Category Archives: Catholic Life

The Battle of Mentana, November 3rd 1867.

The Battle of Mentana was fought on November 3, 1867 near the village of Mentana, just outside Rome, [about three miles]   between French-Papal troops and the Italian volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, who were attempting to capture Rome, which was not unified to Kingdom of Italy until three years later.. The battle ended in a victory by the French-Papal troops. This is the report from “The Tablet” published on 23rd November 1867. As would be expected, it does take sides. It is still staggering that a Papal army was fighting just under one hundred and fifty years ago.




ROME, Nov. 8th.

The events of the past week have been so stirring that I preferred waiting till a correct appreciation could be formed of their weight and extent, to sending you a hurried and unsatisfactory account of the great triumph of the Pontifical army. An hour or two after posting my last letter on Saturday afternoon received notice from the ambulance that the muster of the columns which was going to attack Monte Rotondo would take place at three in the morning of Sunday, at the Piazza delle Termine, and that those intending to form part of it must be there a few minutes earlier.

The Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, newly arrived on special duty from Marseilles, the Vicomte de Lupe, M. Keller (fils), De Ozanam and Mgri. Vergneaud, and Benoit D’Azy, under the direction of M. de St. Priest, formed the members of the French volunteer ambulance, and its place was in the centre of the attacking columns, immediately behind the artillery and cavalry. The night was rainy, but in spite of the weather the scene was picturesque beyond description. The troops were formed in line from the Baths of Diocletian to the Piazza Pia, and the red glare of the torches which lighted the march fell on the gigantic ruins of the Thermae, on the facade of the Maria degli Angeli, on the brazen helmets of the dragoons, and the Pontifical standard, which

“Wet with the mists, and smitten by the lights,

Blazed, making all the night a stream of fire,”

and guarded by the entire regiment of Zouaves, went on before us into the darkness, followed by the prayers and blessing of the Vicar of Christ, and the countless holy souls who were watching round the altars and in the cloisters of the Eternal City.

The long line, measuring more than three-quarters of a mile from van to rear, began to wind slowly through the Porta Pia, and the quick rattle of officers on horseback passing our carriage told us that the general and his staff were taking their place at the head of the column. General Kanzler was accompanied by his Royal Highness the Comte de Caserta, MM. de Bourbon, Charles de Maistre, Ungarelli, and a brilliant staff of officers. Colonel Allett, with M. de Charette, and the commandants De Troussures, and De Lambilly, headed the Zouaves. The Swiss under the commandant De Castella, the artillery commanded by M. de Nadin, the dragoons by the Count Von Loiningen, and the Legion by the Comte D’Azy, formed the effective force of the Pontifical column, numbering about six thousand men. The reserve was given to the French, under General Polhes, General Kanzler claiming the honour of the first attack. In spite of the bad weather, the troops were in the highest spirits. Most of the Zouaves had not slept save for an hour or two for twelve nights, from the constant alarm and fatigue duty, but there was no sign of wavering when the bugle sounded, and as the Porta Pia was passed and the column was fairly in the open country, the pace was quickened, and by the time the first dawn broke cold and grey over the Sabine Mountains, the troops had accomplished nearly half their march.

The sun rose at last, and though the weather was chill, damp, and threatening, the rain ceased, to the great satisfaction of every one. At the Ponte Nomentana three companies of Zouaves were detached from the column, and under the conduct of the commandant De Troussures, executed a movement to support the French reserve, and attack the Garibaldians at their flank outposts at Mentana, a village about two miles in advance of Monte Rotondo on the Roman side by the Ponte Manola road.

The Ponta Nomentano was secured and a strong guard of French chasseurs was left in charge of it to guard the retreat.

