Campion's trial to be reviewed in Tyburn Lecture

The trial of one of English Catholicism's most famous martyrs is to be considered by a retired High Court Judge. Sir Michael Tugendhat (below) will be addressing the judicial events of 1581 which led to the execution of St Edmund Campion SJ in the context of human rights. He will be delivering the 14th Tyburn Lecture in London on Tuesday 12 May at Tyburn Convent, close to the site of Campion’s martyrdom.

St Edmund Campion was described as “one of the diamonds of England” by Lord Burghley, the Secretary of State of Queen Elizabeth I. However, he abandoned his Anglican ministry, became a Catholic and became one of the first Jesuit priests on the English Mission. His arrival in England in 1580 corresponded with the most intense period of persecution of Catholics in England. Some 300 people died for their faith in the final two decades of Elizabeth’s reign – many of them at Tyburn - and many others suffered and died in prisons.Tyburn Lecture, May 2015

Campion was famous for his “Brag”, a paper in which he told Protestant divines that the Catholic Church would survive persecution in England, with Jesuits forming a league to “cheerfully carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed within your prisons”.


Following his capture in July 1581, St Edmund endured four months of torture in the Tower of London. His fingernails were torn out and he was racked so severely that he was unable to raise a hand to take the oath at his trial in Westminster Hall.

Along with 19 others, he was charged with treason under an Act of 1351 that did not pertain to religion. The purpose was to send out the message that the priests were not condemned for their faith. Speaking for the group, Campion refuted the charge of treason during the trial, arguing that they were “as true subjects as ever the Queen had” and were condemned for their faith alone. He was martyred at Tyburn on 1 December 1581, just yards from Tyburn Convent (above), where Sir Michael will deliver his lecture.

Until June 2014, Sir Michael Tudgendhat served as the most senior “media judge” in England and Wales, trying many high profile cases. He was appointed to the High Court in 2003 and in 2010 he was appointed Judge in Charge of the Non-Jury List, sitting full time in London specialising in media cases. As a judge, he dismissed a 2010 claim for a super-injunction brought by England and Chelsea footballer John Terry and as a barrister he represented the actor Michael Douglas in his 2002 claim against Hello! magazine.