Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ussher, Henry (1550?-1613)

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USSHER, HENRY (1550?–1613), archbishop of Armagh, second of five sons of Thomas Ussher by Margaret (d. January 1597), daughter of Henry Geydon, alderman of Dublin, was born in Dublin about 1550. Ambrose Ussher [q. v.] and James Ussher [q. v.], sons of his brother Arland, were his nephews. The family name is said to have been Neville, the first to settle in Ireland coming over as 'usher' to Prince John; but there is no evidence for this tradition. The first of the name known to history is John le Ussher, appointed constable of Dublin Castle in 1302. Henry Ussher entered at Magdalene College, Cambridge, matriculating on 2 May 1567, and graduating B. A. in the first quarter of 1570. His studies were continued at Paris and at Oxford, where he entered at University College, was incorporated B.A. 1 July 1572, and graduated M.A. 11 July 1572. His first preferment was the treasurership of Christ Church, Dublin (1573); on 12 March 1580 he was made archdeacon of Dublin by Adam Loftus [q. v.], with whom he was connected by marriage.

Ussher owes his place in history to the share which fell to him in the foundation of Dublin University. A 'university of Dublin' had been founded at St. Patrick's on 10 Feb. 1320 by Alexander Bicknor or Bykenore [q. v.] under a bull of Clement V (11 July 1311), confirmed by John XXII; but evidence of its regular maintenance is wanting after 1358, though provision was made for lecturers as late as 1496 [see Fitzsimons or Fitzsymond, Walter]. The project of converting St. Patrick's into a university was mooted as early as 1563; Adam Loftus, when made dean (28 Jan. 1564-5), was put under a bond to resign the deanery when required for this purpose. In March 1570 James Stanyhurst [see under Stanyhurst, Richard], speaker of the Irish House of Commons, moved the house for the foundation of a university at Dublin as part of a system of national education. He renewed the proposal in December 1573. It |met with no support in parliament. In January 1584 the lord deputy, Sir John Perrot [q. v.], received instructions to draw up proposals for the conversion of St. Patrick's into a college. He submitted a plan in August. Loftus, now archbishop of Dublin, sent Ussher in November to London to frustrate the scheme, which was abandoned. The matter was next taken up by the Dublin corporation, who offered (21 Jan. 1591) the site of the Augustinian priory of All Saints', with land worth 20l. a year, 'for the ereccion of a collage.' Ussher was again sent to London, with letters bearing date 4 Nov. 1591, to forward this new scheme. On 13 Jan. 1592 he received a warrant (dated 21 Dec.) granting the royal assent for the erection. On 3 March 1592 the foundation charter passed the great seal. Ussher was named in it as one of the three fellows; he never, however, acted as such, nor was he one of the original benefactors.

On the death (2 March 1594-5) of John Garvey, D.D. [q. v.], his brother-in-law, Ussher was appointed archbishop of Armagh (patent 22 July), and was consecrated in August 1595. The see was not wealthy in his time, nor was his primacy remarkable. A story told by Henry Fitzsimon [q. v.], to the effect that Ussher had written against Bellarmine, and his wife had burned the manuscript, is improved by Bayle after his manner. Ussher died at Termonfechin on Easter-day, 2 April 1613, and was buried at St. Peter's, Drogheda. He married, first (about 1573), Margaret, daughter of Thomas Eliot of Balrisk, co. Meath, by whom he had eight sons and two daughters; secondly, Mary Smith (who survived him), by whom he had three daughters. His widow married (1614) William Fitz Williams of Dundrum.

Robert Ussher (1592-1642), youngest son of the above, was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, being made fellow in 1611, and graduating B.A. 1612, M.A. 1614, viceprovost 1615; B.D. 1621. He was prebendary of St. Audoen's, Dublin (1617); rector of Ardstraw (1617); prebendary of Dromaragh (1624); and rector of Lurgan (1629). On the death of Sir William Temple (d. 1627) [q. v.], there was a disputed election to the provostship. The senior fellows elected Joseph Mead [q. v.], who declined; the junior fellows elected Ussher (14 April 1627), and he was sworn in the same day. He was set aside by royal letter in favour of William Bedell [q. v.], who was sworn in on 16 Aug. On Bedell's promotion to the see of Kilmore, Ussher was again elected (3 Oct. 1629), and sworn in 13 Jan. 1630. He owed his appointment to a temperate letter in his favour by his cousin, James Ussher [q. v.], to whom appeal had been made. He did not, however, fulfil his cousin's expectation of him, being 'of too soft and gentle a disposition to rule so heady a company.' He was an able preacher, he promoted the study of the Irish language, and defended the charter rights of the college. On 11 Aug. 1634 he resigned the provostship on being appointed archdeacon of Meath. On 25 Feb. 1635 he was consecrated bishop of Kildare. He died at Panta Birsley, near Ellesmere, Shropshire, on 7 Sept. 1642, and was buried at Doddleston Chapel, near Oswestry. He married Jane, eldest daughter of Francis Kynaston, of Panta Birsley, and left issue.

[Ware's Works (Harris), 1739, i.; Wood's Fasti (Bliss); Bayle's Dictionnaire, 1740, iv. 480, art. 'Usserius, Henri; ' Mant's Hist, of the Church of Ireland, 1840, i. 330; Elrington's Life of James Ussher, 1848, app. i.; Brady's State Papers of the Irish Church, 1868, pp. 55, 94; Stubbs's Hist. Univ. Dublin, 1889; Wright's Ussher Memoirs, 1889; Urwick's Early Hist. Trin. Coll. Dublin, 1892; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1892, iv. 1532.]

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