William Carter (martyr)

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Blessed William Carter
London, England
Tyburn, London, England
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Feast11 January

Blessed William Carter (c. 1548 – 11 January 1584) was a Roman Catholic English printer and martyr.


William Carter was born in London in 1548, the son of John Carter, a draper, and Agnes, his wife. He was apprenticed to John Cawood, queen's printer, on Candlemas Day, 1563, for ten years, and afterwards acted as secretary to Nicholas Harpsfield, last Catholic archdeacon of Canterbury,[1] while Harpsfield was a prisoner in Fleet Prison.[2]

On the latter's death he married and set up a press on Tower Hill. In September 1578 he was confined for about a month in the Poultry Compter, a small prison run by a Sheriff in the City of London, apparently for failure to attend divine service as established by act of Parliament.[2] In December 1579 he was committed the Gatehouse "for not conforming himself in matters of religion".[2] As the prisons were at that time unusually overcrowded he was released on bond in June 1581.

Among Catholic books he printed a new edition (1000 copies) of Dr. Gregory Martin's "A Treatise of Schisme", in 1580, for which he was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London, 1582, and paid for his own meals there down to midsummer, 1583.[1] His wife died while he was in prison.[3]

Having been tortured on the rack, he was indicted at the Old Bailey — the central criminal court in England — on 10 January 1584, for having printed Dr. Martin's book, in which was a paragraph where confidence was expressed that the Catholic Hope would triumph, and pious Judith would slay Holofernes. This was interpreted as an incitement to assassinate the Queen. At this time, with increasing tensions between Queen Elizabeth I of England and King Philip II of Spain, which would culminate with the sailing of the Spanish Armada four years later, manifestations of Catholic faith in England were often interpreted as a treasonable taking the side of the Spanish enemy and punished accordingly. He was executed for treason at Tyburn the next day.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ven. William Carter". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.