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His parents were recusant Catholic, but he was conforming Anglican for some time. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, and took his degree as BA in 1581. He then lived for some years in London.
He witnessed the execution of Edward Stransham in 1586. Strongly impressed with this example, he left England and was ordained priest in 1587 at Reims. Returning to England in 1589, he worked for six years on the borders of Warwickshire; in connection with his life many persons are mentioned who were contemporaries or friends of Shakespeare.
In January, 1595, a special commission was sent down to Stratford-on-Avon to search the house of Mrs Heaths who had engaged his services as tutor to her son. William Freeman was arrested, and spent seven months in prison. He denied his priesthood, but also refused all offers to escape. Owing to the treachery of a fellow-prisoner, William Gregory, he was at last sentenced as a seminary priest and in spite of a protest of loyalty, suffered the death of a traitor at Warwick.