Notes on the life of saint and martyr, Cuthbert Mayne.
Mayne was born at Youlston, near Barnstaple in Devon, the son of William Mayne, and baptized on 20 March 1544, St Cuthbert's day. He attended Barnstaple Grammar School, and he was ordained a Protestant minister at the age of eighteen or nineteen and instituted rector of Huntshaw, near his birthplace. After ordination, Mayne attended university, first at St Alban Hall, then at St John's College, in Oxford, where he was made chaplain. He became B.A. on 6 April 1566 and M.A. on 8 April 1570.
At Oxford, Mayne met Edmund Campion and other Catholics, such as Gregory Martin, Humphrey Ely, Henry Shaw, Thomas Bramston, Henry Holland, Jonas Meredith, Roland Russell, and William Wiggs. At some point Mayne, too, became a Catholic. Late in 1570, a letter addressed to him from Gregory Martin fell into the hands of the Bishop of London, and officers arrested him and the others mentioned in the letter. Being warned off by Thomas Ford, Mayne evaded arrest by going to Cornwall and then, in 1573, to the English College at Douai.
Mayne was ordained a priest at Douai in 1575 and on 7 February in the following year he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Theology of Douai University. Shortly afterwards, on 24 April 1576, he left for the English mission in the company of another priest, John Payne. He soon took up his abode with Francis Tregian, in the parish of Probus, Cornwall.
The few missionaries who arrived from Douai, once their existence was learned by agents of Elizabeth I's government, were then looked upon as a large force of papal agents meant to overthrow the Queen.The authorities began a systematic search in June 1576, when the Bishop of Exeter William Broadbridge came to the area in Cornwall. High sheriff Sir Richard Grenville, a noted anti-Catholic officer, conducted a raid on Tregian's house on 8 June 1577, during which the crown officers "bounced and beat at the door" to Mayne's chamber. On gaining entry, Grenville discovered a Catholic devotional article, an Agnus Dei around Mayne's neck, and took him into custody along with his books and papers. Tregian suffered imprisonment and loss of possessions for harbouring a Roman Catholic priest.
At the opening of the trial on 23 September 1577 there were five counts against him: first, that he had obtained from the Roman See a "faculty" (or bulla), containing absolution of the Queen's subjects ; second, that he had published the same at Golden; third, that he had taught the ecclesiastical authority of the Pope and denied the queen's ecclesiastical supremacy while in prison; fourth, that he had brought into the kingdom an Agnus Dei and delivered it to Francis Tregian; fifth, that he had celebrated Mass. The jury found Mayne guilty of high treason on all counts, and accordingly he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Mayne responded, "Deo gratias". With him had been arraigned Francis Tregian and eight other laymen. The eight were sentenced to seizure of their goods and life imprisonment, Tregian to die (in fact he spent 26 years in prison).
A special, high gibbet was erected in the marketplace at Launceston, and Mayne was executed there on 29 November 1577. He was not allowed to speak to the crowd, but only to say his prayers quietly. Just as he was about to be hanged, he refused to implicate his co-religionists. It is unclear if he died on the gibbet. One source states that he was cut down alive, but in falling struck his head against the butcher's scaffold. In any case, he was unconscious when being drawn and quartered.