his final arrest. One contemporary, Father Warford, believed it was due to his guardian angel, but another, Father Gerard, with great probability, states that his strength came from a fellow prisoner, Thomas Pilchard, who later became a martyr himself.

This article incorporates text from the entry Ven. John Hambley in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.


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