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. The other children were George, Richard, Mary, Elizabeth, and Anne. His last name is also listed as Alanus; as Alleyne; and as Aleyn.

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. A true, sincere and modest defence of English Catholics that suffer for their faith both at home and abroad, against a false, seditious and slanderous libel, entitled: "The execution of justice in England" . 2 vols. St. Louis, Mo. : B. Herder, 1914. ((The Catholic Library, 4). Other titles: Allen's Defence of English Catholics, 1584; Defence of English Catholics, 1584. Responsibility: by William Allen ; with a preface by His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminister; Allen, William, 1532-1594 ; R. A., active 1587 ; Ashton, Roger, -1591, supposed author. The copie of a letter vvritten by M. Doctor Allen: concerning the yeelding vp of the citie of Dauentrie vnto his Catholike Maiestie, by Sir VVilliam Stanley knight. VVherin is shevved both hovve lavvful, honorable and necessarie that action vvas ; and also that al others, especiallie those of the English nation that detayne anie tovvnes, or other places, in the lovve countries from the King Catholike are bound, vpon paine of damnation, to do the like. Before vvhich is also prefixed a gentlemans letter, that gaue occasion, of this discourse. Imprinted at Antuarpe : By Ioachim Trognæsius, 1587; 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. London : 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.

Webgraphy. Biography by Bernard Ward, in English, The Catholic Encyclopedia; his portrait and biography, in English, Encyclopaedia Britannica; biography, in English, New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I; biography by Thompson Cooper, in English, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 01, Wikisource; Cardinal William Allen, Vatican Librarian, from Supremacy and Survival: The English Reformation, Copyright Stephanie A. Mann, Wednesday, October 16, 2013; his portrait and biography, in English, Billington's Blog; his portrait and biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; biography, in Italian, Encyclopedia on line, Treccani; his portrait, Ushaw College, Durham, England; William Allen, Allen Hall, Seminary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster; his engraving by J.Cochran, English School, (19th century), Private Collection, The Bridgeman Art Library; Allen Family Crest, Coat of Arms and Name History, in English, Coat of Arms Database; portraits, engravings and epitaph, Araldica Vaticana; his tomb, Requiem Datenbank; The Letters and memorials of William, cardinal Allen: (1532-1594). Edited by the Fathers of the Congregation of the London Oratory. With an Historical Introduction by Thomas Francis Know, D.D., Priest of the same Congregation, London : David Nutt, 270, Strand. MDCCCLXXXII, (Records of the English Catholics Under the Penal Laws, Volume 2), Google Books; Eamon Duffy’s “Reformation Divided” revises assumptions, offers deep historical insights by Michael B. Kelly, Catholic World Report, July 8, 2017.

(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 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.

This is a list of his printed works, taken from Supremacy and Survival: The English Reformation, linked above: "Certain Brief Reasons concerning the Catholick Faith" (Douay, 1564)
; "A Defense and Declaration of the Catholike Churches Doctrine touching Purgatory, and Prayers of the Soules Departed" (Antwerp, 1565), re-edited by Father Bridgett in 1886
; "A Treatise made in defense of the Lawful Power and Authoritie of the Preesthoode to remitte sinnes &c." (1578)
; "De Sacramentis" (Antwerp, 1565; Douay, 1603)
; "An Apology for the English Seminaries" (1581)
; "Apologia Martyrum" (1583)
; "Martyrium R. P. Edmundi Campiani, S.J." (1583)
; "An Answer to the Libel of English Justice" (Mons, 1584)
; "The Copie of a Letter written by M. Doctor Allen concerning the Yeelding up of the Citie of Daventrie, unto his Catholike Majestie, by Sir William Stanley Knight" (Antwerp, 1587), reprinted by the Chetham Society, 1851
; "An Admonition to the Nobility and People of England and Ireland, concerning the present Warres made for the Execution of his Holines Sentence, by the highe and mightie Kinge Catholike of Spain, by the Cardinal of Englande" (1588)
; "A Declaration of the sentence and deposition of Elizabeth, the usurper and pretended Queene of England" (1588; reprinted London, 1842).
(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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