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Edmund Campion arrives at Dover

Catholic contract and testament
Catholic contract and testament
By 1580, London's jails were filling up with Catholics unable or unwilling to pay fines levied for their non-attendance at Protestant church services. The State was slowly stripping away the property influence and power of the old faith, and generally law abiding people like John Shakespeare were now marked men as potential spreaders of sedition and treachery.

The Jesuit missionary Edmund Campion's arrival on the shores of England at this time therefore seems all the more foolhardy or courageous, depending on your point of view.

Campion almost didn't make it further than his entry point at Dover. Spies in Rheims and Rome had already identified Campion as a potential troublemaker and produced an Elizabethan version of a wanted poster of him. Campion was therefore identified and detained on his arrival. Strangely, after a routine interrogation by the local mayor, he was released, and went to ground in London.

Campion's ultimate fate invites the notion that he may have been set up as an unwilling agent provocateur by Walsingham's secret police to make contact with Catholic activists in England and make them break cover. Walsingham's pet psychopaths would have been confident that whatever Campion learned on his mission to England they could have eventually tortured out of him.


Sir Francis Walsingham portraitSir Francis Walsingham

portrait not availableJohn Shakespeare

Edmund Campion portraitEdmund Campion


Dover Castle, KentDover, Kent

The River Thames, LondonShakespeare's London

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