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March 26

St Margaret Clitherow - March 26

Saint Margaret Clitherow
“The Pearl of York”
Mother, Martyr
(1556 – 1586)

“I die for the love of my Lord Jesu.”

Saint Margaret Clitherow

Her Early Life

Margaret (also known as was born around 1556 in York, Yorkshire, England, one of five children to Thomas and Jane Middleton. Her father was a respected businessman, a wax-chandler and Sheriff of York, who died when Margaret was fourteen. Four months later her mother married Henry May, Lord Mayor of York.

Margaret grew up during the turbulent times of the late sixteenth-century, when the Protestant Reformation had thrown England into a social tailspin and Catholics were not permitted to practice their faith. Her family was part of the Protestant Church of England.

Married and Catholic Convert

In 1571, at the age of 15, Margaret married John Clitherow, a wealthy butcher and chamberlain of the city of York. Kind and easygoing, John was also a Protestant, but many of his family were Catholics, including his brother William, who became a priest. So, Margaret soon had many Catholic friends. Margaret had been reared a Protestant but, in 1574, three years after her marriage to another Protestant, who never converted, she became a Catholic. It was not common during that time for a Protestant husband to have a Catholic wife.

Mother of Three

Their marriage was blessed with three children, two sons, Henry and William, who later became priests, and a daughter, Anne, who became a nun at St. Ursula’s in Louvain. The family lived at today’s renowned tourist destination, “The Shambles” – their business was Nos 35–36, which is now St. Margaret’s Shrine.

Margaret’s strong Catholic convictions influenced her entire family. She actively supported the Catholic faith during a time when it was outlawed in England under Queen Elizabeth I.

Margaret’s steadfast commitment to her faith led her to shelter priests, including her husband’s brother, who traveled secretly to England to minister to the Catholic population. Margaret provided two chambers, one adjoining her house and a second in another part of the city, where she kept priests hidden and had Mass continually celebrated, ensuring that Catholics could continue to practice their faith in the face of persecution. Local tradition holds that Margaret also housed her clerical guests in The Black Swan at Peasholme Green, where the Queen’s agents were also lodged!

One would hardly call Margaret a businesswoman in the modern sense of the word, but you can’t deny that keeping the authorities guessing while keeping the Catholics supplied with the sacraments for nine on ten years is quite an accomplishment!

Margaret’s actions, however, did not go unnoticed by the authorities. She faced imprisonment several times due to her conversion, harboring priests, and facilitating underground Masses. In fact, while she was in prison, Margaret learned how to read and write, and she delivered her third child, William. Yet, Margaret remained resolute in her faith, even in the face of great danger. Her husband, John, paid the fines Margaret received for not attending the heretical church services. Margaret was first imprisoned in 1577, at the age of 21, for failing to attend and two further incarcerations at York Castle followed.

Arrested and On Trial

Margaret sent her oldest son, Henry, to the English College, relocated to Rheims, to train for the priesthood. Her husband was summoned by the authorities to explain why his oldest son had gone abroad. Then, in March 1586, the Clitherow house was searched. A frightened boy revealed the location of the priest hole.

Margaret was arrested and accused of hiding priests, a capital offense, and taken to prison. Her children, the servants, and poor John Clitherow himself were divided among various prisons, and little Anne Clitherow, a child of 10, was ill-treated for refusing to disclose anything of her mother’s affairs, or to cease praying as her mother had taught her.

Ultimately, Margaret’s unwavering commitment to Catholicism led to her trial in Tyburn, London, England, on 14 March 1586. Despite the grave charges against her, Margaret refused to answer any of them, fearing that she may incriminate her children and servants. When called before the judge in the Guildhall of York, Margaret said, “I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty.” She was urged by Judge Clinch to choose a trial by jury, but she resisted because she did not want her children, servants, and friends to have to testify, and thus have to perjure themselves and offend God or testify against her. The largest confession they could extract from her was a simple, “I die for love of my Lord Jesu.”

As a result, Margaret was found guilty of treason and sentenced to a brutal form of execution called pressing.

