Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clitherow, Margaret

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CLITHEROW, MARGARET (d. 1586), the 'martyr of York,' was the daughter of Thomas Middleton, citizen of York and wax-chandler, who served the office of sheriff in 1564-5. On 1 July 1571 she was married to John Clitherow, butcher. He was a well-to-do man, and was afterwards chosen a chamberlain of the city, thus becoming entitled, ex officio, to the appellation of gentleman. Although John Clitherow was not a Roman catholic, his brother William was a priest, and it is probable that 'Thomas Clitherow of York, draper,' who was in the castle for his religion in 1600, was another brother. In 1574 Margaret Clitherow embraced the catholic faith, and on account of her zeal and constancy in it she was separated from her husband and children and cast into prison, sometimes for the space of two years together, and sometimes for an even longer period. On 10 March 1585-6 she was arraigned at York before Judges Clinch and Rhodes, with whom several members of the council sat on the bench as assessors. The indictment charged her with having harboured and maintained Jesuit and seminary priests and with having heard mass. As she refused to plead she was sent back to prison that night, where she was visited by a puritan preacher named Wigginton. The next day she was again brought into court and was urged to plead, but as she persisted in her refusal she was threatened with the 'peine forte et dure.' Wigginton in vain interceded for her, telling the judge that he might condemn her to it by the queen's law, but not by the law of God. Clinch then pronounced the terrible sentence upon her, which was carried into execution on New Year's day (25 March 1586) in the Tolbooth, six or seven yards distant from the prison. 'She was in dying a quarter of an hour.'

Her sons, Henry and William, went abroad to study for the priesthood, the one to Rome and the other to Rheims. Anne, her daughter, became a nun in St. Ursula's convent at Louvain.

John Mush, a secular priest and her spiritual director, wrote her life, which was edited by William Nicholson of Thelwall Hall, Cheshire, from a contemporary manuscript in the possession of Peter Middleton of Stockeld Park, Yorkshire (London, 1849, 12mo, with portrait). More recently it has been edited by Father John Morris for his ' Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers ' (3rd series, 1877), pp. 331-440. Other manu- script copies of the life are preserved at St. Mary's Convent, York, and at Oscott.

[Life, by Mush; Challoner's Missionary Priests (1803), i. 101; Foley's Records, vi. 183; Gillow's Bibl. Dict. i. 517; Notes and Queries, 6th series, v. 23; Twyford and Griffiths's Records of York Castle, p. 200; Twyford's York and York Castle, pp. 210, 282; Life by Lætitia Selwyn Oliver, 1886; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. 90 a.]

T. C.