About five miles beyond Ponte Nomentana a halt was sounded, the hour being nearly ten o’clock, and the troops breakfasted. The pious Dominican chaplain, Pere Lignir, who, with Mgri. de Waelmont, Bastide, and three Jesuit Fathers, accompanied the ambulance, celebrated the Holy Sacrifice in presence of the army in a little wayside chapel attached to the Osteria. For many present it was their last Mass, and the devotion and fervour with which it was assisted at by the Zouaves especially, it is impossible to describe. By eleven we were again on the march, our route lying over the Campagna in a north-easterly direction, the villages of Monticelli, San Francesco, and Palombara lying to our right, and Tivoli in the same direction, bet further down the flank of the Sabine. The march became slower, for the heavy clay clung to the wheels of the carriages, and the artillery was constantly requiring to be lifted out of the mire. This continued across the Campagna for about two miles, and then the soil became lighter, and as we neared the village of Mentana the country became more wooded, and showed signs of enclosure and cultivation, and the road more practicable. Mentana was still invisible, being concealed from us by a circle of woody eminences, all of which we had reason to believe were occupied by the Garibaldians, and we knew that at Mentana itself they maintained a force of 700 men as the advanced post of Monte Rotondo, and General Kanzler had, even from the beginning, prepared for a stout resistance there, and took his measures accordingly.

The road by which Mentana was to be reached runs up a ravine lying between hills covered with light brushwood, and when we reached the first eminence above the champaign country, flanking companies were detached ” en tirailleur,” on either side of our march to prevent a surprise, and the artillery passing to the front, took up a position on a round hill commanding the ravine and the opposite heights, two ranges of hills, about 800 feet high, separating us from the enemy, who, as yet, gave no sign of life.

The bugle sounded from the Zouave ranks far on ahead ; General Kanzler and his staff, with the Count of Caserta, cantered up the line, and we finding that our drivers were not particularly anxious to pro-ceed further, with the prospect of immediate action, got down and proceeded on foot a little in the rear of the troops, to a point where we could observe the attack and where we resolved to establish our first ambulance.

We had not long to wait before the first sharp crack of the rifles broke the silence. From the bill we occupied we could plainly distinguish the scarlet shirts of the Garibaldian skirmishers, through the hazel and alder copsewood, and, in a few seconds, the whole edge of the heights was alive with their troops. Volley after volley rung through the thickets, and our cannon responded gallantly, doing terrible execution on the enemy, and protecting the advance of our column.

The Zouaves had, of course, the post of honour and of danger, the guerdon of their undying chivalry and devotion. Company after company swept by our post, the officers and men saluting the Sisters of St. Vincent of Paul, who, for the first time since their foundation, accompanied an army to the open battle-field ; and the cry of ” Vive la France ! Vive Pie IX. !” went up like a clarion note from the hearts of 2,000 Christian gentlemen, ready, as were even their crusading fathers, to die for God’s cause and the triumph of the Church. Up the ravine they swept, Charette at their head, on his superb chestnut horse, his clear bright eye . gleaming with the light of battle, and his noble features looking prouder and nobler even than their wont in the excitement of the hour. Gallant old Alett, sitting calm and square on his stout charger as he sat at Castelfidardo, when his fugitive regiment of Swiss left him alone on the field to fight side by side with the Zouaves he now commands. De Lambilly, De Saizy, and Le Gouidec, D’Albions, De Fumel and Thormelet, Breton, and Provencal, and Swiss, each at the head of their company, passed on. There were some of English birth too, who shared the honour of the day, George Collingridge, Roland Cary, Wilfrid and Julian Watts Russell, Charles Woodward, were all in the ranks, brave and devoted as any Frenchman there, and longing to rival their comrades for the honour of Catholic England and the expiation of her past coldness in the cause. Past, let us trust and believe, forever!

The five first companies formed ” en tirailleur” and charged rapidly up the pass. The ” 6me du ler,” the compagnie d’elite, of which almost every man is a noble, was the first up the hill, and the shot from each side of the ravine made terrible havoc in its ranks. De Cathelineau was among the first who fell, and as the columns neared the top of the hill; which is crowned by a farm and gateway, called the Villa Santucci, the combat became more dreadful. The Garibaldians had fortified the buildings, and defended by its walls, their sharpshooters kept up a deadly fire on the Zouaves. The Sixieme was mounting to the assault two or three hundred yards below the villa, when its brave captain, the Comte de Vaux, waving his sword and cheering on his men, fell, shot through the heart, and never spoke again. He only lived a few moments, but long enough to receive the last absolution on the field of battle. He had confessed and communicated, as had every man and officer present, the day before he died as a soldier might dream of dying. I saw him a few minutes later, when, the heights being carried, we established a second ambulance in the Villa Santucci. He was lying with his sword still in his hand, his eyes raised to heaven, a smile on his lips, and the cross of Castelfidardo, which had been struck by the fatal bullet, carried into his heart, where it was found imbedded after his autopsy.

