Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Allen, William (1532-1594)
ALLEN, WILLIAM (1532–1594), cardinal, was the second son of John Allen of Rossall in Lancashire. George, the cardinal's grandfather, who is described as of Brook House, Staffordshire, received from a kinsman, the abbot of Dieulacres, near Leek, a beneficial lease of the Grange at Rossall, where George took up his residence. John Allen, the son of George, married Jane Lister, sister of Thomas Lister, of Westby, in Yorkshire, and had six children. William, the second son and future cardinal, was born at Rossall in 1532, the year in which Henry VIII secretly married Anne Boleyn and nominated Cranmer to the see of Canterbury. His father, who was of gentle birth and related by blood and affinity to the principal families of the province, had him educated at home until his fifteenth year (1547), when he was entered of Oriel College, Oxford. Conformity not being very much enforced in the reign of Edward VI, he pursued his studies quietly. His tutor at the university was the Rev. Morgan Philipps, a zealous catholic, usually called the ‘Sophister.’ Allen, who under his guidance ‘profited to a miracle in logic and philosophy,’ took his B.A. degree in 1550, and in the same year was unanimously elected a fellow of his college. Dr. Whitaker alleges that ‘he must at this time, at least, have professed himself of the reformed religion’ (Hist. of Richmondshire, i. 444). But Allen was not then in orders, and notwithstanding the care of Henry VIII in exacting the oath of supremacy, he had probably avoided taking it, even during that monarch's reign. On this point Mr. Thomas Heywood, F.S.A., observes: ‘We know that through life Allen's convictions would prevent his taking the oath of supremacy; he was the object of the bitterest enmity and of the most unscrupulous attacks in his own day, but that he ever sided with the protestants is nowhere imputed to him, and yet the opposite party were not inattentive to the college life of those inimical to them, as Parsons experienced; to admit, therefore, such a charge, we must require positive evidence, and not a conjecture made two centuries after the supposed occurrence’ (Defence of Sir W. Stanley, introd. p. lxv.). At Queen Mary's accession Allen resolved to dedicate himself to the ecclesiastical state (Dodd, Church Hist. ii. 44), and, after seven years spent in literary and philosophical studies, proceeded M.A., 16 July 1554. In 1556 he was chosen principal of St. Mary's Hall, Oxford, and in that and the following year he served as one of the proctors of the university. It was the intention of Sir Thomas Pope, the founder of Trinity College, to appoint Allen one of the fellows of his new society, partly on the recommendation of Cardinal Pole, but the design did not take effect. Wood tells us that Allen was made a canon of York in or about 1558, but it is certain that he was not a clerk in holy orders at this period, for he himself states distinctly that he received all the orders, priesthood included, at Mechlin. ‘Machliniæ omnes ordines ipsumque sacrum presbyteratum accepimus; ubi et aliquamdiu habitavimus’ (Records of the English Catholics, ii. 317).
We are not sufficiently informed of Allen's career at Oxford, and if it is a matter of surprise that in 1550 he could retain a fellowship at Oriel, the circumstance that he remained at the university after Queen Elizabeth's accession until 1561 is still more remarkable. It is true that he resigned the office of principal of St. Mary's Hall in or about 1560, but he found it possible to continue his residence at Oxford for some time afterwards. At length his zeal for the catholic faith gave such offence to the civil authorities that he was obliged to leave his native land. He crossed over to Flanders in 1561 and took up his abode at the university of Louvain, where he found many English exiles who had refused to comply with the change of religion under Elizabeth. At Louvain his talents and zeal recommended him to his countrymen, who looked up to him as their superior, while they were charmed with his personal appearance and easy address, chastened by a dignified gravity of manner. In order to supply his wants he became tutor to a young gentleman of distinction, Christopher Blount, who was afterwards knighted, and who died in 1600 on the scaffold for his share in the conspiracy of the Earl of Essex. He also began to write in support of the cause for which he had left his country, his earliest work, subsequently printed at Antwerp, being a treatise on purgatory in English. Attendance on his pupil during a dangerous illness, and constant application to study having injured his health, his physicians recommended him to try his native air as the only means of saving his life. Allen acted on this advice. At great personal risk he came to England in disguise, and arrived in Lancashire some time in the year 1562.
