James Fenn was executed in 16th century England for a crime he couldn’t have committed: plotting to overthrow the Queen at a time he was, in fact, already locked in prison. And all he’d done in the first place was be Catholic.
James always had a hard time keeping his religion secret; he was an Oxford graduate with a fondness for everyday sermonizing, whether in his job as a school tutor or conducting business for a prominent English courtier.
Once, the father of one of his pupils spotted James while on horseback; the man had just lost a theological argument to his children and took it out on James by beating him with a riding crop.
Following the death of his wife, at the age of 40, James traveled to France to enter the priesthood and soon returned to England. He was arrested for “saying what he thought in matters of religion,” according to the Lives of English Martyrs.
When they were bringing him out to be hung from the Tyburn “tree” gallows, disemboweled, and his head mounted on London Bridge, James saw his own daughter crying in the crowd, and though his hands were tightly bound, ever so carefully gave her his blessing.