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Thomas Pickering (martyr)

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Blessed Thomas Pickering (c. 1621 - 9 May 1679) was a Benedictine lay brother who served in England during the time of recusancy. He was martyred as a result of the fraudulent claims of Titus Oates that he was part of a plot to murder King Charles II.

Born in Westmorland, England, he entered the English Benedictine monastery of St. Gregory at Douai (now at Downside Abbey, Somerset) and took vows as a lay brother in 1660.

In 1665, he was sent to London to be steward for the Benedictine monks who served the chapel of Catherine of Braganza, the Catholic wife of King Charles II. There he became known personally to the Queen and Charles II; and when in 1675, urged by the parliament, Charles issued a proclamation ordering the Benedictines to leave England within a fixed time, Pickering was allowed to remain, probably on the grounds that he was not a priest.

In 1678, Titus Oates made claims of Catholic plots against the King's life, and Pickering was accused of being part of this conspiracy. No evidence except Oates's word was produced and Pickering's innocence was so obvious that the Queen publicly announced her belief in him, saying that she could not accept that he was a risk to the royal family: "I should have more fear to be alone in my chamber with a mouse". Nonetheless, the jury found him guilty, and with two others he was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The king was divided between the wish to save the innocent men and fear of the popular clamour, which loudly demanded the death of Oates's victims, and twice within a month the three prisoners were ordered for execution and then reprieved. At length Charles remitted the execution of the other two, hoping that this would satisfy the people and save Pickering from his fate. However, on 26 April 1679, the House of Commons petitioned for Pickering's execution. Charles yielded, and on 9 May 1679, Pickering was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn.

He was beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1929.

References

  • Bede Camm (1931) Nine Martyr Monks, pp. 344–348.

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

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