Nicholas Fitzherbert thus describes the motives and occurrences of Allen's secret visit, which was a most important event in the history of Lancashire: ‘In those days a certain noble English youth (Blount), who had been trusted to Allen's care at Louvain, had an atrophy, his body gradually growing thinner. As Allen, assiduous in doing his duty, remained with his pupil, he also was in a short time entirely infected with the same wasting away, unnoticed at the commencement, for he was a person of vigour and of the best habit of body, and yet the disease was not slight, as presently appeared.’ He endangered his life, and received the advice from his physicians already mentioned. He therefore returned into England, and ‘lay hid amongst his own family, undiscovered, indeed, but not idle, until’ his health improved. ‘Moreover, such a pernicious opinion had crept into the minds of certain catholics . . . by which they persuaded themselves, in their extreme terror and in their imminent danger of losing goods and life, it was permitted them to attend the heretical churches and meetings without committing any great crime, or separating themselves from the catholic church. But Allen, on the contrary, . . . went, even vehemently, to exhort at various meetings, and to enforce with many arguments that so great was the atrocity of this crime, that whosoever was contaminated by it could on no account remain in the Roman catholic communion; wherefore, by the great number thus prevented in Lancashire and its confines from assembling with the heretics and from adopting this fatal error of occasional conformity, so much did Allen there incur the hatred of the bad, that he was compelled, presently, to migrate to a distant province. Nor did he therefore abandon his undertaking, for he both kept to their duty the family in which he resided, and often visited Oxford, which was near, and there soon converted not a few.’ The importance of Allen's visit is shown, first in the anxiety which Lancashire caused the government, even after the rising in the north was suppressed; and secondly in the almost universal support which was given to the seminary system by the catholics in that district. Strype informs us that in 1567 ‘religion, in Lancashire and the parts thereabouts, went backwards, papists about this time showing themselves to be numerous, mass commonly said, priests harboured, the Book of Common Prayer and the church established by law laid aside, many churches shut up and cures unsupplied, unless with such popish priests as had been ejected.’
Allen's open hostility to the established church greatly alarmed the magistrates of Lancashire, but he eluded their search for him, and retired to the neighbourhood of Oxford, where he continued the same agressive tactics, and composed two controversial treatises on the priesthood and on indulgences. Once more obliged to seek a new place of refuge, he found a shelter in the county of Norfolk, in the family of the Duke of Norfolk, who, though himself a protestant, gave protection to several learned catholics. It was while living here that he wrote ‘Certain Brief Reasons concerning Catholic Faith.’ Afterwards he revisited Oxford and converted an old acquaintance, whose parents pursued Allen so closely that he was forced to leave England after he had resided here about three years. He finally landed, in 1565, in the Low Countries, and never returned to England.
After being ordained priest at Mechlin, where he had previously received all the other orders, he read lectures on theology in the splendid college which the Benedictine monks possessed in that city. In the autumn of 1567 he set out on a pilgrimage to Rome in the company of his old master, Morgan Philipps, and of Dr. Vendeville, at that time professor of canon law in the university of Douay, and afterwards bishop of Tournay. The object of Dr. Vendeville's journey was to lay before Pope Pius V a project which he had formed for the conversion of the infidels, or, according to another account, for the relief of slaves out of Barbary (Dodd, Church History, ii. 45). He spent the whole winter in Rome, but to no purpose, for the sovereign pontiff was too much occupied with other more weighty matters to attend to him. In the spring he returned with Allen to the Netherlands in a somewhat despondent state of mind, and on the journey disclosed to his companion the subject of his grief. Allen at once seized the opportunity of giving Dr. Vendeville's zeal a new direction. He pointed out the great needs of the catholics in the Netherlands and England, and showed him how much easier than to carry out his other plan it would be to succour them. He dwelt particularly on the danger which threatened the church in England through the dying out of the ancient priests, and suggested, as a remedy for the evil, the foundation of a college for English students abroad. Writing some years later to Dr. Vendeville, he thus reminded him of what they had agreed upon in the course of this conversation, which resulted in the establishment of the English college at Douay, and, by degrees, of all the other colleges and religious communities on the Continent that subsequently furnished England with missionary priests. ‘Our first purpose was to establish a college in which our countrymen, who were scattered abroad in different places, might live and study together more profitably than apart. Our next intention was to secure for the college an unbroken and enduring existence by means of a constant succession of students coming and leaving; for we feared that if the schism should last much longer, owing to the death of the few who, at its beginning, had been cast out of the English universities for the faith, no seed would be left hereafter for the restoration of religion, and that heresy would thus obtain a perpetual and peaceful possession of the realm, there being no one to make reclamation, even though an opportunity should offer at the death of the queen or otherwise’ (Records of the English Catholics, ii. 54). Such was Allen's aim in the establishment of a college: first to enable English students abroad to have the benefit of collegiate training; secondly, to form a body of learned priests capable of restoring the catholic religion in England whenever circumstances should permit; thirdly, to instruct in their religion English youths who might come for their education to the college. The missionary work in England was an after-thought.
