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William Ireland (1636 - 24 January 1679) was an English Jesuit from Lincolnshire. He was executed during the reign of King Charles II for participating in the alleged but fabricated "Popish Plot" against the king. He is a Catholic martyr, beatified in 1929.[1]


Ireland was the eldest son of William Ireland of Crofton Hall, Yorkshire, by Barbara, a daughter of Ralph Eure of Washingborough, Lincolnshire, by his first wife. Ireland was educated at the English College, St. Omer; admitted to the Society of Jesus at Watten, 1655; professed, 1673; and was for several years confessor to the Poor Clares at Gravelines.[2]

In 1677, Ireland was sent on the English Mission and appointed procurator of the province. On the night of 28 September 1678, he was arrested by constables led by Titus Oates, and taken before the privy council. Among those who shared his fate was John Grove, a layman and the nominal occupier of that part of Wild House, London, occupied by the Jesuits and the Spanish ambassador; also Thomas Jenison and John Fenwick. Together with Thomas Pickering, Ireland and Grove were said to have planned on 19 August, in the rooms of the Jesuit William Harcourt, to assassinate the king Charles II at Newmarket. Oates and William Bedloe swore that Grove was to have £1500 for the job and Pickering 30,000 Masses. The sworn testimony of Gates and Bedloe impressed the jury, and Chief Justice William Scroggs summed up against Ireland.[3]

After confinement in Newgate Prison, Ireland was sentenced to death on 17 December. Ireland wrote a journal in Newgate, which accounted for every day of his absence from London between 3 August and 14 September, but a Sarah Pain swore that she saw him in Fetter Lane on 20 August. After two reprieves Ireland and Grove were executed together at Tyburn, Grove saying: "We are innocent, we lose our lives wrongfully, we pray God to forgive them that are the causes of it." A deposition against Ireland's alibi was subsequently published by Robert Jenison, and further charges were brought against Ireland in John Smith's Narrative containing a further Discovery of the Popish Plot of 1679.[3]


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWikisource-logo.svg "[[s: (DNB00)|]]". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900. London: Smith, Elder & Co.  This article incorporates text from the entry Ven. William Ireland in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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