Sunday, April 2, 2017

St. John Payne and His Pains

On April 2, 1582, Father John Payne, who had come to England with Father Cuthbert Mayne, to serve the Catholics of England, was martyred at Chelmsford, Colchester, Essex:

St. John Payne was an English Catholic Priest and Martyr. He was born in Peterborough in 1532. He was a mature man when he went to the English College at Douai in 1574. The Archbishop of Cambrai ordained him a Priest on April 7, 1576. Shortly after being ordained, he left for the English mission with another Priest, Cuthbert Mayne. Mayne headed for his native South West England, and Payne headed for Essex. In early July 1851, he and another who had come to England were arrested in Warwickshire while staying at the estate of Lady Petre. It was through the efforts of George “Judas” Eliot, a known criminal, murderer, rapist and thief, who made a career out of denouncing Catholics and Priests for bounty. After being examined at Greenwich, they were committed to the Tower of London on July 14th. Eliot was a Catholic, and had been employed in positions of trust in the Petre household where he had embezzled sums of money. He enticed a young woman to marry him, and then approached Fr. Payne. When he refused, Elliot was determined to make his revenge, and a profit as well, by turning him in.

Fr. John Payne was indicted at Chelmsford on March 22, on a charge of treason for conspiring to murder the Queen and her leading officers. John denied the charges, and affirmed his loyalty to the Queen in all that was lawful; contesting the reliability of the murderer Eliot how had turned him in. No attempt was made to corroborate Eliot’s story, which had been well rehearsed. The guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion. 

Note that George Eliot also gave false evidence against St. Edmund Campion and his companions in 1581. The "Lady Petre" mentioned was the widow of Sir William Petre, the former Anne Browne. The "other" who was arrested with Father Payne was Father George Godsalf, whom Payne had called back to the Catholic Church and who had been ordained at Douai in 1577. He was not executed by the Elizabethan regime, but held in prison for several years, finally released from Marshalsea in 1585 and dying in Paris in 1592.

Although the verdict was a foregone conclusion, authorities almost lost control of the execution:

At his execution, he was dragged from prison on a hurdle to the place of execution and first prayed on his knees for almost thirty minutes. He then kissed the scaffold, made a profession of faith, and publicly declared his innocence. He was called upon to repent of his treason, and again, Payne denied it. A Protestant minister shouted out that he knew of Payne’s treason, from his brother, years prior. Fr. Payne admitted that his brother was an earnest Protestant, but that he would never had said such a lie. Fr. Payne asked that his brother who was in the same vicinity, be brought in and asked. The execution proceeded and John Payne was at their mercy. What was supposed to be a smooth, quiet execution was anything but that. The crowd had become so sympathetic to John Payne that they hung on his feet to speed up his death and prevented the infliction of the quartering until he was dead. 

St. Cuthbert Mayne, with whom St. John Payne returned to England is the protomartyr of the recusant era, executed for treason in 1577 on November 29. Mayne and Payne: They are both among the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. There is a parish named for St. John Payne in Colchester.

St. John Payne, pray for us!
St. Cuthbert Mayne, pray for us!

Image credit: Used by Permission: Ingatestone Hall, May 2003

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