Imprisonment, torture and disputations
Imprisoned for four days in the Tower of London in a tiny cell called “Little-ease”, Campion was then taken out and questioned by three Privy Councillors—Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Bromley, Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household Sir Christopher Hatton and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester—on matters including whether he acknowledged Queen Elizabeth to be the true Queen of England. He replied that he did, and was offered his freedom, wealth and honours, including a possibility of the Archbishopric of Canterbury,:pp.32–33 which he could not accept in good conscience.
Campion was imprisoned in the Tower more than four months and tortured on the rack two:p.33 or three times. False reports of a retraction and of a confession by Campion were circulated. He had four public disputations with his Anglican adversaries, on 1, 18, 23 and 27 September 1581, at which they attempted to address the challenges of Campion’s Brag and Decem Rationes. Although still suffering from the effects of his torture, and allowed neither time nor books for preparation, he reportedly conducted himself so easily and readily that “even the spectators in the court looked for an acquittal”.:p.33
He was arraigned and indicted on 14 November 1581 with several others at Westminster on a charge of having conspired, in Rome and Reims, to raise a sedition in the realm and dethrone the Queen.
Trial, sentence and execution
The trial was held on 20 November 1581. After hearing the pleadings for three hours, the jury deliberated an hour before delivering its verdict: Campion and his fellow defendants were found guilty of treason. He answered the verdict: “In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England — the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter.”
Lord Chief Justice Wray read the sentence: “You must go to the place from whence you came, there to remain until ye shall be drawn through the open city of London upon hurdles to the place of execution, and there be hanged and let down alive, and your privy parts cut off, and your entrails taken out and burnt in your sight; then your heads to be cut off and your bodies divided into four parts, to be disposed of at Her Majesty’s pleasure. And God have mercy on your souls. .”
On hearing the death sentence, Campion and the other condemned men broke into the words of the Te Deum. After spending his last days in prayer he was dragged with two fellow priests, Fathers Ralph Sherwin and Alexander Briant, toTyburn where the three were hanged, drawn and quartered on 1 December 1581. Campion was 41 years of age.
Veneration and feast day
Edmund Campion was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 9 December 1886. Blessed Edmund Campion was canonisednearly eighty-four years later in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales with a commonfeast day of 4 May. His feast day is celebrated on 1 December, the day of his martyrdom.
The actual ropes used in his execution are now kept in glass display tubes at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire; each year they are placed on the altar of St Peter’s Church for Mass to celebrate Campion’s feast day—which is always a holiday for the school.