The fire now slackened, and the rear companies, which guarded the Papal Standard and were ranged, not ” en tirailleur” but in battle order, suffered severely but never broke their ranks. The sound of the fusillade mingled with the word of command, ” appuyez à droite,” ” appuyez à gauche,” as men fell and their vacant place was filled up. There was a moment of hesitation—and only a moment—and Charette pressing to the front cried “A moi! Zouaves atia bayonette. Chassez moi cette canaille. Vive Pie IX !” and waving the kepi of a Garibaldian chief he had taken in the early part of the charge, he spurred into the hottest of the fire. The balls literally rained, rattling and hissing through the yellowing oak leaves; one struck the sheath of his sabre, and another wounded his horse, which became unmanageable. The Comte Joseph de Pavillon, who had just taken Major Fabrizi’s horse in a single combat, in which the Garibaldian chief was mortally wounded, came up at the moment, and M. de Charette mounting it continued to expose himself with bravery so unthinking that it is a miracle that he escaped with his life.

A moment’s lull in the fire, and a new cry of ” Vive la France” sounded from the heights to the left, and the quick rattle of the Chassepots [a new type of French breech-loading rifle] told us that Polhes’ brigade had engaged the Garibaldian left. Castella and his Swiss regiment of Chasseurs came in sight, the Zouaves gave another and louder cheer, and the enemy falling back pell melt, retreated on the village, leaving the height of Villa Santucci in the hands of the Pontifical troops.

On reaching it, far down the flank of the opposite hills we could see the village of Mentana itself; its every house, its feudal castle, its church and walls, bristling with Garibaldian rifles. The heights above it were still in their possession, but the French were pressing hotly on their outposts, and on the road below the farm up to the gate of the village, which was strongly barricaded with earthworks, the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 7th companies of Zouaves were advancing. The Swiss were moving up in reserve, and we found their brave commandant, whose horse had just been killed under him, severely wounded in the knees and unable to move, but propped up against the wall and still directing the movements by voice and arm, till his regiment had advanced out of sight and earshot. Then alone was M. De Castella persuaded to accept the services of the surgeons, and retire to the farm to have his wounds dressed.

The battle swept down the valley and raged hot and furious round Mentana. The wounded soon became too numerous for the second ambulance, and we were obliged to establish a third nearer the field of battle, in a chapel between Montana and the Villa, where General Kanzler and the staff now took up their head-quarters, as well as a part of the ambulance service. From where I was, at the bottom of the second bill, I could distinguish the attack on the gate of the village and the movement of the troops. The Garibaldians were at least 14,000. The extent of ground they occupied and the arms found at Monte Rotondo, prove that their number was greatly under-stated by the official accounts at first published.

The 1st company was among the foremost in the attack on the gate, and it was here, about four in the afternoon, that our gallant young countryman Julian Russell fell, shot through the head, the second martyr England has given to Rome, and a fitting rival of Louis Guerin in youth, bravery, innocence, and devotion to the Church. Here, too, fell the Sergeant Lairon, a Breton, known and reputed in the entire regiment for his piety and courage. M. De Montbel was close to him when he was struck, and ran up to help him. ” Leave me,” he said, ” I am dying, and I die for Pius the IXth. You are wanted in the front, but tell my mother I did my duty, and give her my watch for the poor.”

Here, too, fell Walerond, Baron D’Erps, chief of a great house of North Brabant ; M. De Boischevalier, and Alfred Laroyse, whose family, one of the most considerable in Lower Canada, sent him to represent that faithful colony in the army of the Church. The two latter gentlemen were only dangerously wounded, but there is little hope of their recovery.

