Leanda de Lisle

A Catholic Icon

The Trials of Margaret Clitherow: Persecution, Martyrdom and the Politics of Sanctity in Elizabethan England


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In her York prison Margaret Clitherow practised for her execution. She stripped naked and put on a crude linen shift she had made, unstitched at the sides. Then she lay flat on the stones. The next day, 25 March 1586, she lay down again, this time with weights laid over her, and was crushed to death. In 1970 the Catholic Church declared her a saint. But as Peter Lake and Michael Questier reveal, her fate was not only a consequence of Protestant persecution, but of a bitter ideological war between Catholics.

The arrival of Mary Stuart in England in 1568 had prompted a Catholic revival in the north. The hope was that Mary would succeed Elizabeth. In the meantime the question for Catholics was to what extent they should

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