Allen at once began to put into execution the plan he had formed for the establishment of a college in the university of Douay. On Michaelmas day 1568, with the approbation of Dr. Matthew Galen, chancellor of the university, and Dr. Vendeville, both of whom warmly supported his project, he took possession of a large house, which he had hired near the theological schools, and began to live there in collegiate form with a few students, English and Belgian. Among those who began the work with Allen were Morgan Philipps, Richard Bristow, John Marshall, Edward Risdon, and John White. They were afterwards joined by Dr. Stapleton, Dr. Bailey, Dr. Webb, and other eminent divines, most of whom were graduates of Oxford or Cambridge. Small as were its beginnings, the new seminary received, within the first few months of its existence, the approbation and confirmation of Pope Pius V. It thus ranks first, in point of time, among the seminaries which the council of Trent ordered to be established in the different provinces and dioceses of Christendom. The cares attendant on the direction of the college did not hinder Allen from prosecuting his own theological studies. In 1569 he performed the three acts required for the degree of B.D.; in the following year he was admitted to the license; and in 1571 he was created D.D. In 1570, after having obtained the license, he was appointed regius professor of divinity at Douay with an annual stipend of 200 gold crowns. To carry on his great undertaking he relied mainly on the alms of the faithful in Belgium and England. When the precarious supplies from these two sources began to fall off, he made an appeal to Pope Gregory XIII, who, in 1575, granted to the seminary a monthly pension of 100 gold crowns. The college thus possessed a permanent means of support, and, in spite of the rigorous laws passed in England against persons frequenting foreign seminaries, the number of students largely increased.
On 4 Dec. 1575 Allen set out on his second journey to Rome, whither he had been summoned by Gregory XIII, to give his advice on the subject of a seminary which the pope proposed to found in Rome, and to combine with the hospital in the Via di Monserrato, established about the year 1382 by John Shepherd, a London merchant, for the reception of English pilgrims and travellers. About this time the pope conferred upon Allen a canonry in the church of Our Lady at Cambray.
On his return to Douay (30 July 1576), after an absence of eight months, he found everything in a flourishing condition. There were 80 English students in the seminary and 160 in the university; and at Michaelmas the number of students in the college had increased to about 120. But this state of prosperity was about to be rudely disturbed by the political strife which agitated the Low Countries. The Calvinists belonging to the party of the Prince of Orange stirred up the common people at Douay against the English exiles, on the plea that they were partisans of Spain. They were subjected to domiciliary visits, and it became unsafe for them to make their appearance in the streets. News arrived from various trustworthy sources in England that assassins had been sent over to make away with some of the principal members of the seminary. Moreover, there had been seen lurking about Douay some Englishmen of sinister aspect, well mounted, and to all appearance suited for the execution of such a crime. It was deemed unsafe for Allen to remain at Douay, and he withdrew for a time to Paris. When at last the revolutionary party were installed in power at Douay, the English were summarily expelled in March 1578 at a few hours' notice. The students repaired to Rheims, where the college was re-established under the friendly auspices of the Guises, who were the avowed champions of the catholic cause in France. Philip II ordered that the annual sum of 1,600 florins should be paid to the English seminary, and Gregory XIII granted it an extraordinary donation of 500 crowns for the expenses of the removal from Douay.
Allen made his third journey to Rome in 1579 for the purpose of regulating the affairs of the English college there, which was a kind of offshoot from the seminary of Douay. The new foundation was in great danger of perishing in its infancy, owing to the national rivalry and jealousy of the English and Welsh students. The college was now placed under the management of the Jesuits, who retained the charge of it till the suppression of the order in 1773. The subsequent history of the college may be briefly narrated: After 1773 it was administered by Italian priests, and was rendered almost useless to the English mission. In 1798 the college was seized by the French, and it remained closed for twenty years. At length, in 1817, Cardinal Consalvi procured the reestablishment of the college by Pope Pius VII, and since then it has belonged to the English secular clergy.
