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Ven. Thomas Pickering



Lay brother and martyr, a member of an old Westmoreland family, b. c. 1621; executed at Tyburn, 9 May, 1679. He was sent to the Benedictine monastery of St. Gregory at Douai, where he took vows as a lay brother in 1660. In 1665 he was sent to London, where, as steward or procurator to the little community of Benedictines who served the queen's chapel royal, he became known personally to the queen and Charles II; and when in 1675, urged by the parliament, Charles issued a proclamation ordering the Benedictines to leave England within a fixed time, Pickering was allowed to remain, probably on the ground that he was not a priest. In 1678 came the pretended revelations of Titus Oates, and Pickering was accused of conspiring to murder the king. No evidence except Oates's word was produced and Pickering's innocence was so obvious that the queen publicly announced her belief in him, but the jury found him guilty, and with two others he was condemned to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The king was divided between the wish to save the innocent men and fear of the popular clamour, which loudly demanded the death of Oates's victims, and twice within a month the three prisoners were ordered for execution and then reprieved. At length Charles remitted the execution of the other two, hoping that this would satisfy the people and save Pickering from his fate. The contrary took place, however, and 26 April, 1679, the House of Commons petitioned for Pickering's execution. Charles yielded and the long-deferred sentence was carried out on the ninth of May. A small piece of cloth stained with his blood is preserved among the relics at Downside Abbey.

The Tryals of William Ireland, Thomas Pickering and John Grove for conspiring to murder the king … (London, 1678); An exact abridgment of all the Trials … relating to the popish and pretended protestant plots in the reigns of Charles II and James II (London, 1690), 464; DODD, Church History of England, III (Brussels, 1742), 318; CHALLONER, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, II (London, 1742), 376; OLIVER, Collections illustrating the History of the Catholic Religion in Cornwall, Devon, etc. (London, 1847), 500; CORKER, Remonstrance of piety and innocence (London, 1683), 178; WELDON, Chronological Notes on the English Congregation of the Order of St. Benedict, ed. DOLAN (Worcester, 1881), 219; Downside Review, II (London, 1883), 52-60.

G. ROGER HUDLESTON








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