Monday, August 29, 2005

August 29 -- Saint Richard Herst

from Bowden's "Mementoes of the Confessors and Martyrs of England and Wales":

Richard Herst's story is one of the strangest in all the records of the English martyrs. He was hanged, ostensibly for wilful murder. He was a well-off yeoman farmer in Lancashire and a recusant, and one day in 1628, while he was ploughing, three men came to arrest him. One of the men, named Dewhurst, received a blow from Herst's maid, and in the heat of pursuit fell and broke his leg. From that wound in the leg he died; Herst, who had never been within thirty yards of him, was charged with his death. Pardon was offered him if he would take the oath forbidden to Catholics; he refused, and declined also to go to church, so he was trailed there by his legs to hear a sermon: he lay on the floor with his fingers in his ears. At his trial at Lancaster, though his innocence was evident (Dewhurst himself having said his fall was an accident), the judge told the jury that he was a recusant, had resisted the bishop's authority, and that they must find it murder for an example, which was done. At the gallows Herst said to the hangman, who was bungling with the rope, "Tom, I think I must come and help you." He was done to death at Lancaster on 29 August 1628, leaving six children and one unborn.