Robert Southwell was born in 1561 in Norfolk, England. In due course he went to the Catholic college at Douai in 1580, joining the Society of Jesus. He was a poet and a scholar. His poetry had a profound influence on the moral climate of the age. He soon came to England as a Jesuit missionary, moving from one Catholic family to another, working as a priest. After six years of successful priestly work, Southwell was arrested and imprisoned in the gatehouse of Holborn. Transferred to the gatehouse at Westminster, he suffered such abominable treatment so that his father petitioned Elizabeth that he might be brought to trial. He was then lodged in the Tower, but he not
brought to trial until February 1595. He wrote much of his poetry while in prison. “Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live; Not where I love, but where I am, I die.” On the 10th of February 1595, he faced trialbefore the King’s Bench on the charge of treason. On the following day at Tyburn, he briefly addressed the people: “I am come hither to play out the last act of this poor life.” He protested his innocence of any treason and prayed for the salvation of the Queen and country. The crowd made such a commotion about the brutal method of execution, that the executioners allowed him to die before they butchered his body. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, canonized in 1970.