During his third visit to Rome, Allen conferred with the pope on the affairs of the English college, and he also induced the Jesuits to take part in the English mission, the result being that in 1580 Father Parsons and Father Campion were chosen to lead the way to this new field of labour. The mission of the Jesuits and the labours of Allen's secular priests together provoked Queen Elizabeth to issue a proclamation which denounced the principles taught in the foreign seminaries, commanded all persons whose children, wards, or relatives were being educated abroad to recall them within four months, and forbade all her subjects to harbour or relieve a Jesuit or seminarist. It was in answer to this proclamation that Allen, in 1581, after his return from Rome, wrote and published his ‘Apology for the two English Colleges’ at Rome and Rheims, ‘against certaine sinister informations given up against the same.’
In spite of the laws against the foreign seminaries the establishment at Rheims continued to flourish. Allen continued to govern the college till the summer of 1585. He was then obliged, by illness, to go to Spa, and on getting better he journeyed, for the fourth time, to Rome, from which city he was destined never to return. He took up his abode in the English hospital.
Allen, who had for some years been deeply involved in political intrigues, has been severely censured on account of a letter which he published in 1587, defending the surrender of Deventer, a Dutch fort, to the Spaniards, by Sir William Stanley, the English governor, and of another fort near Zutphen, by another Englishman, Rowland York. He insisted that all persons, especially those of the English nation, who detained any towns in the Low Countries from his catholic majesty, were bound, under pain of damnation, to follow the example given by the treacherous Stanley. The catholic soldier was assured that if he died ‘in any known evil cause, and namely in this fight against God and defence of heretics, he is damned for ever' (Defence of Sir W. Stanley, 1851, p. 20). Allen declared void all 'acts of justice within the realm done by the queen's authority, ever since she was by public sentence of the church and see apostolic declared an heretic and an enemy of God's church;' declared that 'no war can be lawfully denounced or waged by her, though otherwise in itself it were most just;' and further asserted that the pope's 'sovereign authority and wisdom, derived from Christ himself, may best instruct and warrant a christian soldier how far, when, and where, either at home or abroad, in civil or foreign wars made against the enemies or rebels of God's church, he may, and must, break with his temporal sovereign, and obey God and his spiritual superior.'
On 7 Aug. 1587 the pope, Sixtus V, summoned the members of the Sacred College to a consistory, and in it he created Allen cardinal priest of the Holy Roman Church, with the title of St. Martin in Montibus. This promotion caused very general surprise, because it was in derogation of a recent constitution made by Sixtus V himself, according to which no creation of cardinals was to take place except in Advent. The rumour that Allen was about to receive a cardinal's hat was believed to be unfounded, and the merchants of Rome made, and of course lost, bets to a large amount that he would not be promoted. The real reason for the action taken by the pope requires some explanation.
Allen's constant desire was to restore England to the unity of catholic faith. Up to his fiftieth year his life had been entirely devoted to ‘scholastical attempts,' as he expresses it, 'for the conversion of our country and reconcilement of our brethren to the catholic church, which we everlastingly profess, and will endeavour until death.’ At first he hoped to succeed in inducing his countrymen, by the persuasion of his seminary priests, who were sent in large numbers from the colleges of Douay and Rheims, to abjure protestantism and return to the ancient religion. But when he found that his hopes could not be realised by this means he did not hesitate to resort to political intrigue and armed force in order to attain the object he had so deeply at heart. It is a very remarkable fact that he kept the work of the seminaries unmingled with his political life. The priests who were trained for the mission did not concern themselves with politics, and accordingly all questions relating to the pope's power of excommunicating and deposing princes were wholly omitted from the college course. Allen's political career appears to have begun in the spring of 1582. From that time he was in frequent communication with the Duke of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots, and he was conversant with all the schemes of Father Parsons for depriving Queen Elizabeth of the English crown. At the time of the proposed expedition under the Duke of Guise, for the purpose of placing King James, son of the captive Queen of Scots, on the throne of England, it was suggested that Allen, who was universally admitted to be the most influential person among the English catholics, should be secretly made bishop of Durham. Finally Allen gave up all idea of