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Margaret Ward

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Margaret Ward (died 30 August 1588) was an English Catholic martyr who was executed during the reign of Elizabeth I for helping a priest to escape from prison. Her date of birth is unknown, but she was born in Congleton, Cheshire.

Hearing that Fr. William Watson was confined at Bridewell Prison, she obtained permission to visit him. She was thoroughly searched before and after early visits, but gradually the authorities became less cautious, and she managed to smuggle a rope into the prison. Fr. Watson escaped, but hurt himself in so doing, and left the rope hanging from the window. The boatman whom Ward had engaged to take him down the river then refused to carry out the bargain. Ward, in her distress, confided in another boatman, John Roche, who undertook to assist her. He provided a boat, and exchanged clothes with the priest. Fr. Watson got away, but Roche was captured in his place, and Ward, having been Fr. Watson's only visitor, was also arrested.

Margaret Ward was kept in irons for eight days, was hung up by the hands, and scourged, but absolutely refused to disclose the priest's whereabouts. At her trial, she admitted to having helped Fr. Watson to escape, and rejoiced in "having delivered an innocent lamb from the hands of those bloody wolves". She was offered a pardon if she would attend a Protestant service, but refused. She was hanged at Tyburn on 30 August 1588, along with Edward Shelley, Richard Martin, Richard Flower and John Roche.

Margaret Ward was canonized by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Her feast day, along with that of the other thirty-nine martyrs, is on 25 October. However, in certain Roman Catholic dioceses of England & Wales, such as the Dioceses of Shrewsbury, Birmingham and Leeds, she shares a feast day with fellow female martyr saints, Margaret Clitherow and Anne Line on 30 August.

There are several schools named after her, including a Catholic high school and performing arts college in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, which counts the singer Robbie Williams among its alumni.

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