The discovery of the Julian Watts Russell monument – March 1894

Julian Watts-Russell was a Pontifical Zouave, who was killed in the battle of Mentana, Nov. 3, 1867. The Papal Zouaves  were an infantry force formed for the defence of the Papal States in 1860. The battle of Mentana was “the last victory of the Church in arms,”  [ a interesting choice of words from the Tablet in 1967]  three years before the capture of Rome by the Italian army ending eleven hundred years of temporal Papal rule. Julian Watts-Russell aged seventeen, was the youngest casualty of the battle,  “one who may be called the last of the English martyrs” [ The Tablet 1894]

” Towards the end of January, a visitor to Mentana, while examining the Vigna Santucci, the site of the first success of the Papal troops, discovered a photograph of Julian Watts-Russell, the youthful hero of the Pontifical army, who fell just at the close of the battle. The photograph, which was a striking and very pleasing representation of Julian, had come into the possession of the Santucci family, who still occupy the historic Vigna, shortly after the battle.

Vigna Santucci, Mentana, Italy

The story of the gift is as follows : Julian Watts-Russell was buried separately from the other Zouaves who bad fallen in the battle, because it was thought that his family would wish to embalm the body. The anticipation was correct. The body was afterwards exhumed, embalmed, and removed to England for burial. As this had been, made possible by the care which Signor Pietro Santucci displayed about the first burial, the indebted father presented him with the portrait of his son. A present representative of the family Santucci permitted the visitor to take the photograph with him to Rome, but Signor Filippo Santucci, son of Signor Pietro Santucci, stipulated that copies should be taken of it and that he should receive one of them. The copies were excellently made by the Rev. Thomas Dunn, of San Silvestro in Capite. On February 15, the Rev. Claud R. Lindsay also from San Silvestro in Capite, took one of the copies to Signor Filippo Santucci at Mentana, who in return for the Rev. Mr. Lindsay’s kindness, guided him over the sites connected with the beginning of the historic battle. Those who have read The O’Clery’s book, ” The Making of Italy,”  will remember his detailed description of the fight at and about the Romitorio, or Hermitage. While examining its ruined chapel the Rev. Mr. Lindsay was so fortunate as to find the memorial slab of the heroic soldier De Vaux, who fell there. A monument had been similarly erected to Julian Watts-Russell on the site of his death, and his heart had been buried there. Quite contrary to expectation, Signor Filippo Santucci assured the Rev. Mr. Lindsay that the monument which had stood there had only been thrown down, and not ruined by the Garibaldians, after the capture of Porta Pia, and that by the care of his family the heart had been sent to the Watts-Russell family in England. An agreeable proof of the former statement was afforded just afterwards when the Rev. Mr. Lindsay found the monument in the cellar of the principal café of the little village. By his generous care it was brought from Mentana to Rome on Friday, February 23, and the consent of Mgr. Giles, Rector of the English College, was readily obtained, so that it will be erected in the Church of St. Thomas, adjoining the College. The expenses of the erection are being defrayed by a subscription among the English Catholic residents in Rome. And so one who may be called the last of the English martyrs will be vividly commemorated in the Church which is par excellence the Roman shrine of the martyrs of England.On the face of the stone is the inscription :










And on the other side :





It seems morally certain that this simple and beautiful inscription was written by his devoted friend and spiritual father, Father Cardella, S.J “

The above text was found on p.17, 3rd March 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

The article above provoked the following letter two weeks later


SIR, Many thanks are due to your Roman Correspondent for having noticed at such length in The Tablet, of March 3, the recent discovery of the monument which was erected to Julian Watts-Russell at Mentana in 1868. In that account, however, some inaccuracies occur which are doubtless in consequence of your correspondent having been somewhat hurriedly furnished with the details.

In the first place the photograph of Julian lately found at Mentana was not sent to Signor Pietro Santucci in connection with any service rendered by him relative to the first interment of the body at Monte Rotondo. Signor Santucci was in no way concerned with that. The photograph was a gift of gratitude in consequence of Signor Pietro Santucci having with much courage rescued Julian’s heart from being profaned by the Garibaldians at the time of the destruction of the monument in 1870. The presence of the heart there at all is explained by the fact that it was removed from the body in the process of embalming and buried at Mentana on the spot where the youth fell, by the wish of his father, who erected over it the monument in question.

Secondly, Julian’s body was never taken to England, but having been conveyed to the English College, where the last funeral rites were performed, it was ultimately buried in the Campo Nerano [here in Rome, where it now reposes. It was the heart that was sent to England, after the outrage to the monument of 1870. The work of erecting the monument in the English College Church is now being undertaken, and it is hoped that it will be completed before Easter.

All thanks are due to Signor Filippo Santucci, to whom we are in reality indebted for the discovery and possession of the monument. Without entering into the reasons which induced him to keep its existence concealed for so long, it is the fact that he has permitted it to be transferred to the site it is now going for the future to occupy, without imposing any conditions, and this solely out of respect and reverence for the memory of one who so nobly shed his blood in defence of the rights of the Holy See.

Mention ought not to be omitted of the fact that Julian Watts-Russell received his early education at Ushaw College. His Alma Mater is justly proud of him, and regards him as one of her greatest glories.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant.

CLAUD R. LINDSAY. S. Silvestro in Capite, Rome.

The above text was found on p. 21, 17th March 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Father Lindsay is another one of those peculiar English papal courtiers, or possibly Irish, or possibly Scottish. His paternal grandfather was the 24th Earl of Crawford, with four subsidiary titles, three Scottish and one English. Hie maternal grandfather was the 4th Earl of Wicklow, an Irish title. He is certainly aristocratic, rich, he left the equivalent of £ 2m. when he died in 1918. His sister-in-law was Cardinal Vaughan’s niece.

The Catholic Who’s Who adds the following:  ” Mgr Claud Reginald Lindsay,  — born 1861, son of the Hon. Colin and Lady Frances Lindsay; educated at Beaumont, Stonyhurst, and Academia Ecclesiastica, Rome; ordained 1895; named Private Chamberlain by Leo XIII 1898; attached to San Silvestro in Capite, Rome. Died on 23 July 1918 at age 56.”

He certainly seems to have taken his time getting ordained. He was thirty four when it happened, but he’s fast-tracked into the Papal court in only two years. In the curiously small world way, he is a contemporary of both Ernest, and Rex O’Bryen at Stonyhurst, albeit four, and six years older than them.

Leave a Reply