promoting King James's accession after that monarch's adhesion to the protestant religion, and thenceforward he and Parsons became the leaders of what was termed the ‘Spanish party' among the English catholics, and warmly maintained that Philip II of Spain had a better title than any one else to the crown of England. In a joint memorandum which they drew up they insisted that ‘his catholic majesty, besides the cause of the catholic religion and the injuries which he has received from England, has in the vengeance due for the blood of the queen of Scotland, which she herself commended to him, a most just ground and necessary cause for going to war, and, therefore, if he seizes upon the kingdom in so just and praiseworthy a war, the title of conquest will be legitimate.' King Philip, when his preparations for the invasion of this country were in a forward state, entreated the pope to make an English cardinal, who, in the event of success, might reconcile the realm to the church and reorganise ecclesiastical affairs in England as Cardinal Pole had done thirty-three years before. Accordingly Allen was proclaimed a cardinal, and on the very day of his creation Sixtus V wrote with his own hand to the king of Spain: ‘This morning I have held a consistory and made Allen cardinal to satisfy your majesty; and though in proposing him I put forward a motive which was very far from likely to excite suspicion, nevertheless it is reported that throughout all Rome there arose forthwith a universal cry—Now they are getting things into order for a war with England, and this supposition was current everywhere. Therefore your majesty should not lose time lest those poor christians suffer greater injury, for if there be delay that which you have judged to be good will turn out evil.’ It was arranged that Allen should, after the conquest of the country, he despatched as legate to England and be made archbishop of Canterbury and lord chancellor. Philip, disregarding the advice of the pope, delayed taking action for a whole year, and the ‘Invincible Armada’ was hopelessly defeated. Several writers assert that Allen repaired to Flanders to accompany the army under the Duke of Parma to England. It is, however, certain that he remained at Rome. Prior to the sailing of the Spanish fleet from the Tagus a pamphlet was issued by ‘the cardinal of England,’ entitled ‘An Admonition to the Nobility and People of England and Ireland, concerning the present wars, made for the execution of his holiness's sentence, by the king catholic of Spain.’ Allen was induced to put his signature to this violent and offensive document, which was probably printed at Antwerp. The language and manner are certainly not those of Allen in his published works, and the appellant priests asserted that the book was penned altogether by the advice of Father Parsons; but however this may be, the cardinal was certainly responsible for the contents of the tract. To increase the effect of this address, its substance was at the same time compressed into a smaller compass and printed on a broadside for more general distribution. The abridgment was called ‘A Declaration of the Sentence of Deposition of Elizabeth, the Usurper and pretensed Quene of England.’ When the expedition had failed, the copies both of this and of the ‘Admonition’ were destroyed, and few of either seem to have escaped. In the ‘Admonition’ Allen assured his countrymen that the pope meant ‘to pursue the actual deprivation of Elizabeth, the pretensed queen, eftsoons declared and judicially sentenced, by his holiness's predecessors, Pius Quintus and Gregory the XIII, for an heretic and usurper, and the proper present cause of perdition of millions of souls at home, and the very bane of all christian kingdoms and states near about her.’ Elizabeth was described as ‘an incestuous bastard, begotten and born in sin, of an infamous courtesan, Anne Bullen, afterwards executed for adultery, treason, heresy, and incest, amongst others with her own natural brother;’ and he authoritatively declared that those who adhered to her cause would be defending, to their own present destruction and eternal shame, ‘a most unjust usurper and open injurer of all nations, an infamous, deprived, accursed, excommunicate heretic, the very shame of her sex and princely name, the chief spectacle of sin and abomination in this our age, and the only poison, calamity, and destruction of our noble church and country.’
At this critical juncture the English catholics, forgetting the cruelty with which they had been treated, remained true to their queen and their country. With the memory of all they had endured and were still enduring, with the rack and the gibbet to reward their patriotism, they read the bull of deposition which had been published against their sovereign, they saw the shores of their country surrounded by an armament commissioned to enforce it; they felt that the moment had arrived when a breath might turn the balance in their own favour, and they generously flung aside the recollection of the past and the resentment of the present, and flew to the assistance of their country in her hour of danger (Dodd, Church Hist. ed. Tierney).
