Conn, George (DNB00)

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CONN (CONÆUS), GEORGE (d. 1640), was brought up as a catholic by his father, Patrick Conn of Auchry, near Turriff. His mother was Isabella Chyn of Esselmont. He was sent when very young to be educated at Douay, from which he passed in succession to the Scots College at Paris and at Rome. He completed his education at the university of Bologna, where he attracted the notice of the Duke of Mirandola, who made him tutor to his son. In order to devote himself to an ecclesiastical life he went to Rome in the summer of 1623, where he was admitted into the household of Cardinal Montalto, who bequeathed him a handsome legacy at his death six months afterwards. Conn transferred his services as secretary to Cardinal Barbelini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, and accompanied him when he went as nuncio to France (Dempster, Hist. Eccl. Gentis Scotorum, 170; Gordon, Eccl. Chronicle for Scotland, iv. 536). Gordon further states that Conn was subsequently 'made canon of St. Lawrence in Damaso and enriched with other benefices.' He also became 'secretary to the congregation of rites, and domestic prelate to the pope' (Gordon, iv. 537). In the dedication of his life of Mary Stuart, published in 1624, the letters F.P. appear after his name, and it may therefore be taken for granted that he had become a Dominican Friar before that date.

Conn's historical importance arises from his mission to England to fill the place of papal agent at the court of Henrietta Maria, which was vacated by Panzani's return to Italy. Panzani had been engaged in a vain attempt to encourage those Englishmen who wished to effect a union between the church of England and that of Rome, with the object of obtaining the complete submission of the former to the latter. Conn, who landed at Rye on 17-27 July 1636, was content to win over individual converts, and to make use of of the favour in which he stood at court to ameliorate the lot of the English Roman catholics. In both these aims he succeeded beyond expectation. He stirred up the queen, who had before been sluggish in the matter to give an active support to the propagation of her religion, and especially in soothing her husband whenever he was irritated by conspicuous additions to the roll of converts. In October 1637 the conversion of Lady Newport brought matters to a crisis. The king was urged by Laud to enforce the laws, but the queen, kept to her work by Conn, pleaded against Laud, and in the end, though a proclamation was issued to restrain conversion, its terms were so mild that they did not provoke any further objection from the queen herself. Conn, no doubt, owed the success of his intervention in part to his personal influence with the king. Agreeable and well informed, with charming manners and diplomatic skill, Charles found in him a companion such as he dearly loved. A hearty dislike of puritanism was common to both. Conn remained in England till the summer of 1639, the letter in which he announces that he had introduced his successor, Rossetti, and had received the passports which would enable him to leave the country, being dated 30 Aug.-9 Sept. in that year.

Conn had long been in weak health, and his death took place at Rome, according to the monument erected to his memory in the church of St. Lawrence in Damaso by his Cardinal Barberini, on 10 Jan. 1640 N.S. (ib. p. 537).

[In addition to the works quoted above, reference may be made for full information on Conn's proceedings in England to his own despatches. Most of them are to be found in the transcripts in the British Museum, Add. MSS. 15389–92. Transcripts of others are in the Public Record Office. Dempster states that while he was still at Bologna, that is to say before 1623, he planned (‘est meditatus’) a work called Institutio Principis and also an attack on the enemies of the Scots under the name of Præmetiæ. Of the former no copy exists in the British Museum Library or the Bodleian, and it is not mentioned by Brunet. Possibly, therefore, it was never published or even completed. The latter work was published at Bologna in 1621 under the title of Præmetiæ sive Calumniæ Hirlandorum indicatæ, et Epos; Deipara Virgo Bononiensis ad Xenodochium vitæ. Conn's next work was Vita Mariæ Stuartæ, published at Rome in 1624, another edition being published in the same year at Würzburg; followed by De duplici Statu Religionis apud Scotos libri duo, also published at Rome in 1628. Assertionum Catholicarum libri tres, published at Rome in 1629, is in the Bodleian but not in the British Museum Library.]

S. R. G.