Thomas Harding (1516–1572)

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Thomas Harding (b. at Combe Martin, Devon, 1516;[1] d. at Leuven, September 1572) was an English Roman Catholic priest and controversialist.


He went to New College, Oxford, in 1534, was admitted a Fellow in 1536, and took his Master's degree in 1542, in which year he was appointed Regius Professor of Hebrew by Henry VIII. Having been ordained priest he became chaplain to Henry Grey, Marquess of Dorchester (afterwards Duke of Suffolk). He at first embraced the Reformed opinions, but on the accession of Mary he declared himself a Catholic, despite the upbraidings of his friend Lady Jane Grey.[2]

In 1554 he took the degree of Doctor of Divinity and was appointed prebendary of Winchester, becoming treasurer of Salisbury in the following year. He also acted as chaplain and confessor to Bishop Gardiner. When Elizabeth I of England became queen, he was deprived of his preferments and imprisoned.[3] Subsequently he lived in exile in Leuven. There he served St. Gertrude's church and devoted himself to study and to his long controversy with John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury.[2]


In 1564, he published "An answere to Maister Juelles Challenge", Jewel having undertaken to conform to the Catholic Church if any Catholic writer could prove that any of the Church Fathers of six centuries taught any of twenty-seven articles he selected. Jewel replied first in a sermon (which Harding answered in a broadsheet "To Maister John Jeuell", printed at Antwerp in 1565) and then in a book. Against the latter Harding wrote "A Rejoindre to M. Jewel's Replie" (Antwerp, 1566) and "A Rejoindre to M. Jewel's Replie against the Sacrifice of the Mass" (Louvain, 1567).[2]

Meanwhile he had become engaged in a second controversy with the same author, and, in his confutation of a book entitled an "Apologie of the Church of England" (Antwerp, 1565), he attacked an anonymous work, the authorship of which Jewel admitted in his "Defence of the Apologie of the Churche of Englande". Harding retorted with "A Detection of Sundrie Foule Errours, Lies, Sclaunders, corruptions, and other false Dealinges, touching Doctrine and other matters uttered and practized by M. Jewel" (Louvain, 1568). In 1566 Pope Pius V appointed Harding and Dr. Sander (Nicholas Sanders) Apostolic delegates to England, with special powers of giving faculties to priests and of forbidding Catholics to frequent Protestant services.[2]

Harding supported exiled English Catholics, and William Allen in founding the English College at Douai. He was buried (16 September 1572) in the Church of St. Gertrude, Leuven.


  1. ^ The registers of Winchester School show that after attending Barnstaple school he obtained a scholarship there in 1528, being then twelve years old. If this information be correct, he was three years younger than is commonly stated.
  2. ^ a b c d  Perry, George Gresley (1890). "Harding, Thomas (1516-1572)". In Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 24. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  3. ^ Sander, "Report to Cardinal Moroni".


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Thomas Harding". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.  The entry cites:
    • Thomas F. Kirby, Winchester Scholars (London, 1892);
    • John Pitts, De Illustribus Anglia scriptoribus (Paris, 1623);
    • Charles Dodd, Church History (Brussels, 1739–42);
    • Joseph Gillow, Bibl. Dict. Eng. Cath. (London, 1887), s. v. ;
    • Perry in Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1890), s. v.;
    • Sander. Report to Card. Moroni in Catholic Record Society's Publications: Miscellanea, I (London, 1905);
    • Henry Norbert Birt, The Elizabethan Religious Settlement (London, 1907).