The college at Rheims continued to be under Allen's government until October 1588, when Dr. Richard Barret was appointed resident superior. The subsequent history of this famous seminary may be briefly traced. In 1593 the students returned to Douay. Just 200 years afterwards, in October 1793, the college was seized by the French, and its inmates were made prisoners. In 1795 they were set at liberty and proceeded to England. These last residents at Douay College became the founders and first members of the colleges of Old Hall Green, Ushaw, and Oscott, which were established shortly after the dissolution of Douay College and the return of its inmates to their native land. Many of the catholic nobility and gentry received their education at Douay College, which produced one cardinal (Allen), two archbishops, thirty-one bishops and bishops-elect, three archpriests, about one hundred doctors of divinity, 169 writers, many eminent men of religious orders, and 160 martyrs, besides a large number of other ecclesiastics, who either died in prison or suffered confinement or banishment for their faith.
In some of the reports sent home by the agents of Queen Elizabeth at Rome it is related that Allen possessed enormous wealth, and lived in great pomp and luxury; but it is certain that these statements are incorrect. Allen, when he was created a cardinal, had neither private fortune nor ecclesiastical revenues with which to support his new dignity; but Philip II soon afterwards conferred upon him a rich abbey in Calabria, and an annual pension charged upon the revenues of the archbishopric of Palermo. Whatever this may have brought in, he still remained one of the poorer cardinals, as appears from the circumstance that Urban VII, on his elevation to the papacy (1590), bestowed upon Allen one thousand crowns, and released him from the obligation of repaying three thousand crowns, which he had borrowed from the preceding pontiff. His biographer, Nicholas Fitzherbert, also speaks expressly of his being in ‘straitened circumstances.’
In November 1589 Philip II nominated him archbishop of Mechlin and metropolitan of Belgium, but he was not preconised by the pope. He did not visit Mechlin, and at length, in 1591, Philip gave up all hope of inducing Allen to accept the archbishopric, and nominated another ecclesiastic to the vacant see.
On the death of Cardinal Antonio Carafa Gregory XIV made Allen apostolic librarian. The same pontiff charged him, in conjunction with Cardinal Marc' Antonio Colonna and several consultors, to revise the edition of the Vulgate which Sixtus V had published just before his death. Allen also undertook, in conjunction with others, to correct the text of St. Augustine's works, but death prevented him from completing so vast an undertaking.
Long before he became a member of the Sacred College he had received from the holy see extensive faculties for the benefit of the English mission, and these were enlarged when he was made cardinal. For many years the most cordial relations subsisted between him and the jesuits, and he had always thankfully availed himself of their co-operation in promoting the good of the English seminaries, but it is clear that towards the end of his life a change came over these relations, and that there was no longer the same unanimity between the cardinal and the fathers of the society. It does not plainly appear what were the causes of this estrangement; but it is probable that the points of disagreement related to the English seminaries and mission, and not to political affairs.
Allen died at Rome on 16 Oct. 1594, and was buried in the church of the Holy Trinity, attached to the English college.
In forming an estimate of Cardinal Allen's character it is but fair to take into account the peculiar position in which he was placed, and the opinions generally entertained in his day by catholic theologians concerning the pope's deposing power. By many admirers of Queen Elizabeth and her policy Allen has been denounced in unmeasured terms as a traitor to his sovereign and his country. This feeling is forcibly expressed by Godwin (Catalogue of the Bishops of England, 698), who describes Allen as ‘a man by birth English, but so ill deserving to be accounted English, as that, like another Herostratus, he endeavoured by raising a combustion in our church, the most glorious and renowned of the world, to make himself known to posterity.’ On the other hand, catholic writers speak of Allen in terms of the highest commendation, and John Pits, who had studied in the English colleges of Douay and Rheims, passes this splendid eulogium on his character: ‘He had a handsome countenance and dignified gait, and was on all occasions courteous; as regards mental endowments he was pious, learned, discreet, serious, and of great authority; humble, modest, patient, meek, of a peaceful disposition: in a word, graced by every species of virtue’ (Relationes Historicæ de Rebus Anglicis, 792). Cardinal Allen and his fellow-exiles considered the catholic religion to be most essential to the welfare of their countrymen; they regarded Elizabeth as the capital enemy of their faith, and likewise as a usurper; and they never questioned the justice of those temporal and civil deprivations and forfeitures which, during so many ages, had been connected with the spiritual sentence of excommunication. That they committed a grave political error in urging the Spanish king to invade England cannot be denied, and the event proved that they had entirely mistaken the temper of their co-religionists at home. In Mary's reign Philip II was king of England, and loyalty to him was then a proper sentiment; but Allen preserved throughout life his allegiance to the monarch to whose liberality he was so largely indebted, and this led him to adopt a course of action which it is difficult to justify. All his political schemes ended in disastrous failure; but, on the other hand, it is certain that by the opportune establishment of Douay College for the education of missioners he prevented the catholic religion from being completely destroyed in England, as was the case in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.
