The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Paul IV (1555-1559)
Consistory of June 14, 1557 (IV)


(19) 1. PETO, William O.F.M.Obs. (?-1558)

Birth. (No date found) (1), Warwickshire. His first name is also listed as Peter and his last name as Petow, Peyto, and Peti. Son of Edward Peto of Chesterton, Warwickshire, and Goditha, daughter of Sir Thomas Throckmorton of Coughton.

Education. Studied at Oxford University (bachelors of arts); incorporated in Cambridge University, 1502-1503 (master's in arts, 1505). Fellow of Queen's College, 1506, during the presidency of John Fisher. Incorporated M. A. at Oxford, June 14, 1510. Entered the Order of the Friars Minor Observant (O.F.M.Obs.), also called the Grey Friars.

Priesthood. Ordained (no information found). Confessor to Princess Mary. Provincial of his order in England from 1522. On March 31, 1532, Easter Day, in the Franciscan church at Greenwich, he preached against the divorce of King Henry VIII in the king's presence. After the sermon, a heated argument took place between Peto and Henry. For that reason, he was imprisoned. Set free at the end of that year, he traveled to Antwerp, where he published a book against the divorce and corresponded with several of the future English martyrs, among them Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher of Rochester. He sent friars to visit and assist Queen Catalina of Aragon. In 1537, still in the Low Countries, he met Cardinal Reginald Pole. He went to Italy and became acquainted with Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa, future Pope Paul IV. In 1539, while he was in Italy, he was included in the Act of Attainder passed against the Pole family and his adherents.

Episcopate. Elected bishop of Salisbury, March 30, 1543. Consecrated (no information found). At the time, he could not obtain possession of his diocese. When Queen Mary I Tudor ascended the throne in 1553, he returned to England and to the Franciscan convent at Greenwich. He did not attempt to take possession of his diocese (2). The queen again chose him as her confessor.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal priest in the consistory of June 14, 1557; never received the red hat and the title. Legate a latere in England in the place of Cardinal Reginald Pole, 1557. Angered by the pope's removal of Cardinal Pole, Queen Mary gave orders to arrest the messenger bringing to England the red biretta and the bull of appointment to the cardinalate; the documents were sent to Westminster. The newly created cardinal sought to be excused from accepting the promotion because of his age and poor health and was happy to remain in his convent. When the pope sent his nephew to Flanders to settle several matters with King Felipe II, the nephew was also commissioned to try to persuade Cardinal Peto to visit Rome but he did not succeed.

Death. April 1558 (3), London (4). Buried, Franciscan convent of Greenwich (5).

Bibliography. Baxter, Dudley. England's cardinals. With an appendix showing the reception of the sacred pallium by the archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster. London : Burns & Oates ; New York : Benzinger, 1903, pp. 56-58; Bellenger, Dominc Aidan and Stella Fletcher. Princes of the church. A history of the English cardinals. Phoenix Mill, Gloucestershire : Sutton Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 74, 82 and 176; Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1793, IV, ; Chacón, Alfonso. Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm ab initio nascentis Ecclesiæ vsque ad Vrbanvm VIII. Pont. Max. 2 volumes. Romae : Typis Vaticanis, 1630, II, col. ; Eubel, Conradus and Gulik, Guglielmus van. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi, Münich : Sumptibus et Typis Librariae Regensbergianae, 1935; reprint, Padua : Il Messagero di S. Antonio, 1960, III, 36 and 292.

Webgraphy. Biography, in English; his parents' genealogy; the Peyto Mansion; and the Peyto Family tomb in St. Giles church, Chesterton.

(1) According to his parents' genealogy, his eldest brother was born in 1478 and his father died in 1488, therefore, the cardinal must have been born between those two years.
(2) Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi, III, 292, indicates that he died as bishop of Salisbury; his biography in English, linked above, indicates that he resigned and retired to the Franciscan convent at Greenwich.
(3) This is according to Baxter, England's cardinals, p. 58; his biography, linked above, says that the "date frequently assigned for his death (April, 1558) is incorrect, as on 31 October, 1558, Queen Mary wrote to the pope that she had offered to reinstate him in the Bishopric of Salisbury on the death of Bishop Capon, but that he had declined because of age and infirmity."
(4) This is according to his biography, linked above, which also says that other sources indicate that he died in France. The same biographical entry indicates that it "was a tradition among the Franciscans that he was pelted with stones by a London mob, and so injured that he shortly afterwards died."
(5) This is according to Bellenger, Princes of the church. A history of the English cardinals, p. 176; Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa, IV, 372, indicates that he was buried in the metropolitan cathedral of Canterbury.

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