Robert Southwell SJ 1561-1595
Robert Southwell SJ 1561-1595

Robert Southwell SJ

One of the forty English martyr saints, Robert Southwell is widely known for his poetry. Born around 1561 at Horsham St Faith and brought up in a family of Norfolk gentry, he boarded at the English College at Douai but studied at the associated French Jesuit College of Anchin. When applying for entrance into the Society in Rome, he was only admitted after having written a heartfelt appeal against a first refusal.  He eventually joined in 1580. After ordination in 1584 he served as prefect of studies in the English College in Rome.  Two years later he was sent at his own request on a mission to England, where he secretly went from one Catholic family to another.  Notably, in 1589 he became domestic chaplain to Lady Ann Dacre, whose husband, Philip Howard, was then imprisoned and would remain so until his death in October 1595. Southwell himself was arrested after six years of missionary work and was held in prison for more than three years, suffering severe deprivation.  Finally, he was executed at Tyburn on 21 February 1595. With 39 others, including Philip Howard, he was canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970. His feast is 1st December.