Alford, Michael (DNB00)

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ALFORD, MICHAEL (1587–1652), a Jesuit and ecclesiastical historian, whose real name was Griffiths, was born in London in 1587, and entered the noviciate of the Society of Jesus at Louvain in 1607. He studied philosophy in the college of the English Jesuits at Seville, and theology at Louvain. On his promotion to the priesthood he was ordered to Naples to attend the English gentry, merchants, and sailors there. In 1615 he was English penitentiary at St. Peter's, Rome. He was appointed Socius to the Master of Novices at Liége, and in 1621 he became rector of the house of Tertians at Ghent. In 1629, or late in the previous year, he was sent to the English mission. On landing at Dover he was arrested on suspicion of his being Dr. Richard Smith, bishop of Chalcedon, for whose apprehension the government had offered a reward of 200l. He was conveyed by his captors to London, but as his person in no respect corresponded with the description of the bishop, he was restored to liberty, through the mediation of Queen Henrietta Maria, consort of Charles I. The county of Leicester was the chief scene of Father Alford's missionary labours. There is, however, a tradition, apparently well founded, that he resided for some time at Combe, in Herefordshire. In 1636 he was rector of the ‘Residence’ of St. Anne, comprising the county of Leicester. He resided at Holt, where he employed his leisure in composing his learned works. In order to put the finishing stroke to his ‘Annales Ecclesiastici,’ he obtained leave to retire to the College of St. Omer in the spring of 1652, and while there he was attacked by a fever, from which he died on 11 Aug. in the same year. His works are:

1. ‘The Admirable Life of St. Winefride,’ 1635 (a translation), re-edited the same year by Father John Falconer. 2. ‘Britannia Illustrata, sive Lucii, Helenæ, Constantini, Patria et Fides,’ Antwerp, 1641, 4to, an extremely rare work, containing much curious matter connected with English and Irish history. It has an appendix, ‘De tribus hodie controversis, de Paschate Britannorum, de Clericorum Nuptiis, num olim Britannia coluerit Rom. Ecclesiam?’ 3. ‘Fides Regia Britannica sive Annales Ecclesiæ Britannicæ. Ubi potissimum Britannorum Catholica, Romana, et Orthodoxa Fides per quinque prima sæcula: e Regum et Augustorum factis, et aliorum sanctorum rebus è virtute gestis, asseritur,’ 4 large folio vols. Liége, 1663. It is remarkable that the title-page varies in each of these handsome volumes. Bishop Fleetwood has pronounced this collection to be a very valuable treasury of the ecclesiastical history of our nation.

[Foley's Records S. J. ii. 299, vii. 320; Oliver's Collectanea S. J. 42; Ribadeneira, Bibl. Script. Soc. Jesu, ed. Southwell, 610; De Backer, Bibliothèque des Ecrivains de la Compagnie de Jésus, (1869), i. 70; Butler's Lives of the Saints (1838), ii. 796 n.; Dodd's Church History (1737), iii. 310.]

T. C.