Another act of devotion deserves mention here. M. Jean Moeller, one of the celebrated Catholic Belgian writers of that name, served as Lieutenant of Zouaves at Castelfidardo with great credit, but his extreme youth in proportion to his grade and his want of experience were not in his favour in the regiment. A few childish acts were misinterpreted and very harshly judged, and he was obliged to give up his commission. He returned to Brussels to maintain his family in an honourable financial employment, but at the first outbreak of war he returned, entered as a simple soldier, and, serving under the orders of the very men he had once commanded, was among the first to enter Mentana, and flinging his kepi within the Garibaldian lines, followed rifle in hand, and was shot down severely wounded, but the position was carried by his comrades, and he was removed to the rear. There are many among the older students of the English College who know him and who will be glad to hear of their old Zouave acquaintance distinguishing himself so gallantly.

The twilight was coming on before the battle gave any signs of relenting. The Garibaldians fought every inch of the ground with desperate bravery, and their magnificent position, chosen with care and strategical knowledge, which proved the direction of high military knowledge, gave them every advantage, but the light was waning and a suspension of arms inevitable for the night. Menotti Garibaldi and his father had been seen twice in the early part of the fighting, the former on a white horse and the latter in a carriage, on the Monte Rotondo road, but they did not expose their person much according to the testimony of their followers, who are much dissatisfied at their leaders.They all, however agree that Ricciotti Garibaldi behaved most gallantly and shared every dangerous part with his soldiers, by whom he appears much beloved for his kindness of disposition and superior education. Two Garibaldian officers in the grey uniform of the Guides were all through the day remarkable for their courage and sangfroid, and the Zouaves are unanimous in their testimony to it. The Garibaldian marksmen were remarkably good, and two of them picked off the artillerymen one after the other,, ten loading for them as fast as they discharged the shots.

The superiority of the Chassepot was, however, clearly proved, and the terrible havoc in the enemy’s ranks was only realised when the battle was over and the wounded brought in. The patrols went up and down the ground with torches, and under every hedge, behind the walls, in the outhouses, and under the bracken were lying the unfortunate men ; many dead more dying and desperately wounded, and some able to walk, and too glad to surrender themselves prisoners and receive the best care that could be afforded them, and which was given by Dr. Ozanam and the Sisters to Garibaldians and Zouaves alike.

At five in the evening the firing ceased, and General Kanzler ordered a recall to be sounded and a camp formed round the Casa Santucci, whose elevated position rendered it the strongest post in our possession. The Zouaves soon returned with the Swiss, the chasseurs à pied, and the dragoons, and preparations were made for the bivouac. The French line was picketted in the ravine and the Legion on the open space below the ravine, round the little chapel where the first ambulance had remained under charge of Dr. Ceccarelli and Mgr. De Waelmont. The:night was a dreadful one—a cutting tramontana wind had set in, and four-fifths of the wounded at the lower ambulance could not be got under shelter, the chapel being too small, and they were obliged to be left on the ground, covered, as best we could contrive, with the scanty blankets of the train. Our water, too, ran short, and the wells being in the hands of the enemy, the sufferings of the poor soldiers were dreadful.

With the Sister Superioress and the surgeon and chaplain I spent the greatest part of the night on that terrible battle ground—the faces of the dead lighted up by the red glare of the camp fires, and now and then by a cold watery moon breaking through the storm clouds and rendering the scene ghastly beyond description. The cries of our unfortunate wounded were ringing in our ears, and we had not one pint of water left to give them. One poor Breton Zouave, to whom I was giving the last orange left in the ambulance, whose sufferings were dreadful to witness, from thirst, insisted on dividing it between two of his fellow wounded, both of them Garibaldians. It was his last act of heroic charity, for he went to receive his reward before daybreak.

We returned to the ambulance of Casa Santucci about three in the morning ; all along the road the dead were lying, the immense majority being Garibaldians. The body of one, an officer evidently, was guarded by his dog: the poor faithful creature sat there through the night and all next day, crying piteously, and would not be induced to leave it. When its master was buried the French office of the 59th took it home to their regiment, but for days it refused to eat or to notice any one.

About five in the morning the Comte de Christen arrived from Rome bringing important despatches from General Dumont, requesting the commander-in-chief, General Kanzler, to postpone his attack on Monte Rotondo till nine o’clock, as by that time a reinforcement of two French regiments and a heavy siege train would reach Mentana.

