Edmund Campion was born on January 25th, 1540, and educated at St. John’s College, Oxford. His father was a book-seller of Greek, Hebrew and Latin books. Even as a boy, Edmund had the honor to read an address in Latin before Queen Mary Tudor on her visit to Oxford. He was also a great orator.
Edmund was born a Protestant, became a Deacon of the Anglican Church and was even preparing for ordination in that Church. It was at that time that his studies convinced him of the untenable position of the Anglican Church. Meanwhile, he was attracted to the Catholic Church. He, therefore, left his college at Oxford, went to Dublin and ultimately, arrived at Douai in Northern France. There ,he became a Catholic and joined the English College founded in 1568 by Cardinal William Allen for the purpose of training priests for the highly dangerous “English Mission”. He became a priest and went on to Rome where he joined the Society of Jesus.
In 1580, he was sent to England to minister to Catholics in the country. At this time, Catholic practices were strictly prohibited in England. After precariously ministering in various parts of England, he caused a sensation by having 400 copies of his “Decem Rationes” (Ten Reasons) against the Anglican Church, distributed in St. Mary’s Oxford, before the Degree-giving ceremony on June 27th, 1581. Shortly afterwards, on July 14th he was betrayed by a spy named George Eliot, arrested and taken to London. He was several times examined, during which he affirmed his loyalty to the Queen and impressed his hearers by the strength of his arguments, concluding with the words: “I have come here not to do a thing of violence against the Queen, but in order to maintain the free Faith which was that of your ancestors. And if you condemn me, you condemn all the previous centuries of Christian England”.
He was then racked in an effort to make him recant and deny his adherence to Catholicism. But this he refused to do. On October 31.1581, he was accused of having conspired with others at Rome and Reims to dethrone the Queen. After having been found guilty, he claimed: “If our religion do make us traitors, we are worthy to be condemned; but otherwise, we are and have been, as good subjects as ever the Queen had”.