The exhumation of Julian Watts-Russell 16th May 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,” will be erected in the Church of St. Thomas, adjoining the [English] College.

It wasn’t entirely clear why Father Lindsay was searching for any traces of Julian, but there seemed to be some sort of family connection. It turn out that  Claud Lindsay is a sort of first cousin. He and Julian Watts-Russell share an uncle in Charles Towry-Law, though by different wives. By 16th May 1894, the monument has been found, restored, and installed in the church of St Thomas of Canterbury in Rome.  Someone seems to have visited his grave in the Campo Verano cemetery in Rome and found it rather damaged, so the decision was made to exhume the body, and rebury the remains of “one who may be called the last of the English martyrs “, 

Campo Verano cemetery, Rome – General view

“The exhumation of the body of Julian Watts-Russell took place between 6.15 and 8.15 on the morning of Wednesday, May 16. There were present : Mgr. Merry del Val, Mgr. le Duc de Stacpoole, the Rev. Torquato Armellini, S. J. (Julian’s confessor), the Rev John Prior, D.D. (Vice-Rector of the English College), the Rev Arthur Hinsley, a former student of Ushaw College (the alma-mater of Julian Watts-Russell) the Rev. Claud R. Lindsay (representing Julian’s brother and sister) Dr. Eyre and Count de Raymond (a relative of Julian, and whose mother, the Countess de Raymond was intimate with him and present when the coffin was last opened). The remains were found buried in a concrete vault and in two coffins, the outer one wooden, the inner one of zinc, both of which had been injured by rain &c., owing to the defective manner in which the vault was closed. The zinc coffin was brought to the surface, and the remains transferred to a zinc casket. A crown of roses which had been placed on his head had decayed, except with regard to the general form and primary fibres, but had remained as a crown upon the skull, while the flesh had disappeared beneath it. The head thus resembled that of the relics of so many Roman martyrs to whose life also Julian’s had borne so deep a resemblance. After a portion of the burial service had been performed and the casket blessed by a capuchin friar of San Lorenzo, the remains were re-interred in the vault. The ceremony was very satisfactory to all present, and the remains are now secured from further injury. the work was superintended by Signor Caviliere Tricchi, Official director of the Cemetery, who deserves every praise for his courtesy, and respect to the remains of Julian. The work of the grave will be concluded in twenty days, and it is intended to keep it in a good state of repair henceforward. For this purpose further subscriptions have been contributed by the following persons: Lady Herbert of Lea (who is paying her annual visit to the Eternal City), Mrs George Vaughan, Mr W. Osborne Christmas, Mgr. le Duc de Stacpoole, the Rev Thomas Belton, C.R.L., the Rev G.B.Tatum, M.A., the Rev. Claud R. Lindsay, the Rev. Arthur Hinsley, Mrs Meynell, and an anonymous priest from New York. The total so far collected is about £42, [A modern day equivalent of £30,000]  and it is intended to apply what remains to the present restoration of the grave. The Rev. Mr. Lindsay is anxious that the sum should be increased to sufficiency by the contributions of former Zouaves, and will be thankful for any offerings sent to him at San Silvestro in Capite. Should any money remain over after the restoration of the grave, it will be devoted to keeping it in a permanently good condition. The inscription on the coffin which was soldered on to the side of the new casket, was as follows;







The above text was found on p.17,26th May 1894,  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

Leave a Reply