As far as I know, Blessed William Howard is the most recent of my ancestors officially recognized as Christian saints (meaning his lifetime is historically the closest to our own). In his case, as in several others, he is a co-lateral ancestor only, not a direct forebear (ancestral grandparent). My historically closest direct ancestor saint is probably William’s grandfather, Saint Philip Howard.
William is officially a “blessed” or beato–one stage below full canonization as a saint, although I’ve seen his name listed as Saint William Howard. There is certainly a lot of politics involved in his case. But he may also have been a very sincere and devout person, perhaps even a holy person. And many traditions honor those regarded as martyrs as having been (or equivalent to having been) living saints.
Blessed William Howard (1616-1680), generation 12 uncle-cousin (his paternal grandparents, St Philip Howard [1557-1585] and Anne Dacre [1557-1630], are among my 14th generation grandparents).
English earl and viscount, Catholic martyr, executed simply for being a prominent Catholic at a time when there were public panics in Protestant-controlled England that Catholics would try to regain politic and religious dominance.
his profile, found online:
“Son of Thomas, earl of Arundel, England. Grandson of Saint Philip Howard. Raised Catholic in England in a time when the faith was being persecuted. Married Mary Stafford in 1637. Viscount of Stafford in England. Baron Stafford in 1640. Exiled in 1642 for political reasons, and lived in the Netherlands. Undertook diplomatic missions in Flanders and Switzerland for Emperor Ferdinand. His family was impoverished when the English Parliament impounded his lands. Arrested in Heidelberg in 1653 and Utrecht in 1656 for apparently political reasons, but he was acquitted of all charges.
“In 1660 his family property was reinstated, the fortunes of his family turned around, and they returned to England. Accused of complicity in the “Popish Plot”, he was sent to the Tower of London on 25 October 1678. Imprisoned for two years before they bothered to try him, he was condemned before the trial started. Though he had no involvement in the “Plot”, he was martyred for being an influential, high-profile Catholic.”
Ninety-five years before his own death, Blessed William’s grandfather, Saint Philip Howard (1557-1585) had been martyred also, having died from mistreatment while imprisoned in the Tower for having converted to Catholicism—then a capital crime under Elizabeth I.
Blessed William was beheaded on December 29, 1680 on Tower Hill, London, England.
He was Venerated (decreed to be “Venerable” – two stages from full canonization) on December 8, 1929 by Pope Pius XI (decree of martyrdom). A few days later, on December 15, 1929, William was was Beatified (decreed to be “Blessed”–one stage below full canonization) by Pope Pius XI.
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