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Richard Gwyn

(c. 1537—1584) martyr and Welsh-language poet


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(c.1537–1584), martyr. Born at Llanidloes (Montgomeryshire, now Powys), he was educated mainly at St John's College, Cambridge. He then returned home and became a schoolmaster at Overton (Flintshire, now Clywd), where he married and eventually had six children, of whom three survived. As a recusant he was threatened with imprisonment by the bishop of Chester if he did not attend his local church: for a time he conformed but later repented, moved to Overstock, and opened another school. One day he was recognized in Wrexham, was arrested, but soon escaped. The next year (1580) the Privy Council told the bishops to be more vigilant against all recusants, especially schoolmasters. Only a month later, Gwyn was arrested again and imprisoned in Ruthin Castle. On his repeated refusal to conform, he was placed in irons; once he was forcibly taken to church in Wrexham, where he rattled his chains so loudly that the preacher could not make himself heard. He was released, then fined for recusancy and fined again: when he could no longer pay, he was imprisoned and placed in the stocks.

At his eighth assize in Wrexham he was accused of treason for reconciling one man to the Catholic Church (the evidence was both false and bought), and for maintaining the supremacy of the pope. He was finally condemned to death for refusing to recognize the queen as Head of the Church in England. On the scaffold he acknowledged Elizabeth as the lawful queen of England, denied all treason, but still refused to admit she was Head of the Church. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on 15 October, the protomartyr of Welsh recusants. He was canonized by Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Feast: 25 October.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.


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