On this day in 1593 – William Davies was executed

William Davies was born in North Wales and was a practising Roman Catholic. He studied at Reims in France and arrived on 6th April 1585 and jumped straight in by assisting the first mass of Nicholas Garlick. On 23rd September 1583 along with 73 other English students he received his minor orders and tonsure (the ability to cut or shave part of his hair to show religious devotion). Davies was ordained as a priest in April 1585 he returned to Wales as a missionary.

With Davies working in Wales alongside Robert Pugh, who was his patron, produced the book Y Drych Christianogawl, it was produced secretly and believed to be the first book printed in Wales, although the exact location of where the printing press was it is believed that it was located in a cave above the sea at Little Orme which was between Llandudno and Penrhyn Bay.

In March 1592 Davies was arrested at Holyhead when he was caught helping four students travel abroad to an English College in Valladolid. Davies was imprisoned in Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey and was separated from the rest of his inmates after he confessed to being a priest. After a month he was able to rejoin his students for one hour a day and celebrate mass, as the time passed his conditions were relaxed further and Catholics from around Wales came to consult with him and Protestant ministers came to debate with him. Davies and his students were eventually sentenced to death at which point Davies began the Te Deum and the judge suspended the sentence until the Queen had been informed.

Upon his sentence Davies was sent to Ludlow to be examined by the Council of the Marches, here Davies was taken to a Protestant church under the illusion of a disputation but instead he was subjected to a Protestant service. Davies instead of conforming began reciting the Latin Vespers in a loud voice.

From Ludlow he was sent to Bewdley to another prison where he had to share his cell with criminals before being transferred back to Beaumaris and rejoining his students for the next six months where he was allowed to live and study within a small religious community and divided his time between praying and studying.

Eventually the sentence that had been hanging over Davies caught up with him and he was sentenced to death as a traitor, however, he was offered to be spared if he willingly went to a Protestant church once. Davies refused and he was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered at Beaumaris Castle on 27th July 1593.

One of Davies students managed to make it to Valladolid where he told Davies story to Bishop Yepes who wrote it down in his Historia particular de la Persecucion en Inglaterra. Davies was later beautified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Beaumaris Aerial North Castles Historic Sites

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