William Allen (cardinal)
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|Librarian of the Vatican|
|Created Cardinal||7 August 1587|
|Rank||Cardinal priest of Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti|
Rossall, near Fleetwood, Lancashire, England
|Died||16 October 1594 (aged 62)
|Buried||Church of St Thomas of Canterbury at the English College, Rome|
William Allen (1532 – 16 October 1594), was an English Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Allen assisted in the planning of the Spanish Armada's attempted invasion of England, and would likely have been made Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor had it been successful. The Douai-Rheims Bible was printed under Allen's orders. His activities were part of the Catholic Counter Reformation, but they made matters worse for Roman Catholics in England and in Ireland. He advised and recommended Pope Pius V to "depose" Elizabeth I. After her Sentence of Excommunication and "Deposition" from the Pope, Elizabeth chose not to continue with her policy of religious tolerance, and instead began the persecution of her Catholic religious opponents.
Allen was born in 1532, at Rossall, near Fleetwood, Lancashire, England. He was the third son of John Allen. In 1547, at the age of fifteen, he entered Oriel College, Oxford, became a Bachelor of Arts in 1550, and was elected to the Fellowship of the College. In 1554, he became a Master of Arts, and two years later, in 1556, was made Principal and Proctor of the then Saint Mary's Hall.
He seemed also to had been a canon at York Minster in or about 1558, indicating that he was likely to had made the tonsure, a step towards ordination. Upon the accession of Elizabeth I, and the second schism of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, but was allowed to remain within the University of Oxford, until 1561.
His public opposition to the Church of England forced him to leave the Kingdom and in that year, having resigned himself from all of his preferments, he left England and sought refuge in the city of Leuven and the University of Leuven, or Louvain, to join many other students from England who had left the English Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in order to avoid having to take the Oath of Supremacy. From there, he continued his theological studies and began to write apologetic, polemic and controversialist treatises. In the following year he returned to his native England, although not yet an ordained priest and suffering from ill health. He devoted himself to the re-conversion of his native land to the old faith. He worked to dissuade the Roman Catholic faithful from attending Protestant worship of the Church of England, an outward compromise of faith and conscience that they were making in order to save themselves from fines, confiscations, disabilities and ruin, a fate that eventually befell upon other members of his own family.
During this period as a clandestine missionary in England he formed the conviction that the people were not set against Rome by choice, but by force and by circumstances; and the majority were only too ready, in response to his sermons and ministrations, to return to Roman Catholicism. He was convinced that the Church of England's hold over the Kingdom, due to the action of Elizabeth, could only be temporary. When his presence was discovered by the Queen's agents, servants and representatives, he fled from Lancashire and retired to Oxfordshire.
After writing a treatise in defence of the priestly power to remit sins, he was obliged to retire to Norfolk, under the protection of the family of the Duke of Norfolk, but was once again obliged to leave for the Continent soon afterwards, in 1565. He would never return to England. Traveling to the Low Countries, he was ordained as a priest at Mechelen in Flanders shortly afterwards, and began to lecture in theology at the Benedictine College there.
College at Douai
In 1567, Allen went to Rome for the first time, and conceived his plans for establishing a College where students from England could live together and finish their theological education. The idea subsequently developed into the establishment of a missionary college, or seminary, to supply priests to the Kingdom of England, as long as England remained separated from the Pope and the See of Rome. With the help of friends, and notably of the Benedictine abbots of the neighbouring monasteries, a beginning was made in a rented house at Douai on Michaelmas Day (29 September), 1568, which marked the inauguration of the English College, Douai.
From there, Allen was to be joined by many English exiles, including Edmund Campion. Douai was thought suitable for Allen's new College because of the recent foundation there of the University of Douai by Pope Paul IV, under the patronage of King Philip II of Spain, in whose dominions Douai then was.
Allen's College became central to the Jesuit "English mission", for the re-conversion of England. Amongst the "seminary priests", as they were called, over 160 former students from Douai are known to have been put to death under the Penal Laws; more were imprisoned. Students celebrated the news of each martyrdom, and, privileged by special dispensation, said a solemn Mass of thanksgiving.
Rome and Rheims
When the number of students had risen rapidly to one hundred and twenty, the Pope summoned Allen to Rome to establish a similar College there. In 1575 Allen made a second journey to Rome, where he assisted by order of Pope Gregory XIII in the establishment of the English College. To that end, the ancient English Hospice in Rome was taken over, and converted into a seminary for the sending over of missionaries to England, and Jesuits were placed in the College, in order to assist Maurice Clenock, D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), Rector of the College.
