Harrison, William (1553-1621) (DNB00)

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HARRISON, WILLIAM, D.D. (1553–1621), third and last archpriest of England, born in Derbyshire in 1553, became a student in the English College at Douay in 1575, and afterwards proceeded to the English College at Rome, where on 23 April 1578, being then a priest, he took the mission oath. He returned to England in 1581 and laboured as a missioner till 1587, when he went to Paris, applied himself there to the study of the civil and canon laws, and became a licentiate in those faculties. From 1590 to 1593 he was in charge of a small English school founded by Father Robert Parsons at Eu in Normandy. Harrison, who had been made procurator of the English College at Rheims, resumed his studies there, continued them at Douay after the return of the college to that city, was created D.D. by the university of Douay in 1597, and filled the chair of theology in the college till 1603. He then spent five years in Rome, and after a visit to Douay, extending from 29 Oct. 1608 to 19 June 1609, he came to England, where the clergy, says Dodd, ‘knowing him to be a person of singular prudence, learning, and experience, did nothing without his advice and approbation.’

On the death of the archpriest, George Birkhead [q.v.] or Birket, Harrison was appointed to succeed him by a congregation of the Holy Office held on 23 Feb. 1614–15. His brief was dated 11 July 1615. On the 23rd of that month, in a congregation of the Holy Office held in the Quirinal Palace, Paul V granted the usual faculties to the archpriest; and in addition to them was the following: ‘Quod R.P.D. Nuntius Apostolicus pro tempore in Gallia, Parisiis degens, sit ordinarius Anglorum et Scotorum, cum omni potestate quam habent ordinarii in eorum diocesibus;’ together with the power of ordinaries over their dioceses, ‘cum facultate dispensandi ad sacros ordines, ob defectum natalium, cum omnibus dictorum regnorum.’ The brief and the ‘Facultates pro archipresbytero Angliæ, Scotiæ, Hiberniæ, Monæ,’ &c., are printed in Tierney's edition of Dodd (Church Hist. vol. v. App. No. xxvii.).

Harrison resolved to restore to the clergy that independence which they had never enjoyed, either at Douay or on the mission, since Cardinal Allen's death. With this object he assisted Dr. Kellison, the new president of Douay College, in obtaining the removal of the jesuit confessor imposed on the college and the recall of the students from the public schools of the jesuits in Douay. He next petitioned the Holy See, and appealed to the nuncios at Paris and Brussels to further the restoration of episcopal government in England according to the ancient discipline of the church even in times of persecution. Bishop, Smith, Champney, Kellison, and Cæsar Clement had already exerted themselves in the matter, and at length, on 20 Dec. 1619, Harrison with his twelve assistants signed a weighty petition setting forth the whole case. During the negotiations for Prince Charles's projected Spanish marriage, Harrison sent to Pope Gregory XV a special envoy, John Bennett, to obtain a dispensation for the marriage and the appointment of a bishop for the Roman catholic church in England. On the eve of the envoy's departure for Rome, Harrison died on 11 May 1621. The result of the mission was the appointment in February 1622–3 of a bishop in ordinary for England, Dr. William Bishop [q. v.], and after Bishop's death (1624) a vicar apostolic was appointed.

[Brady's Episcopal Succession, iii. 66; Butler's Hist. Memoirs of the English Catholics, 1822, ii. 266; Constable's Specimen of Amendments proposed to the compiler of the Church Hist. of England, p. 181; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 368, 499 seq., also Tierney's edit. v. 62–6, ccxii seq.; Dodd's Apology for the Church Hist. of England, p. 198; Foley's Records, i. 380, vi. 72, 132, 519; Gillow's Bibl. Dict. iii. 150; Panzani's Memoirs, pp. 87–91, 118; Records of the English Catholics, i. 426; Sergeant's Account of the Chapter erected by William, bishop of Chalcedon, ed. Turnbull, p. 25; Ullathorne's Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy, p. 10; Weldon's Chronological Notes, p. 130.]

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