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William Exmew

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Blessed William Exmew, (c.?-1535) was an English Catholic priest, Carthusian monk and martyr. Exmew was beatified by Pope Leo XIII, on 9 December 1886.


He studied at Christ's College, Cambridge, and became a proficient classical scholar. Entering the London Charterhouse, he was soon raised to the office of vicar and in 1534 he was named procurator. He had a particular reputation for learning. The government was at first anxious to secure the public acquiescence of the monks of the London Charterhouse in this matter, since for the austerity and sincerity of their mode of life they enjoyed great prestige. When there was unexpected resistance, the only alternative was terror. On 4 May 1535 the authorities sent to their death at Tyburn Tree three leading English Carthusians, John Houghton, prior of the London house, Robert Lawrence and Augustine Webster, respectively priors of Beauvale and Axholme. Two days later William Exmew and the vicar, Humphrey Middlemore, were denounced to Thomas Cromwell by Thomas Bedyll, one of the royal commissioners, as being "obstinately determined to suffer all extremities rather than to alter their opinion" with regard to the primacy of the pope. Three weeks later they and another monk of the community, Sebastian Newdigate, were arrested and thrown into the Marshalsea, where they were made to stand in chains, bound to posts, and were left in that position for thirteen days. After that, they were removed to the Tower of London. Named in the same indictment as Bishop John Fisher, they were brought to trial at Westminster, on 11 June and pleaded not guilty to high treason, but were also stern in asserting their adhesion to Catholic Church teaching on the subject of spiritual supremacy and denied that King Henry VIII had any right to the title of head of the Church of England. They were consequently condemned to death as traitors, and were hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn Tree on 19 June. This process of attrition was to claim fifteen of the London Carthusians.

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

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