Preparations were, however, made for hostilities, and General Kanzler expected the Garibaldians to attack the Pontifical headquarters, and,by seven all was ready to recommence the battle. Still the Garibaldians remained perfectly inactive, and it would be difficult to imagine the astonishment of all present when, about eight o’clock, a flag of truce was hoisted from Mentana and a ” parlementaire,” on horseback, evidently an officer of some standing, appeared at the end of the avenue leading up to our lines.

Having been conducted to our head-quarters, he offered, on the part of the Mentana garrison, to surrender at discretion, Garibaldi having previously evacuated Monte Rotondo during the night.

The terms were of course accepted, and a few minutes after twelve hundred Garibaldians were marched into the Pontifical lines and sent under escort to Rome. The banner of Pius IX. was hoisted on the bastions, the Battle of Mentana was won, and Castelfidardo avenged !

The General and his staff started about eleven with the greater part of the troops to occupy Monte Rotondo, and the combatants busied themselves in the transport of the wounded. Prince Lancillotti, of whose courage and devotion it is impossible to speak too highly, rode off to Rome with General Kanzler’s despatches, and returned in the afternoon with fifty carriages, the Borghese, Patrizi, and all the great families sending their breaks and open carriages for the use of the ambulance. MM. les Ducs de Luynes and de Lorges, two of the oldest members of the French Peerage, were among the most active assistants, as well as MM. de Luppe, De Vergneaud, Keller, De Benoit d’Azy, under the direction of Dr. Ozanam. Of the services of M. de St. Priest and the Sisters of Charity I need not speak— they were indeed worthy of true children of St. Vincent of Paul.




Wilfrid Watts-Russell October 1879


THE LATE MR. WILFRID WATTS-RUSSELL.—We deeply regret to announce the death, at Clapham, of Wilfrid Watts-Russell, Esq., eldest son of the late Rev. Michael Watts-Russell, and grandson of the late Jesse Watts-Russell, Esq., of Ilam Hall, Staffordshire, and Biggin House, Northamptonshire. Mr. Watts-Russell served with distinction under Colonel Allet, in the Pontifical Zouaves, up to the time of the invasion of Rome by the Piedmontese troups in September, 1870. His younger brother, Julian, also a Pontifical Zouave, it will be remembered, was killed at Mentana. Mr. Watts-Russell’s surviving brother is the Very Rev. F. Michael Watts-Russell, Passionist, Rector of St. Saviour’s Retreat, Broadway. The deceased was thirty-three years of age. A solemn Requiem Mass was sung at the church of Our Lady of Victories, Clapham, on Thursday, by the Very Rev. F. Coffin, Prov. C.SS.R., assisted by the Revv. FF. Watts-Russell, C.P., and Coventry, O.S.M. Amongst the other clergy present in the sanctuary, in addition to the Redemptorist Fathers attached to St. Mary’s, were the Right Rev. Mgr. Goddard, of Chislehurst, the Revv. FF. Gallwey, S.J., and Vincent Grogan, C.P., and the Revv. G. S. Delaney, J. Palmer, and A. J. Hogan. The interment took place at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Mortlake, where the prayers at the grave were said by the Right Rev. Mgr. Goddard. R.I.P.

The above text was found on p.25, 18th October 1879 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .


The restoration of Julian Watts-Russell’s grave, June 1894

Campo Verano cemetery, Rome – General view

The restoration of the grave of Julian  Watts-Russell is now completed, after having  cost £17. [A modern day equivalent of £12,000] Among the latest contributors have been Lady Ellenborough and Lady Frances Lindsay. The grave is surrounded by low marble walls, sup-porting six small marble columns connected by a low bar, while the bed within is sown with rose trees, chrysanthemums, junipers, and violets. In the winter season there will be a cross of snowdrops and pansies. The old headstone stands in its place. This is a copy of the declaration put in the casket with the bones :

“The grave of Julian Watts-Russell, Pontifical Zouave, who was killed in the battle of Mentana, Nov. 3, 1867, was opened, and his remains examined on May 16, 1894, in the presence of the undersigned. The undersigned hereby declare that owing to the vault in which the coffin was placed having been imperfectly closed in the first instance, the rain was found to have penetrated into it, the consequence of which was that much damage had been done. The outer wooden coffin had gone to pieces, and the zinc coffin holding the remains was much damaged and broken. On the latter being opened it was further discovered that the moisture bad found entrance into it, causing such a condition of things as to necessitate the remains being transferred to this zinc casket. The remains were found to be very far advanced in decomposition, and it was only the bones of the skeleton, themselves much damaged by the wet, that were enclosed in this casket. The casket containing the bones, before being placed in the vault, was blessed by a Capuchin monk of the Church of San Lorenzo. All this was done in the presence of the undersigned, on the date above indicated.”

