The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590)
Consistory of August 7, 1587 (IV)


(18) 1. ALLEN, William (1532-1594)

Birth. 1532, Rossal Grange, Lancashire, England. Third son of John Allen and Jane Lister. Baptized at All Hallows Church, Bispham.

Education. He was educated at home until he was fifteen. He entered Oriel College, Oxford, in 1547 (B.A. and fellow of his college, 1550; M.A., July 16, 1554).

Early life. In 1556 was chosen principal of St. Mary's Hall, Oxford and proctor of the university. In 1558 he became a canon of the cathedral chapter of York, even though he was still a layman but had decided to enter the ecclesiastical state. After the accession to the English throne of Queen Elizabeth I in 1558 and the reestablishment of Protestantism, because of his zeal and loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church, he had to resign all his posts at Oxford and went to Louvain, Flanders in 1561. The following year, he returned home in a very delicate health and remained there for three years. He actively encouraged the Catholics and made numerous converts. In 1565, he left England for ever.

Priesthood. Ordained, 1565, Mechlin. Lectured in theology in the Benedictine college in that city. There, he conceived the idea of a college for English students on the Continent, and in 1568 opened the first and most famous of such institutions, that at Douai, Flanders. In 1570, he was created a Doctor of Divinity and appointed Regius Professor of Divinity (1) at the college, which he continued to administer and serve until 1588, although in 1585 he had moved to Rome. In 1576, he converted the English Hospice in Rome into a seminary which became the English College. Its first students arrived there from Douai in 1577 and Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) issued the Bull of Foundation in 1579. Protonotary apostolic. Edited the vernacular version of the Sacred Scriptures known as the Douai Bible; the New Testament was published in 1582 in Reims, where the college had temporarily moved and was under his presidency; and the Old Testament was published in Douai in 1609.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal priest in the consistory of August 7, 1587 (2); received the red hat and the title of Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti, August 31, 1587. He also received the title of Cardinal of England and was the first English cardinal after the protestant Reformation. On November 10, 1589, King Felipe II of Spain nominated him archbishop of Mechlin but he was never preconized apparently because of the state of destitution of the see and the unwillingness of the king to provide the archbishop with a fitting revenue. Participated in the first conclave of 1590, which elected Pope Urban VII. Participated in the second conclave of 1590, which elected Pope Gregory XIV. The new pope named him prefect of the Vatican library and entrusted him, together with Cardinal Ascanio Colonna, with the revision of the Latin Vulgate. Participated in the conclave of 1591, which elected Pope Innocent IX. Participated in the conclave of 1592, which elected Pope Clement VIII. He was a prolific author who wrote numerous works in theology, apologetics and ecclesiastical history (3)

Death. October 16, 1594, in the morning, after sunrise, in Rome. Buried in the church of St. Thomas of Canterbury in the Venerable English College, Rome (4). His tomb was destroyed during the French occupation of the city at the end of the 18th century (5).

Bibliography. Allen, William and Thomas Francis Know. The Letters and memorials of William, cardinal Allen (1532-1594). London : Nutt, 1882; Baxter, Dudley. England's cardinals. With an appendix showing the reception of the sacred pallium by the archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster. Lond : Burns & Oates ; New York : Benzinger, 1903; Bellenger, Dominc Aidan and Stella Fletcher. Princes of the church. A history of the English cardinals. Phoenix Mill, Gloucestershire : Sutton Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 85-95; Bellesheim, Alphons. Wilhelm Cardinal Allen (1532-1594) und die englischen Seminare auf dem Festlande. Mainz : F. Kirchheim, 1885; The British Church from the days of Cardinal Allen. Compiled by the Reverend Father Paul, O.S.F.C., with prefaces by the Most Reverend John McIntyre archbishop of 'Odesso,' and the Right Reverend George H. Bennett, bishop of Aberdeen. London : Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1929; Camm, Bede. William Cardinal Allen, founder of seminaries. London : Macdonald and Evans, 1908; Cardella, Lorenzo. Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa. Rome : Stamperia Pagliarini, 1793, V, 267-272; 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. 1804-1805; Duffy, Eamon. "William, Cardinal Allen, 1532-1594." Recusant History, 22 (1995), pp. 265-290; 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, 51-52 and 67; Foster, Stewart. Cardinal William Allen, 1532-94. London : Catholic Truth Society, 1993; Haile, Martin. An Elizabethan Cardinal, William Allen. St. Louis : B. Herder ; London : Isaac Pitman, 1914; Hall, Richard (c. 1537-1604) ; Bayly, Thomas (d. c. 1657). The Life and Death of the Renowned John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Who was beheaded on Tower-Hill, the 22nd of June, 1535...Divers Moral, Historical, and Political Animadversions upon Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More, Martin Luther, &c. London : P. Meighan, 1739. Note: Copy of the earliest biography of St. John Fisher, first published in 1655. Although the work has been variously attributed to Catholic controversialist Thomas Bayly as well as 16th century Catholic priest Richard Hall, in fact neither were responsible for producing the original manuscript, whose authorship has remained anonymous. Hall is credited with having made the first Latin translation of the work in about 1559. Bayly received a manuscript copy from Sir Wingfield Bodenham and after making revisions allowed it to be published in 1655 under his own name; McElligott, Thomas. The Eucharistic doctrine of Cardinal William Allen (1532-1594). Rome : Catholic Book Agency, 1939; Oldoini, Agostino. Athenaeum Romanum : in qvo summorum pontificum, ac pseudopontificum, nec non s.r.e. cardinalium et pseudocard. scripta publich exponuntur. Perusiae [i.e. Perugia] : Ex typographia Camerali, apud haeredes Sebastiani Zechini, 1676. Republished in 1969 by Gregg International Publishers Limited, 1 Westmead, Farnborough, Hants., England, p. 289-291; Williams, M. E. "William Allen : The Sixteenth Century Spanish Connection." Recusant History, 22 (1994), pp. 123-140.