The Pope appointed Allen to be a Canon in Kortrijk (also known as Courtrai or Courtray), and he returned to Douai in July 1576, but there he had to face a new difficulty. Besides the plots to assassinate him by agents of the Queen of England, the rebels against the Crown of the King of Spain, encouraged by Elizabeth and Elizabeth's emissaries, now at Douai, expelled the students of the University from Douai in March 1578. Allen moved the College of Douai to Rheims, now under the patronage and protection of the House of Guise. The collegians took refuge at the University of Rheims, where they were well received, and continued their work as before, and Allen was soon afterwards elected to become the Canon of the Chapter of Rheims Cathedral. Thomas Stapleton, Richard Bristow, Gregory Martin and Morgan Phillips, were amongst Allen's companions.
From the College Press came forth a constant stream of polemic, controversialist and other Roman Catholic literature, which for obvious reasons could not be printed in England. Allen took a prominent part in this. One of the chief works undertaken in the early years of the College was the preparation under Allen's direction of the well-known Douai Bible. The New Testament was published in 1582, when the College was at Rheims; but the Old Testament, although completed at the same time, was delayed due to a lack of funds. It was eventually printed and published at Douai, in 1609, two years before the Authorized King James Version.
In 1577 Allen began exchanging letters of correspondence with Robert Parsons, a Jesuit priest. Allen was again summoned to Rome in 1579, and was charged to suppress an insurrection within the English College, caused by infighting between students from Wales and the rest of the students from England. It was during this visit that he was appointed to the Pontifical Board of Commissioners charged with the task of submitting proposals for the revision of the Latin Vulgate Bible. Brought into personal contact with Parsons, Allen fell completely under the other man's personality and submitted to his influence. Under Allen's orders, the English College at Rome was placed under the control of the Society of Jesus, for a plan to send Jesuit missions and missionaries to England by 1580. Under Allen's instructions, the first Jesuits to be sent, Parsons and Edmund Campion, were to work closely with other Roman Catholic priests in England. The mission was of questionable value, as Campion was put to death only after a year's work, and Parsons had to once again flee from England.
Allen himself saw his work as "scholastical attempts" to end the English schism from Rome. His efforts to secure this were completely unsuccessful, and made matters worse for Roman Catholics in the Kingdoms of England and Ireland. The infamous Regnans in Excelsis, a Bull by Pius V in 1570, sentenced Queen Elizabeth to both excommunication as well as to "deposition", from the Crowns of the Kingdoms of England and of Ireland, and, upon the pain of excommunication, "released" and forbid her subjects in the two Kingdoms from their due allegiance owed to their Queen.
Returning to Rheims, he allowed himself to take part in Parson's political intrigues for the furtherance of Philip's interests in England and in Ireland. Allen's political career had now begun. Parsons had already intended to remove Allen from the seminary at Reims, and to that end, as far back as 6 April 1581, had recommended Allen to Philip II, for the King's recommendation of Allen to become a Cardinal with the Pope. In furtherance of the intrigues, Allen and Parsons went to Rome again in 1585, and there, Allen remained for the rest of his life. In 1587, whilst he was the subject of the intrigue by Philip's agents, he wrote, helped by Parsons, a book in defence of Sir William Stanley, an English officer who had surrendered the town of Deventer in Overijssel, part of and within the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands, to King Philip's Armies. Allen wrote that all Englishmen were obliged, under the pain of eternal damnation, to follow that example, as Elizabeth was "no lawful queen" in the eyes of God (as well as of the Pope).
Allen helped in the planning of the attempted invasion of England, and likely to had been made Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor had it been successful. Allen was the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England under the Pope, and in this position, just after the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, he wrote to Philip II (19 March 1587) to encourage him to undertake an invasion of England, stating that the Roman Catholics in England (and in Ireland) were clamouring for the King of Spain to come and punish "this woman, hated by God and [by] man". After much deliberation, he was made a Cardinal by Pope Sixtus V on 7 August 1587, possibly to ensure the success of the Spanish Armada.
Allen was then once more in Rome, having been summoned by the pope after a dangerous illness two years before. He never left the city of Rome again, but he kept in constant correspondence and communication with his old countrymen back in England. It had been due to his influence that the Society of Jesus, to which he was greatly attached, undertook to join in the work of the English mission; and now Allen and Father Parsons became joint leaders of the "Spanish Party" amongst the Roman Catholics in England and in Ireland.
At the advice and recommendation of King Philip, Allen was created a Cardinal in 1587, and he was prepared to return to England immediately, should the invasion prove successful. Amongst the adherents to the scheme, however, Allen and Parsons were both equally at fault. The vast majority of the small remaining Roman Catholic faithful in the Kingdom of England remained loyal to their own Queen against Spain and King Philip, and the defeat of the Spanish Armada, in 1588, was to them an event that gave cause to rejoice, no less than their fellow countrymen who were instead Protestants of the Church of England.
