top of page

February 27

Saint of the day:
Saint Anne Line

Patron Saint of coverts, widows, childless people

Saint Anne Line's Story

St Anne is believed to have been born as "Alice Higham" or "Heigham", the eldest daughter of the Puritan William Higham of Jenkyn Maldon. William Higham was the son of Roger Heigham, MP, a Protestant reformer under Henry VIII. A recently scholarly and extensively annotated biography has been published by Roger Scully S.J. She was born circa the early 1560s, and at some time in the early 1580s converted to the Roman Catholic Church along with her brother William and Roger Line, the man she married in February 1583. Both Roger Line and William Higham were disinherited for converting to the Roman Catholic Church and Alice Higham lost her dowry. Among Catholics, the married "Alice" became known as "Anne", presumably a name she took at her conversion.

Roger Line and William Higham were arrested together while attending Mass, and were imprisoned and fined. While William Higham was released on surety in England, Roger Line was banished and went to Flanders. Line received a small allowance from the King of Spain, part of which he sent regularly to his wife until his death around 1594. Around the same time, Father John Gerard, S.J., opened a house of refuge for hiding priests, and put the newly widowed Anne Line in charge of it, despite her chronic ill-health. For about three years Anne Line continued to run this house while Fr John Gerard was in prison. He was eventually transferred to the Tower of London where he was tortured, and from which he escaped. In his autobiography he writes:

After my escape from prison [Anne Line] gave up managing the house. By then she was known to so many people that it was unsafe for me to frequent any house she occupied. Instead she hired apartments in another building and continued to shelter priests there. One day, however (it was the Purification of Our Blessed Lady), she allowed in an unusually large number of Catholics to hear Mass … Some neighbours noticed the crowd and the constables were at the house at once.

Arrest and execution

Line was arrested on 2 February 1601 when her house was raided during the feast of the Purification, also known as Candlemas. On this day a blessing of candles traditionally takes place before the Mass, and it was during this rite that the raiders burst in and made arrests. The priest, Fr Francis Page, managed to slip into a special hiding place prepared by Anne Line and afterwards to escape, but she was arrested, along with another gentlewoman called Margaret Gage. Mrs Gage was released on bail and later pardoned, but Line was sent to Newgate Prison. She was tried at the Sessions House on Old Bailey Lane on 26 February 1601 and was so weak from fever that she was carried to the trial in a chair. She told the court that so far from regretting having concealed a priest, she only grieved that she "could not receive a thousand more." Sir John Popham, the judge, sentenced her to death for the felony of assisting a seminary priest.

Line was hanged on 27 February 1601. She was executed immediately before two priests, Fr. Roger Filcock and Fr. Mark Barkworth, who received the more severe sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering. At the scaffold she repeated what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders: "I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand."

Possible Shakespeare allusions

It has been argued that Shakespeare's poem The Phoenix and the Turtle was written shortly after her death to commemorate Anne and Roger Line, and its setting is the Catholic requiem held in secret for her This theory was first suggested in the 1930s by Clara Longworth de Chambrun in her novel My Shakespeare, Rise!, and is linked to claims that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic sympathiser. The theory was revived and developed by John Finnis and Patrick Martin in 2003. It has been extended by Martin Dodwell to suggest that Shakespeare takes the fate of Anne and Roger Line to symbolize the rejection of Catholicism by England, and he then returns to this allegorical scheme in the play Cymbeline.

A series of other Shakespearean allusions to Anne Line have been proposed by various scholars (Colin Wilson, Gerard Kilroy) most notably in The Tempest and in Sonnet 74.


Anne Line was beatified by Pope Pius XI on 15 December 1929. She was canonised by Pope Paul VI on 25 October 1970, as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Her feast day, along with all the other English Martyrs, is on 4 May. However, in the Catholic dioceses of England, she shares a feast day with fellow female martyr saints, Margaret Clitherow and Margaret Ward on 30 August.

