Raised in a piously Catholic family. Educated at Douai and at Paris, France. Joined the Jesuits in 1580. Prefect of studies in the English College at Rome, Italy. Ordained in 1584. Returned to England in 1586 to minister to covert Catholics, working with Henry Garnett. Chaplain to Ann Howard, wife of Saint Philip Howard, in 1589. Wrote a number of pamphlets on living a pious life. Arrested in 1595 for the crime of being a priest. Repeatedly tortured in hopes of learning the location of other priests. He was so badly treated in prison that his family petitioned for a quick trial, knowing that his certain death would be better than the conditions in which he was housed. He spent three years imprisoned in the Tower of London, and was tortured on the rack ten times; between abuses he studied the Bible and wrote poetry. He was finally tried and convicted for treason, having admitted that he administered the Sacraments. One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
- hanged, drawn and quartered on 21 February 1595 in Tyburn, London, England
- while hanging, he repeatedly made the sign of the cross
- onlookers tugged at his legs to help him die quicker
- Book of Saints, by the Monks of Ramsgate
- Catholic Encyclopedia
- Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
- Katherine Rabenstein
- Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints
- Renaissance English Literature, by Anniina Jokinen
- The 105 Martyrs of Tyburn
- A Short Rule of Good Life
- Epistle of Comfort
- Humble Supplication to Queen Elizabeth
- Mary Magdalen’s Tears
- Triumphs over Death
As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.
- The Burning Babe, by Saint Robert Southwell
- “Saint Robert Southwell“. Saints.SQPN.com. 17 May 2013. Web. 18 June 2013. <>