|Saint Anne Line|
Statue of St Anne Line, at St Anne Line Junior School, Basildon, Essex
|Forty Martyrs of England and Wales|
|Died||27 February 1601
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||15 December 1929 by Pope Pius XI|
Saint Anne Line (c.1563 – 27 February 1601) was an English Catholic lady. After losing her husband she became very active in sheltering clandestine Catholic priests. Finally arrested she was condemned to death and executed during the reign of Elizabeth I for harbouring a priest. Considered as a martyr by the Catholic Church she was canonized in 1970 by pope Paul VI. Liturgically she is commemorated on 27 February.
Anne Line has been identified as Alice Higham, the eldest daughter of the Puritan, William Higham of Jenkyn Maldons. She was born around the early 1560s, and at some point, probably in the early 1580s, converted to Catholicism along with her brother William and Roger Line, the man she married in February 1583. Both Roger Line and William Higham were disinherited for converting to Catholicism and Alice Higham lost her dowry. Among Catholics the married "Alice" became known as "Anne" Line: presumably a name she took on her conversion.
Roger Line and William Higham were arrested together while attending Mass, and were imprisoned and fined. While William Higham was released on surety in England, Roger Line was banished and went to Flanders, where he died in 1594. Around the same time, Father John Gerard, S.J. opened a house of refuge for hiding priests, and put the newly widowed Anne Line in charge of it, despite her chronic ill-health. For about three years Anne Line continued to run this house while Fr John Gerard was in prison. He was eventually transferred to the Tower of London where he was tortured, and from which he escaped. In his autobiography he writes:
After my escape from prison [Anne Line] gave up managing the house. By then she was known to so many people that it was unsafe for me to frequent any house she occupied. Instead she hired apartments in another building and continued to shelter priests there. One day, however (it was the Purification of Our Blessed Lady), she allowed in an unusually large number of Catholics to hear Mass … Some neighbours noticed the crowd and the constables were at the house at once.
The feast of the Purification is also known as Candlemas and dates the raid to 2 February. On this day a blessing of candles traditionally takes place before the mass, and it was during this rite that the raiders burst in and made arrests. The priest, Fr Francis Page, managed to slip into a special hiding place prepared by Anne Line and afterwards to escape, but she was arrested, along with another gentlewoman called Margaret Gage. Mrs Gage was released on bail and later pardoned, but Anne Line was sent to Newgate Prison. She was tried at the Sessions House on Old Bailey Lane on 26 February 1601 and was so weak from fever that she was carried to the trial in a chair. She told the court that so far from regretting having concealed a priest, she only grieved that she "could not receive a thousand more." Sir John Popham, the judge, sentenced her to death for the felony of assisting a seminary priest. Anne Line was hanged on 27 February 1601. She was executed immediately before two priests, Fr. Roger Filcock, and Fr. Mark Barkworth, who received the more severe sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering. At the scaffold she repeated what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders: "I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand."
Possible Shakespeare allusions
It has been argued that Shakespeare's poem The Phoenix and the Turtle was written shortly after her death to commemorate Anne and Roger Line and its setting is the Catholic requiem held in secret for her. This theory was first suggested in the 1930s by Clara Longworth in her novel My Shakespeare, Rise!, and is linked to claims that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic sympathiser. The theory was revived and developed by John Finnis and Patrick Martin in 2003. It has been extended by Martin Dodwell to suggest that Shakespeare takes the fate of Anne and Roger Line to symbolize the rejection of Catholicism by England, and he then returns to this allegorical scheme in the play Cymbeline.
Anne Line was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929. She was canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Her feast day, along with all the other English Martyrs, is on 4 May. However, in the Catholic dioceses of England, she shares a feast day with fellow female martyr saints, Margaret Clitherow and Margaret Ward on 30 August.
The St. Anne Line Catholic Junior School in Wickhay, Basildon, Essex is named for her.
- Martin Dodwell. "Revisiting Anne Line: who was she and where did she come from", Recusant History, Vol. 31, No 3 (May 2013) 375-389. London: Catholic Record Society.
- Christine J. Kelly, "Anne Line", ODNB; online edn, January 2009, accessed 11 March 2013.
- Martin Dodwell. Anne Line: Shakespeare's Tragic Muse. Brighton: The Book Guild, 2013.
- John Gerard S.J. The Autobiography of an Elizabethan, p.84. Oxford: Family Publications, 2006.
- Quinn, Stanley. "St. Anne Line." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 25 December 2012
- Times Literary Supplement, April 18, 2003, p.12-14
- Longworth, Clara, My Shakespeare, Rise!, London: 1935
- St. Anne Line Catholic Junior School
- List of Catholic saints
- List of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation
- The Neat-Herd's Daughter (mini-bio)