Links. Biography by Bernard Ward, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; portrait and biography, in English Manchester Celebrities Philanthropy, Philosophy & Religion; biography, in English, New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I; his portrait, Ushaw College, Durham, England; his engraving from Lodge's British Portraits', 1823, English School, (19th century), Private Collection, The Bridgeman Art Library; his engraving by J.Cochran, English School, (19th century), Private Collection, The Bridgeman Art Library; and his portrait, Venerable English College, Rome.

(1) According to Camm, William Cardinal Allen, founder of seminaries, p. 49, he was given an annual stipend of 300 golden crowns which he gave entirely to the college not reserving a penny for himself.
(2) According to Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi, III, 51-52, the pope elevated him to the cardinalate to comfort the English Catholics for the execution of Queen Mary Stuart, and in spite of the apostolic constitution and bull establishing that the creation of cardinals should take place in December. He was brought into the consistory in the garment of protonotary apostolic and the pope placed the red biretta on his head.
(3) This is a list of some of his works, taken from Oldoino, Oldoini, Athenaeum Romanum, p. 289-290: De Sacramentis Ecclesiæ in genere; De Sacramento Eucharistiæ; De auctoritate Sacerdotum per Sacramentum Pœnitentiæ; De sacrificio Missæ; De Purgatorio, & Oratione pro Defunctis Anglicè librurn vnum; De Indulgentiis Anglicè; De Prædestinatione; De imaginibus; De intentione Papæ in erigendis Seminariis; De inuocatione Sanctorurn, & reliquijs librum vnurn; Contra librum ab Hæreticis in lucem emissum sub nomine lustitiæ Britanicæ; Bibliorum libri in Anglicanum idioma translati; Extat eiusdem Epiftola ad Ernestum Bauarum, leodiensem Fræsulem de miserabili statu & calamitate Regni Anglici feruente schismate, quam refert Chappeauillus in libro de Episcopis leodiensibus; Scripsit etiam Admonitionem ad Catholicos Angliæ; Apologiam Seminariorum contra edictum Elizabettæ Reginæ; Epistolam Anglicè de legitima deditione Deuentriæ facta per Guilelmum Standleum; Iustitiæ Anglicanæ consutationem libro vno.
(4) This is the text of his epitaph taken from Chacón, Vitæ, et res gestæ Pontificvm Romanorum et S. R. E. Cardinalivm, II, col. 1804:

DEO . TRINO . ET . VNI .
GVILIELMO . ALANO .
LANCASTRIENSI .
S. R. E. PRESB.
CARD. ANGLIÆ .
QVI . EXTORRIS . A . PATRIA . PERFVNCTUVS .
LABORIBVS . DIVTVRNIS .
IN . ORTHODOXA . RELIGIONES . TVENDA .
SVDORIBVS . MVLTIS .
N . SEMINARIIS . AD . SALVATEM . PATRIÆ . INSTITVENDIS .
FOVENDIS .
PERICVLIS . PLVRIMIS .
OB .
ECCLESIAM . ROMANAM . OPERA . SCRIPTIS .
OMNI . CORPORIS .
ET . ANIMI . CONTENTIONE . DEFENSAM .
HIC .
IN . EIVS . GREMIO .
SCIENTIÆ . PIETATIS . MODESTIÆ .
INTEGRITATIS . FAMA . ET . EXEMPLO . CLARVS .
AC .
PIIS . OMNIBVS . CLARVS . OCCVBVIT .
XVII KAL. NOVEMBRIS .
ANNO . ÆTAT . LXIII .
SALVTIS . HVMANÆ . MDXCIV.

To this text, both Camm, William Cardinal Allen, founder of seminaries, p. 189; and Haile, An Elizabethan Cardinal, William Allen, Appendix K, p. 374, add, after his age, EXILII XXXIII, and at the end,
INTER LACRYMAS EXULUM PRO RELIGIONE CIVIUM
PERPETUUM ILLORUM EFFUGIUM GABRIEL
ALANUS FRATER THOMAS HESCHETUS
SORORIS FILIUS FRATRI AVUNCULO
CHARISS. OPTIME OPTIMEQUE
MERITO MOERENTES
POSUERUNT.

(5) According to Camm, William Cardinal Allen, founder of seminaries, pp. 186-187, the tombs were desecrated, the skulls and bones were piled up and the lead coffins converted into munitions of war.

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