Then follow the signatures of those who attended the ceremony of exhumation on May 16 of the present year.

The above text was found on p.17, 16th June 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

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 .

Julian Watts-Russell: An Interview with Father Armellini, S.J. 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,” 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 the second of two articles published about Julian Watts-Russell on St Patrick’s Day 1894, and is an interview with his spiritual confessor.

Palazzo Borromea, Rome

No sort of difficulty attaches to a visit to Father Armellini, S.J.  [According to a note in the article, he was the postulator of the cause of the English Martyrs.]  He lives in the Via del Seminario at the Palazzo Borromea, become, after many phases of transformation, the Gregorian University, and known, by autonomasy, as the Roman College. It is only a question of finding the room of the particular Father you want among the many who live there, and of making the porter sure of your integrity. Thus the supernumerary porters are dispensed from running on multitudinous errands. The house is the residence of the Roman Provincial [of Jesuits], the teaching fathers forming only a nucleus of the’ community.

Father Armellini was at home, and at once most graciously acceded to my request for an interview, and spontaneously gave me a most interesting account of all that he remembered about Julian Watts-Russell.

“You had more to do with Julian Watts-Russell during his stay in Italy, than any other priest, not excepting even Father Cardella, who, for the rest, may be considered more in the light of a friend than as his spiritual father?”

“Yes,” he said, ” I had to do with Julian and his brothers from the beginning. They were three and they came to live in. the College of Nobles,[ Another note added:  Many English youths of the best families have belonged to this College, and in particular, the memory of the late Bishop of Clifton is still fresh. The Church where they performed their spiritual exercises adjoins the College, and is dedicated to St. Malo the Briton, and is recorded from the days of Cencius Camerarius (A.D. 1192).]   in this very house, where they stayed something more than a year. I was their confessor both them and afterwards; and I retain the most gratifying remembrances of our relations.

” One day I was informed that two of the pious youths had determined to become Zouaves in the Papal Army. The, third, as you all know, became a Passionist Father.”

” But your connection with them did not end here ?”

” No, I continued to see both the young soldiers frequently afterwards. When the time of war came, they were both stationed in the barracks, which were then, as now, in the Castle of St. Angelo. providing against a possible revolt, which might have been feared from the Garibaldian emissaries, but which did not actually take place, General Kanzler had divided the city into five quarters, and forbidden all intercommunication effectually securing his regulation by placing troops on the bridges and other points of vantage.

Santa Maria in Transpontina

This regulation prevented Julian from coming to make his last confession to me, as he had intended to do. He told his brother that he went instead to the neighbouring Carmelite Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina. I may add that his brother, being then unwell, was not called into active service for the battle of Mentana. It is, therefore, regrettable, from my point of view, that I had not an opportunity of bidding him a solemn farewell. My personal recollections after this are less directly concerned with Julian. But I may tell you that it was noticed at the time that his death was caused by a shot in the eye, and it was also remembered that an English member of the Garibaldian army—a newspaper correspondent, I believe—was a crack shot and delighted in shooting his victims in the eye. He shot from the window of a house in Mentana, and thus had the advantage of resting his gun upon the window-sill. [An interesting piece of spin, ]  In any case Julian’s suffering must have been of short duration, as he died at the end of the battle and in close proximity to the village.

Castel SantAngelo, Rome

” When the news of the victory was brought me, I received a visit from a pious French gentleman, whose name I do not well remember at this moment, who wished me to break the news of Julian’s death to his brother. I was naturally reluctant, but finally ceded to his wish. We went together to the Castle of St. Angelo. When I broke the sad news, the youth burst into tears. I tried to comfort him, saying : ‘ Do not weep, your brother is most certainly a martyr.’ This he at once recognized and then smiled, and quickly added : ‘ Still, let us pray for his dear soul. We all knelt and said the “De Profundis” for the repose of the youthful martyr.”

