Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Ven. William Harrington

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 7
Ven. William Harrington

by John Hungerford Pollen (1858-1925)


English martyr; b. 1566; d. 18 February, 1594. His father had entertained Campion at the ancestral home, Mount St. John, early in 1581. Though the family did not persevere in the Faith, the youngest son never forgot Campion's example. He went abroad, first the seminary at Reims, then to the Jesuits at Tournai (1582-1584) and would have joined the order had not his health broken down and forced him to keep at home for the next six or seven years. In February, 1591, however, he was able to return once more to Reims, and, having been ordained, returned at midsummer 1592. Next May he fell into the hands of the persecutors, and nine months later suffered at Tyburn, after having given proofs of unusal constancy and noblemindedness in prison, at the bar, and on the scaffold. It was, we may suspect, this very heroism, which induced a posthumous calumniator, Friswood or Fid Williams, an apostate of evil life, to say that he had had a child by her before he was a priest (see Harsnet, cited below). If the charge had stood alone, it might have been difficult to refute it now. Fortunately for us, Fid had joined to it many other base and certainly untenable accusations, both against him and also against the rest of the clergy and the whole Catholic body. Her assertions must therefore be everywhere suspected, and in Harrington's case entirely rejected, as Father Morris (cited below) clearly proves. It is also noteworthy considering the frequency with which foul accusations were made in those days, that this is the only one against an English martyr remaining on record.

The Month, April, 1874, 411-423; HARSNET, Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures, whereunto are annexed the confessions of the parties themselves (London, 1603), 230-232; Academy (London, 19 Feb., 1876), 165; MORRIS, Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers (London, 1875), 104-107; KNOX, Douay Diaries (London, 1878).

J.H. POLLEN