Her Martyrdom

On Good Friday, March 26, 1586, Margaret endured a torturous death. She was executed in the Toolboothe at York, the first woman to suffer the ultimate penalty of the new penal code. She was made to strip and lie flat on the ground, with a sharp stone under her back, and her hands were bound to posts. A large oak door was laid over her and weights totalling seven or eight hundred pounds were placed upon it until she burst (though she had suffocated first). It took about 15 minutes for her to die, and her last words were: “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy upon me!”

Margaret’s body was buried in a rubbish heap outside the city wall. Six weeks later some Catholics disinterred it and carried it away but no one knows where. But one hand had been severed from the body – this is the relic of Margaret Clitherow that is venerated today at Saint Mary’s Convent in York. She is sometimes referred to as the “Pearl of York.”

Born :                    Around 1556 (unknown date) in York, Yorkshire, England

Died:                     March 26, 1586 in York, Yorkshire, England

Beatified:             December 15, 1929 by Pope Pius XI

Canonized:          October 25, 1970 by Pope Paul VI (among the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)

Feast Day:            March 26

Patron Saint:      Businesswomen; Catholic Women’s League; Converts; Latin Mass Society; Martyrs



Saint Margaret Clitherow converted to Catholicism at the age of 18. She really demonstrated her faith raising her three children as Catholics, even though her husband was Protestant. in addition, she also harbored Catholic priests in a priest hole at her home so they could have Mass continually celebrated, ensuring that Catholics could continue to practice their faith in the face of persecution. Eventually, Margaret was martyred in a cruel manner with more than 1/4 tons of stone crushing her. During this difficult time, she remained humble stating “God be thanked, I am not worthy of so good a death as this.” What a model for raising a Catholic family and living the Catholic to her saintly death.

While we may not become a martyr like Saint Margaret Clitherow, how can you raise the children in your live today in the Catholic faith by your actions and words, whether you are a husband, wife, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle, brother or sister?


Saint Margaret Clitherow,

You, who were a loving wife and mother to your husband and your children, faced many tribulations because of your new Catholic Faith. However, you carried out the duties of your vocation faithfully.

Please bring my petitions before God with such faithfulness!

Even as the possibility of your own death approached, you were careful to ensure the welfare of your own children by refusing to make a plea for yourself.

Pray for me, that I may carry out the duties of my own vocation faithfully. Pray that I may be a holy servant of God in my life.

Saint Margaret Clitherow, pray for us. Amen.


Saint Links 

Aleteia – The pearl of York isn’t famous York Minster, but this martyr

Catholic Culture – In York with a martyr: The challenge of Margaret Clitherow by Dr. Jeff Mirus

Catholic Fire -St. Margaret Clitherow, patron of businesswomen, converts, and martyrs

Catholic Ireland – Mar 26 – St Maragret Clitherow: the Pearl of York

Catholic News Agency – St. Margaret of Clitherow Feast day: Mar 26

Catholic News World – Saint March 26 : St. Margaret Clitherow

Catholic Online – St. Margaret Clitherow

Catholic Tradition – Saint Margaret Clitherow Wife, Mother, Martyr for the Catholic Faith under Queen Elizabeth I

Daily Prayers – Margaret Clitherow (Middleton)

Melanie Rigney – Margaret Clitherow

National Catholic Register – A Good Friday Saint: Margaret Clitherow, the Pearl of York

New Advent – Camm, B. (1908). St. Margaret Clitherow. In The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Newman Ministry – Saint Margaret Clitherow

RC Spirituality (Uncle Eddy) – St. Margaret Clitherow

Reason2BCatholic – Saints Alive! | St. Margaret Clitherow (of York)

Saints, Feast, Family – The Story Saint Margaret of Clitherow

Saint of the Day – March 26 St. Margaret Clitherow

Saint Resources – Margaret Clitherow

uCatholic – Saint Margaret Clitherow

Video Link

Saint Margaret Clitherow, March 26th – YouTube (A D Paul)