The St. Anne Line Catholic Junior School in Wickhay, Basildon, Essex, is named for her. So is the Catholic parish of St Anne Line, Great Dunmow, Essex, where local tradition has it that her family lived in the Clock house, Great Dunmow.







The Ultimate Panackelty


  • 1 x Tin Corned Beef or 12 oz bacon - Thinly Sliced

  • 1 x Large Onion - Thinly Sliced

  • 2 x Carrots - Thinly Sliced

  • 4 Large Potatoes - Peeled & Thinly Sliced

  • 125g (5 oz) Bacon - Cut into squares

  • 125g (5 oz) Cheddar Cheese

  • ¾ Pint Beef Stock


  1. In a large over-proof casserole dish heat a little oil and gently fry the bacon & onion for 3-4 minutes, then remove and set aside.

  2. Now using the same pan, arrange a layer of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the pan. Cover the potatoes with a layer of sliced onions, corned beef, then a layer of sliced carrots. Layer over some of the crisp bacon, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  3. Repeat the layering process finishing with a layer of potatoes on top, pour in the stock and cover with foil and place into a pre-heated oven at 190°C for 45 minutes.

  4. After 45 minutes remove the lid and place back in over for 10 minutes to brown the potatoes. After the 10 minutes sprinkle the cheese over the crispy potatoes and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until golden and bubbling.

  5. Serve with veggies of your choice or just whack a load in bowl and tuck in.

Queen of Puddings

Traditionally, a queen of puddings is made with breadcrumbs, but this is the Marie Antoinette version, using brioche instead.


  • 150g/5½oz brioche, cut into slices and left to go stale (see recipe tip)

  • 50g/1¾oz unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing

  • 500ml/18fl oz full-fat milk

  • 1 lemon, zest and juice

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 25g/1oz caster sugar

  • pinch fine sea salt

  • 4 large free-range egg yolks (whites reserved for meringue topping)

  • 175g/6oz plum (or other) jam

For the topping

  • 4 large free-range egg whites (from eggs above)

  • 100g/3½oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling



  1. Grease your pie dish with butter and preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas 3½.

  2. Put the brioche slices into a food processor and blend into crumbs then place in a mixing bowl.

  3. Gently warm the milk in a saucepan with the butter, lemon zest, vanilla extract, sugar and a pinch salt, until the butter’s melted.

  4. Whisk the yolks in a large bowl or jug, pour the warm milk mixture on top and whisk to combine, then pour this over the crumbs in their bowl and leave for 10 minutes, before transferring to the greased dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is just set, although the crumb-custard will still be wobbly underneath. Remove from the oven and set aside.

  5. Whisk 2 teaspoons lemon juice into the jam in a small bowl: you want a soft, pourable consistency. If the jam’s too thick, warm it in a small pan. Set aside while you get on with the topping.

  6. Whisk the egg whites in a grease-free bowl until they form firm peaks, then gradually whisk in the sugar, until you have a thick and shiny meringue.

  7. Pour the lemon-spritzed jam over the crumb-custard, gently smoothing it over the top. Cover the jam-topped custard with the meringue, making sure it comes right to the edges to seal it well. Use a fork to pull the meringue topping into little peaks, and sprinkle with a ½ teaspoon or so of caster sugar.

  8. Put the dish back in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the meringue is bronzed and crisp on top. Let it stand for about 15 minutes before serving.


Recipe Tips

Of course, in the normal run of things, I don’t have stale brioche lying about, but you can quite easily stale it by leaving the slices on a wire rack for a good few hours or overnight. If time is pressing, put the slices on a wire rack sitting in a roasting tin, and heat in an oven preheated to 100C/80C Fan for 10–15 minutes. I tend to stale and crumb a whole brioche loaf at a time. American cup measures help here, as 2½ cups provide enough for each pudding (or fill a measuring jug up to the 600ml/21fl oz mark). I then freeze the crumbs, so measured, in tightly sealed bags in eager readiness to make this.

bottom of page