Leyburn, George (DNB00)

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LEYBURN, GEORGE, D.D. (1593–1677), catholic divine, was born in Westmoreland in 1593, of an ancient and once wealthy family, whose fortunes were reduced to a very low ebb through the delinquency of James Leyburn, who was executed in Elizabeth's reign for maintaining the pope's supremacy. He was admitted a student in the English College at Douay on 13 March 1616–17, under the name of George Bradley, studied philosophy under the celebrated Thomas White, and was ordained priest on 5 Aug. 1625. Subsequently he resided in Arras College at Paris, and in 1630 came to the English mission. On landing at Dover he was arrested and committed to the castle, but he soon obtained his liberty through the intercession of Queen Henrietta Maria, who made him one of her chaplains, and consulted him on most matters relating to the catholics, until she was obliged by an order in council to dismiss all the ecclesiastics in her household. Leyburn was then imprisoned, and after being again released at the queen's request, he retired to Douay College, where he was employed in teaching philosophy and divinity. At this period he was created D.D. by the university of Rheims. Shortly before the commencement of the civil war he returned to England, and in 1644 he was a prisoner in the Tower of London, where he met Monck, and foretold that he would be a general in the north, and would eventually command the three kingdoms (Gumble, Life of General Monk, 1671, p. 118). Echard is of opinion that Monck was much influenced by this prediction (Hist. of England, 3rd edit. ii. 746). On procuring his release Leyburn withdrew to France, and rendered valuable services to the royalist party. In 1647 he was sent to Ireland, with credentials from the court in exile, in order to bring about a better understanding between the two catholic armies and the Duke of Ormonde (see Memoirs of George Leyburn, 1722).

In 1648 Richard Smith, bishop of Chalcedon, then residing at Paris, appointed Leyburn his vicar-general in England, in conjunction with Mark Harrington, B.D., of the Sorbonne. Afterwards he was chosen president of the English College at Douay, on the death of Dr. William Hyde, and was installed by patent dated 24 June 1652. He governed the college for about eighteen years, resigning the presidency in favour of his nephew, John Leyburn [q. v.], in 1670. Subsequently he resided at Rome for a year and a half. He died at Châlon-sur-Saône in Champagne on 29 Dec. 1677 (Palatine Notebook, iii. 103, 175).

His anonymous biographer says he ‘left behind him a character becoming the primitive ages, and the inhabitants of Châlon to this day pay a respect to his memory little inferior to that of a canonised saint’ (Memoirs of George Leyburn, sig. A 2). Throughout his life he was hostile to the jurisdiction of the catholic chapter in England.

‘The Memoirs of George Leyburn … Being a Journal of his Agency for Prince Charles in Ireland in the year 1647,’ appeared at London in 1722, 12mo. His other works are: 1. ‘An Epistle Declaratorie, or Manifest, written by G. L. [i.e. George Leyburn] to his Brethren residing in England’ [Douay], 1657, 16mo, pp. 51. 2. ‘The Summe of Doctor Leyburnes Answere to a Letter printed against him by Mr. Blacloe’ [Thomas White], Douay, 1657, 16mo, pp. 42. 3. ‘A Letter written by G. L. to Mr. And. Kingh. and Mr. Tho. Med.’ [Douay, 1657], 16mo. 4. ‘To Her Most Excellent Maiestie Henrietta Maria, Queen of Great Britaign, Dr. Leyburn's Apologie’ [Douay? 1660?], 4to. 5. ‘Dr. Leyburns Encyclicall Answer to an Encyclicall Epistle sent to our Brethren of England,’ Douay, 1661, 4to, pp. 96. This was in reply to ‘An Encyclical Epistle sent to their Brethren by the Venerable Dean and Chapter of the Catholick Clergy in England upon occasion of Dr. Leyburn’ [1660], 4to. There also appeared ‘A Manifest Publisht to their Brethren by the General Chapter of the Catholick English Clergy. In Vindication of their Innocency from the false calumnies laid upon them in a seditious libel publisht by Dr. Leyburn’ [1661], 4to. 6. ‘Vindiciæ censuræ Duacenæ; seu confutatio scripti cujusdam Thomæ Albii [White] contra latam à S. facultate theologica Duacena in 22 propositiones ejus censuram,’ Douay, 1661, 4to. Dodd says that some attribute the authorship of this book to John Warner (Church Hist. iii. 491). 7. ‘Holy Characters,’ 2 parts, Douay, 1662, 8vo.

[Life prefixed to Leyburn's Memoirs; Dodd's Church Hist. iii. 290; Panzani's Memoirs, pp. 228, 235, 244, 345; Douay Diaries, p. 230.]

T. C.