Edmund Campion

Saint Edmund Campion, Jesuit Priest

(Edmund Campion, martyr and Roman Catholic Saint, touched and inspired many during his lifetime and has continued to do so over the four hundred years since his execution. His impact on one individual in particular is demonstrated in Tony Thistlewood’s historical novel When the Time is Ripe. He is also quoted in surprising circumstances in the contemporary mystery Stealing Tomorrow's Thunder.)

Edmund Campion, through his eloquence and humour, his intellect and compassion, his unshakeable faith and his incredible courage in the face of diabolical torture, became one of the most inspirational characters in British history.

His brilliance as an orator was soon recognised. At the age of fifteen, already a scholar at Oxford, he was chosen to make the welcoming speech to Queen Mary I on her visit to that University. Later, Lord Burghley described Campion as ‘an English diamond’, but how things were to change!

Ironically, Campion’s charisma was his undoing. He became the focus for Catholics in England to such an extent that Queen Elizabeth and her chief ministers, despite their admiration for the man, could not let him go unchecked. A priest hunter called George Eliot, a known rapist and murderer employed by the Earl of Leicester, finally tracked Campion down at Lyrford Grange near Wantage (then in Berkshire, now Oxfordshire). Campion was arrested and taken to the Tower of London where he was questioned by three prominent courtiers: the Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Bromley; Sir Christopher Hatton who later succeeded Bromley as Lord Chancellor; and the Queen’s favourite, Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl of Leicester.

The forty-one-year-old Jesuit was held in such high esteem that these three powerful men offered to make him Archbishop of Canterbury, if he agreed to recant his faith. He refused. And so, on the 21st November 1581, Campion was found guilty of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

On hearing the sentence of the court, Campion said: ‘If our religion do make us traitors, we are worthy to be condemned; but otherwise we are and have been as true subjects as ever the Queen had.”
A harsh sentence, indeed, for a true subject whose only sin was to worship God in a different way.

It took until 1970 for Edmund Campion SJ to be canonized by Pope Paul VI as one of the forty English and Welsh Catholic Martyrs who gave their lives for their religion between 1535 and 1679. Saint Philip Howard, who was inspired by Campion, was canonized at the same time.

Snapshot Bio of Saint Edmund Campion SJ

Date of Birth:

    24th January 1540

Place of Birth:


Date of Death:

  • Hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn on 1st December 1581. He was 41 years of age. The ropes used in Campion’s execution still exist and are on display at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire.


    Christ’s Hospital School.
    St John’s College, Oxford.

The impact Edmund Campion made on Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, is evident in Tony Thistlewood's novel:

When the Time is Ripe

And Campion is also quoted in surprising circumstances in Tony Thistlewood's contemporary mystery:

Stealing Tomorrow's Thunder

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