“This was the most optimistic and yet the truest view of the case.”

“Yes, and it was the view taken by Julian’s most exemplary Christian father. He was at Marseilles when the news came, and he said, with the spirit of true Christian paternity, that if he had ten sons, he would be willing that they should all be thus gloriously sacrificed in so holy a cause.”

” And your general recollection of Julian ?”

“My general recollection is of a truly candid youth, marvellously energetic for the cause of God and the spiritual life, a mere youth, it is true, but endowed with a certain earnestness, which had for its object his own spiritual advancement, and which seemed to foretoken the great glory of his end. In this way he seemed old beyond his years, and his life seemed to be conformed to the manner of his death.” 

The above text was found on p.19, 17th March 1894 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .


On September 3, Father Torquato Armellini, S.J., died at the Gregorian University, Rome, aged 78 years. He will be remembered by numerous visitors to Rome as one of the most popular of English .confessors. After the death of Father Boero in 1884, he became Postulator for the Canonisation of the English Martyrs. The energy and perseverance which he displayed in this post helped very materially to the passing of the various decrees, in virtue of which we can new salute so many of our Martyrs as Blessed and Venerable. About three years ago the infirmities of old age compelled him to resign this important office to its present holder, Father Camillo Beccari, S.J. R.I.P.

The above text was found on p.15, 14th September 1901 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .

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,” 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 .


Bastille Day Requiem Mass – Westminster Cathedral 1916

the Marchioness Imperiali

The Marchioness Imperiali

frenchflagFRANCE’S DAY : REQUIEM AT THE CATHEDRAL.—France’s Day was celebrated with much rejoicing in London on Friday, and the tricolour was sold in the streets for the benefit of the Red Cross Society of France. For the gallant soldiers of our Ally who have made the supreme sacrifice since the commencement of the war, a Requiem Mass was celebrated in Westminster Cathedral in the presence of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Representatives of the Allies engaged in the war were present, including M. Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador, and the Embassy Staff, the Italian Ambassador and the Marchioness Imperiali the Russian Ambassador, the Portuguese Minister, and Lieut General Orth, of the Belgian Legation. There were also present the Greek Minister, the Serbian Minister, Mr. and Mrs. Asquith, the Duke of Norfolk, the Mayor of Westminster, the Duke of Somerset, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lord Edmund Talbot, Sir Peter and Lady McBride, Major-General Sir Francis Lloyd, Sir Roper Parkington, and Lord Claud Hamilton. His Majesty the King, was represented by Lord Sandhurst, and Queen Alexandra by Colonel Sir Henry Streatfeild. The Catholic Women’s League was represented by the president, Mrs.  James Hope, and the hon. organizing secretary, Mrs St. George Saunders. The League also placed a wreath of lillies and laurel before the mosaic of Joan of Arc, with the inscription ” Aux Heros de la France morts pour la Patrie, la Gloire et la Victoire, Hommage de la Ligue des Femmes Catholiques d’Angleterre.” mosaic of joan of arcVarious religious, orders were also represented including the Sisters of Charity, many of whom are engaged in the military hospitals in France.

A catafalque draped with the French colours was erected in front of the high altar, and was provided with a guard of honour of Irish Guards. In the gallery at the western end of the Cathedral were the massed bands of the Brigade of Guards and previous to the commencement of the Mass they played Bizet’s overture ” Patrie,” and later Sullivan’s overture    ” In Memoriam.”


westminster-cathedral-1High Mass coram Cardinali was celebrated by Bishop Butt, the assistant priest being Father Edwin Burton, Vice-President of ,St. Edmund’s. The absolutions were pronounced by his Eminence, and the military band gave a splendid rendering of the Dead March in         ” Saul,” preceded by a roll of muffled drums. Then came the “Marseillaise” At the conclusion of the Mass the  “Last Post” sounded by the buglers of the Coldstream Guards followed the National Anthem, and a fitting termination to the impressive service was given by the band playing Gounod’s “Marche Solennelle”.

The above text was found on p.27, 22nd July 1916,  in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at .