Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Atkins, Richard

ATKINS, RICHARD (1559?–1581), martyr, was born at Ross in Herefordshire. According to his own confession ‘till he was nineteen years old he was a catholic, after that a protestant,’ but whether for another nineteen years or only three is not quite clear from the narrative. About Midsummer 1581 we find him at Rome armed with his ‘litle new testament turned out of Beza’ into English, and an unbounded faith in his mission against the church, the pope, and the city of Rome. After having addressed himself in an unknown tongue to an audience in St. Peter's, who thought him ‘distract of his wit,’ he was confronted with some of his fellow-countrymen in the English college. For his language towards them on the ‘misorder of their lives,’ and his denunciations against the church, he was imprisoned for a short time by the Inquisition. Upon his release he proceeded to a series of acts that finally brought him to torture and the stake. He was charged with exclaiming against the catholic religion and the pope in public places of resort, and with an act of sacrilege in attempting to throw down the sacrament while being carried through the streets by a priest. It was also stated that a few days later, he had gone to St. Peter's once again, while divers gentlemen and others were hearing mass, he stepped forward to the altar ‘and threw down the chalice with the wine,’ and strove to pull the cake out of the priest's hand before its consecration. Being committed to prison a second time and examined, his reply was ‘that he came purposely to rebuke the pope's wickedness and their idolatry.’ After many exhortations by his own country men to recant, but in vain, he was brought to the stake with many tortures and burned before St. Peter's, 2 Aug. 1581.

[Copie of a Double Letter … containing the true Advises of the Causes and Maner of the Death of one Richard Atkins, executed by Fire in Rome, 2 Aug. 1581, 12 leaves, sine 1. et d.; The English Romayne Life (cap. 8); Report of the Christian Suffering of Richard Atkins, written by A[nthony] M[unday], London, 1582, 4to; to this is added a curious woodcut showing two of the incidents mentioned above, and ‘the order of the marterdom of the aforesaid R. A. at Roome;’ see also Lansd. MS. 982, 13.]

C. H. C.