There is a fine portrait of Allen in Lodge's ‘Portraits of Illustrious Personages.’
His works are: 1. ‘Certain brief Reasons concerning Catholic Faith,’ Douay, 1564. 2. ‘A Defense and Declaration of the Catholike Churches Doctrine touching Purgatory and Prayers for the Soules departed,’ Antwerp, 1565, 8vo. 3. ‘A Treatise made in Defence of the lawful Power and Authoritie of Priesthod to remitte Sinnes: Of the peoples duetie for confession of their Sinnes to Gods ministers: And of the Churches meaning concerning Indulgences, commonly called the Popes pardons,’ Louvain, 1567, 12mo. 4. ‘De Sacramentis in genere; de Sacramento Eucharistiæ, et Sacrificio Missæ, Antwerp, 1576, 1603, 4to. A work highly esteemed and made use of by Cardinal Bellarmin. 5. ‘An Apologie and true Declaration of the Institution and Endevours of the two English Colleges, the one in Rome, the other now resident in Rhemes, against certaine sinister informations given up against the same.’ Printed at Mounts in Henault (Mons), 1581, 8vo. 6. ‘A briefe Historie of the Martyrdom of 12 reuerend Priests, executed within these twelue Monthes for Confession and Defence of Catholicke Faith, but vnder false Pretence of Treason, a Note of sundrie Things that befel them in their Life and Imprisonment, and a Preface declaring their Innocence,’ 1582, 8vo (anon.). The same work appeared in Latin under the title ‘Brevis Narratio felicis Agonis,’ &c., Prague, 1583, 8vo; and it was translated into Italian with the title: ‘Historia del glorioso Martirio di sedici Sacerdoti martirizati in Inghilterra l'Anno 1581–3,’ Macerata, 1583, 8vo, the accounts of the last four martyrs being added by the translator. ‘Altra edizione, s'è aggiunto il Martirio di due altri Sacerdoti e uno secolaro Inglesi martyrizati l'anno 1577 e 1578,’ Milan, 1584, 8vo; and another edition with still further additions, Macerata, 1584, 8vo. 7. ‘A true, sincere, and modest Defence of the English Catholiques that suffer for their faith both at home and abrode against a false, seditious, and slaunderous Libel, intituled “The Execution of Justice in England.”’ Ingoldstadt, 1584, 12mo (anon.). This reply to Lord Burghley's work appeared also in Latin under the title of ‘Ad persecutores Anglos pro Catholicis domi forisque persecutionem sufferentibus contra falsum, seditiosum, et contumeliosum libellum, inscriptum: Justitia Britannica, vera, sincera, et modesta responsio’ [Douay, 1584], 8vo. 8. ‘The Copie of a Letter written by M. Doctor Allen: Concerning the Yeelding up of the Citie of Dauentrie unto his Catholike Maiestie, by Sir William Stanley, Knight, wherein is shewed both howe lawful, honorable, and neceessarie that action was; and also that al others, especiallie those of the English Nation, that detayne anie townes, or other places, in the lowe countries, from the King Catholike, are bound, upon paine of damnation, to do the like,’ Antwerp, 1587. This letter, of which Latin, Italian, and French translations appeared, was reprinted by the Chetham Society in 1851, with an introduction and notes by Mr. Thomas Heywood. 9. ‘An Admonition to the Nobility and People of England and Ireland, concerninge the present warres, made for the execution of his Holines sentence by the highe and mightie King Catholike of Spaine, by the Cardinal of England. Ao MD.LXXXVIII,’ 8vo. Printed at Antwerp; reprinted at London in 1842 with a preface by Eupater (Rev. J. Mendham). 10. ‘A Declaration of the Sentence of Deposition of Elizabeth, the Usurper and pretensed Quene of Englande,’ 1588. An abridgment of the ‘Admonition.’
Besides writing the above works, he, in conjunction with Dr. Richard Bristow, revised Gregory Martin's English translation of the Holy Scriptures, commonly known as the ‘Douay Bible.’ The New Testament was published at Rheims in 1582, while Allen was there as president of the English College, and the Old Testament at Douay some time after his death, in 1609.