Felton, John, Bl.

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Martyr; b. Surrey?, date unknown; d. London, Aug. 8, 1570. He was from an ancient and wealthy Norfolk family, and related by marriage to the Boleyn family. His wife had been lady in waiting to Mary Tudor and was a personal friend of Elizabeth I. The Feltons enjoyed the unusual privilege of keeping a private chaplain under license.

It was John Felton who affixed the declaratory act Regnans in Excelsis (by which St. Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth) to the gate of the Bishop of London's palace in May 1570. An immediate search was ordered and a copy of the bull was found in the rooms of a student at Lincoln's Inn. Under torture the young man confessed that he had received the copy from Felton and the latter was arrested. Well aware of what was happening, he made no attempt to escape, to resist, or to deny the charges but, rather, behaved as one looking forward to martyrdom. Despite torture, he admitted nothing other than the publishing of the bull, which, he maintained, was solely his responsibility. He was tried at the Guildhall in August 1570 and executed at St. Paul's Church Yard Aug. 8, 1570. Felton was beatified by Leo XIII in 1886.

Bibliography: s. lee, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 1908) 6:117072. r. challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests, ed. j. h. pollen (rev. ed. London 1924). j. h. pollen, Acts of English Martyrs (London 1891); English Catholics in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth (New York 1920).

[b. c. fisher]