David Mathew (bishop)

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David James Mathew (15 January 1902 – 12 December 1975) was an English Roman Catholic bishop and historian.

Mathew was born at Lyme Regis, Dorset, and educated at the naval colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth. He served as a midshipman in the Royal Navy at the end of World War I.[citation needed]

He entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1920 and received a degree in modern history in 1923. He then went to Beda College in Rome, with the intention of seeking ordination and with a plan to enter the Carthusian order. He was ordained in 1929, and spent 10 months as a novice at St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster, West Sussex, before concluding that he did not have a monastic vocation.[citation needed]

After service at St David's Cathedral, Cardiff, he went to London to become chaplain to the Roman Catholic community at the University of London. In 1938 he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. He served in London through the Blitz. In 1945 he was named apostolic visitor to Ethiopia, and in 1946 apostolic delegate to the British colonies in Africa.[citation needed]

This brought his consecration to the titular Archbishopric of Apamea. His service in Africa was successful, and he helped carry out the Vatican's policy of preparing for the appointment of native African bishops, acting as principal consecrator of Laurean Rugambwa after his appointment as Apostolic Vicar of Lower Kenya: Rugambwa later became the first African cardinal since the days of the early church.[citation needed]

Upon Mathew's return to England in 1953, he was appointed bishop-in-ordinary to the British Armed Forces. (He had refused an appointment to the nunciature in Bern, hoping to receive an English diocese). Mathew retired in 1963 and spent the rest of his life writing history. He died in London on 12 December 1975, aged 73.[citation needed]


  • The Celtic Peoples and Renaissance Europe (1933)
  • The Reformation and the Contemplative Life (1934)
  • Catholicism in England, 1535-1935. Portrait of a Minority: Its Culture and Tradition (1936)
  • Steam Packet (1936)
  • The Jacobean Age (1938)
  • British Seamen (1943)
  • The Naval Heritage (1944)
  • Acton: The Formative Years (1946)
  • Ethiopia: The Study of a Polity, 1540-1935 (1947)
  • The Social Structure in Caroline England (1948)
  • Sir Tobie Mathew (1950)
  • The Mango on the Mango Tree (1950)
  • The Age of Charles I (1951)
  • In Vallombrosa (1952)
  • The Prince of Wales's Feathers (1953)
  • Scotland under Charles I (1955)
  • James I (1967)
  • Lord Acton and His Times (1968)
  • The Courtiers of Henry VIII (1970)
  • Lady Jane Grey (1972)


  • Kerr, Fergus: 'Mathew, David James (1902–1975)', rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1], accessed 14 March 2008
  • "Archbishop David Mathew". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
James Dey
Bishop of the Forces
Succeeded by
Gerard William Tickle