Gilbert, George (DNB00)

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GILBERT, GEORGE (1559?–1583), founder of the Catholic Association in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, was born in Suffolk about 1559, and at an early age succeeded, on his father's death, to extensive landed estates. While travelling with the royal license on the continent he was reconciled to the catholic church by Father Robert Parsons at Rome in 1579. On his return to London he, in conjunction with Thomas Pound of Belmont, formed a 'Catholic Association,' consisting of young men of birth and property without the incumbrance of wives or offices. They promised 'to content themselves with food and clothing and the bare necessities of their state, and to bestow all the rest for the good of the catholic cause.' The association was solemnly blessed by Pope Gregory XIII on 14 April 1580. Its members lodged together in the house of Norris, the chief pursuivant, in Fetter or Chancery Lane. Norris had great credit with Aylmer, bishop of London, and was liberally paid by Gilbert. At Fulham the bishop's son-in-law, Dr. Adam Squire, was in Gilbert's pay. Through the connivance of these men the members of the association were able to receive priests and to have masses celebrated daily in their house until, after the arrival of the Jesuits Parsons and Campion in England, the persecution grew more severe. In 1581 Gilbert deemed it prudent to withdraw to the English College at Rheims, where he was cordially welcomed by Dr. William Allen, who described him as 'summus patrum presbyterorum patronus' Proceeding afterwards to Rome, he entered the English College as a pensioner, and devoted himself to promoting the catholic cause in England. Gregory XIII frequently consulted him on a matter of high importance that necessitated his going to France. Gilbert was so eager about his preparations for departure that he was seized with a fever, which terminated fatally on 6 Oct. 1583. While on his deathbed he was admitted into the Society of Jesus. The pope declared that his death would be a serious blow to Catholicism in England.

Gilbert incurred great expense by covering the walls of the English College at Rome with frescoes of the English martyrs. He left the superintendence of this work to Father William Good [q. v.], who had the pictures engraved and published, under the title of 'Ecclesiae Anglicanae Trophaea,' Rome, 1584, fol.

Gilbert's portrait has been engraved by W. P. Kiliam, from a drawing by J. G. Hemsch.

[Foley's Records, iii. 658–701; More's Hist. Missionis Anglicanæ Soc. Jesu, p. 83; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 104; Simpson's Life of Campion, p. 123; Tanner's Societas Jesu Apostolorum Imitatrix, p. 180.]

T. C.