Allen outlived the defeat of the Armada by some six years. To the end of his life, he reportedly remained fully convinced that soon the People of England and their Sovereign would became Roman Catholics once again. Upon his elevation, Allen wrote to the College at Rheims, that he owed his Cardinal's hat (also) to Parsons. One of his first acts was to order the publication, under his own name and authority, two works for the purpose of inciting Roman Catholics in England to rise up against Elizabeth: The Declaration of the Sentence of Sixtus V, a broadside, and a book, An Admonition to the nobility and people of England (Antwerp, 1588). After the failure of the Armada, Philip, in order to rid himself of the burden of the financial costs of supporting Allen as Cardinal, nominated him to become also the Archbishop of Mechelen. The nomination to the Pope, however, had never received the Pope's confirmation.
Pope Gregory XIV granted and bestowed him the title of Librarian of the Vatican. In 1589, he assisted in the establishment of the English College, at Valladolid in Spain. He took part in four Conclaves of the Church, although his influence diminished after the failure of the Armada. Before his death in Rome, he appeared to had changed his mind about the wisdom of Jesuit politics in Rome and in England. Certainly, his political activities give grounds and cause for Elizabeth and Elizabeth's government to regard the English seminaries in the Continent in Europe as hotbeds of treason.
Allen continued to base himself, and reside, at the English College, Rome, until his death. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, he, as a Cardinal, had lived in poverty, and died, in debt, at Rome on 16 October 1594. He was buried in the Chapel of the Holy Trinity adjoining the College.
Allen's foundations at Douai survives today in a seminary, one Allen Hall, in the Borough and District of Chelsea, in London, the successor in spirit to Saint Edmund's College, Ware. There existed Saint Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, or Ushaw College, of the University of Durham (where the College's coat-of-arms (granted by the Earl Marshal, who was also the Duke of Norfolk) incorporated the three hares (coneys) from Allen's ancestral arms), near Durham, in County Durham, until its closure in 2011. The English College at Valladolid continues to prepare and educate Englishmen and Welshmen for the Catholic priesthood. There is also a Roman Catholic secondary school named in his honour in Fleetwood, near to his original place of birth. There also existed a secondary school named after him in Enfield, in the Northern part of the modern Greater London that is traditionally known as Middlesex, until its closure circa 1980; as well as a grammar school for boys in West Derby, Liverpool, until 1983, when it was renamed, instead, after Cardinal Heenan.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Ward, Bernard (1913). "William Allen". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "William Allen". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
A list of Allen's works is given in Joseph Gillow's Biographical Dictionary of the English Catholics. The following is a list of his printed publications:
- Certain Brief Reasons concerning the Catholick Faith (Douay, 1564)
- A Defense and Declaration of the Catholike Churches Doctrine touching Purgatory, and Prayers of the Soules Departed (Antwerp, 1565), re-edited in 1886
- A Treatise made in defense of the Lawful Power and Authoritie of the Preesthoode to remitte sinnes &c. (1578)
- De Sacramentis (Antwerp, 1565; Douay, 1603)
- An Apology for the English Seminaries (1581)
- Apologia Martyrum (1583)
- Martyrium R. P. Edmundi Campiani, S. J. (1583)
- An Answer to the Libel of English Justice (Mons, 1584)
- The Copie of a Letter written by M. Doctor Allen concerning the Yeelding up of the Citie of Daventrie, unto his Catholike Majestie, by Sir William Stanley Knight (Antwerp, 1587), reprinted by the Chetham Society, 1851
- An Admonition to the Nobility and People of England and Ireland, concerning the present Warres made for the Execution of his Holines Sentence, by the highe and mightie Kinge Catholike of Spain, by the Cardinal of Englande (1588)
- A Declaration of the sentence and deposition of Elizabeth, the usurper and pretended Queene of England (1588; reprinted London, 1842).
- Thomas Francis Knox, Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen (London, 1882)
- Thomas Francis Knox, First and Second Diaries of the English College, Douay: Historical Introduction (London, 1877)
- Alphons Bellesheim, Wilhelm Cardinal Allen und die englischen Seminare auf dem Festlande (Mainz, 1885)
- First and Second Diaries of the English College, Douai (London, 1878)
- Nicholas Fitzherbert, De Antiquitate et continuatione religionis in Anglia et de Alani Cardinalis vita libellus (Rome, 1608)
- Ethelred Taunton, History of the Jesuits in England (London, 1901)
- Alexandre Teulet, vol. v.; the Spanish State Papers (Simancas), vols. lii. and iv.
|Catholic Church titles|
|Cardinal Priest of Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti