Thomas Fitzherbert - Encyclopedia




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THOMAS FITZHERBERT (1552-1640), English Jesuit, was the eldest son and heir of William Fitzherbert of Swynnerton in Staffordshire, and grandson of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, judge of the common pleas. He was educated at Oxford, where, at the age of twenty, he was imprisoned for recusancy. On his release he went to London, where he was a member of the association of young men founded in 1580 to assist the Jesuits Edmund Campion and Robert Parsons. In 1582 he withdrew to the continent, where he was active in the cause of Mary, queen of Scots. He married in this year Dorothy, daughter of Edward East of Bledlow in Buckinghamshire. After the death of his wife (1588) he went to Spain, where on the recommendation of the duke of Feria he received a pension from the king. He continued his intrigues against the English government, and in 1598 he was charged with complicity in a plot to poison Queen Elizabeth. After this he was for a short while in the service of the duke of Feria at Milan, then went to Rome, where he was ordained priest (1601-1602) and became agent for the English clergy. He was unpopular with them, however, owing to his subserviency to the Jesuits, and resigned the agency in 1607 owing to the remonstrances of the English arch-priest George Birkhead. In 1613 he joined the Society of Jesus, and was appointed superior of the English mission at Brussels in 1616, and in 1618 rector of the English college at Rome. He held this post to within a year of his death, which occurred at Rome on the 7th of August (O.S.) 1640.

Father Fitzherbert, who is described as "a person of excellent parts, a notable politician, and of graceful behaviour and generous spirit," wrote many controversial works, a list of which is given in the article on him by Mr Thompson Cooper in the Dictionary of National Biography, together with authorities for his life.

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