Julian Watts-Russell March 1894

Julian Watts-Russell was a Pontifical Zouave, who was killed in the battle of Mentana, Nov. 3, 1867. “A monument had been erected to Julian Watts-Russell on the site of his death, and his heart had been buried there.” In 1894,  the Rev. Mr. Lindsay who had just arrived in Rome, to study at the Academia Ecclesiastica,  prior to his ordination the following year, ” found the monument in the cellar of the principal café of the little village” of Mentana.  “By his generous care it was brought from Mentana to Rome on Friday, February 23,”..it will be erected in the Church of St. Thomas, adjoining the [English] College.

It’s not entirely clear why Father Lindsay was searching for any traces of Julian, but there seems to be some sort of family connection. By this point, there are rather dubious references being made to him as “one who may be called the last of the English martyrs “, The Tablet 3rd March 1894, and what almost seems to be a campaign to have him regarded as such.  English martyrs were fashionable in Rome at the time, the Pope had beatified John Fisher and Thomas More eight years earlier, along with a further fifty two English martyrs. Another nine were to follow in 1895.

This is one of two articles published about Julian Watts-Russell on St Patrick’s Day 1894

JULIAN WATTS-RUSSELL. Father Giuseppe Franco, S.J., in a book condemned and prohibited by the Government  (I Crociati di S. Pietro, Rome 1869) gives the following interesting details about Julian Watts-Russell, which I communicate because they are, likely to be inaccessible in England. After the battle of Nerola, a Zouave station was placed by General de Charetto in a little chapel of St. Antony which had been lately ruined by the Garibaldians. At evening the corpse of a pontifical soldier was brought in, and his comrades celebrated his obsequies as best they could in the absence of a priest, and Julian Watts-Russell acted as priest (fece da sacerdote) reciting the De Profundis and other prayers, and then sought a lamp which he placed, according to the pious Catholic custom, at the foot of the corpse. The soldiers then took some needed rest, sleeping upon the ground as best they could. Just then Captain Thomalé entered and said, “Boys, I have not come to give you commands, but I have need of 12 men of goodwill, to maintain a difficult position.” Julian was the first to spring to his feet, and a picket formed from the exhausted soldiers at once marched to take up the desired position (p. 163-4, vol.ii)


In the same work (vol. iii., p. 524)  Father Franco describes the monument which stood at Mentana as having on top a Greek cross of marble in the form of the Mentana medal. I learn from private letters written at the time that this cross was ruined on September 18, 1870, but that the column with the inscription was left standing till November 3, 1870, when it was thrown down. Fortunately the Vandals did not know that his heart was there, so that it was thus saved from profanation. On the same night Signor Pietro Santucci removed the heart previously to its transmission to England and he also placed the column on a part of his own property. It is now proposed to restore the cross in its original form, and place it on the column in the Church of St. Thomas. The sculptor, Ugolini, is engaged, and the monument will be set up in a very short time. 

The above text was found on p.17, 17th March 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .


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