Birkhead, George (DNB00)

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BIRKHEAD or BIRKET, GEORGE (d. 1614), archpriest, was a native of the county of Durham. He entered the English college at Douay in 1575, and was ordained priest 6 April 1577. In January 1578 he set out from Rheims, accompanied by the Rev. Richard Haddock and four students, and proceeded to the English college at Rome, which had just been founded by Dr. Allen under the auspices of Pope Gregory XIII. Returning to Rheims in 1580 he was sent in the same year to labour on the English mission, and we are told that he was 'well esteemed by all parties upon account of his peaceable and reconciling temper.' In 1583 he took relics of the Jesuit Father Campion to Rheims. Dr. Allen, notifying this circumstance to Father Alfonso Agazzari, says: 'Nobis egregiam partem cutis, variis aromatibiis ad durabilitatem conditam, Campiani nostri detulit ibidem P. Georgius' (Records of the English Catholics, ii. 202). On 22 Jan. 1607-8 Pope Paul V nominated him archpriest of England, from which office Dr. George Blackwell [q. v.] had been deposed in consequence of his acceptance of the oath of allegiance devised by the government of King James I. The new archpriest was admonished to dissuade catholics from taking the oath and frequenting the protestant worship (State Papers, Domestic, James I, vol. xxxi.) Birkhead retained the dignity till his death in 1614. From his deathbed he addressed farewell letters (5 April 1614) to his clergy and to the superior of the Jesuits. At different times he assumed the names of Hall, Lambton, and Salvin. He was succeeded as archpriest by the Rev. William Harrison. The catholic church historian of England states that 'Mr. Birket was a person of singular merit, studious of the reputation of the clergy, yet not inclinable to lessen that of others, as it appears from several original letters I have read between him and Father Parsons; wherein some controversies are handled between the Jesuits and clergy, which he toucheth with all tenderness and circumspection that things of that kind require, and with a due regard to the pretensions and passions of parties.'

[Dodd's Church Hist. (1737) ii. 377, 483-99; also Tierney's edit. iv. 77, App. 157, 159, 161, v. 8, 12, 13-30, 48, 60, App. 27, 57, 58, 103, 106, 117, 141, 158, 159, 160-4; Berington's Memoirs of Panzani; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers, 2nd series, 53, 57, 408; Calendar of State Papers, Dom. James I, 397, 455; Bartoli's Istoria della Compagnia di Giesu, L'Inghilterra, 294; Diaries of the English College, Douay; Ullathorne's Hist. of the Restoration of the Cath. Hierarchy, 9; Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen; Butler's Hist, Memoirs (1822), ii. 266.]

T. C.