Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walsh, William (1512?-1577)

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WALSH, WILLIAM (1512?–1577), bishop of Meath, was born about 1512 at or near Waterford according to Ware, but more probably at Dunboyne, co. Meath. Possibly he was the ‘Prior Walsh,’ son of William Walsh, standard-bearer to Thomas Fitzgerald, and brother of Robert Walsh, servant to Lord Leonard Grey [q. v.], who, with other members of the family, was involved in Grey's alleged treason in 1540 (see Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, vols. xv.–xvi. passim). This William Walsh was perhaps the ‘late prior of Ballyandreyhett’ or ‘Ballyndrohyd’ who on 11 July 1545 was granted a pension of 6l. 13s. 4d. (Cal. Fiants, Henry VIII, Nos. 406, 462); another William Walsh, ‘a conventual person’ of St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin, was granted a pension of 40s. on 10 March 1539–40 (ib. No. 94). In any case the future bishop became a Cistercian, and, according to Wood, he spent some time with the Cistercians at Oxford, becoming a noted theologian. He graduated D.D., but whether he obtained the degree at Oxford or was granted it by the pope is uncertain. He is also said to have lived at Bective Abbey, co. Meath, until its dissolution. Several of that name are mentioned in the ‘Calendar of Fiants’ during Edward VI's reign, but it is impossible to identify any of them with the future bishop. He had, however, acquired some reputation before the end of the reign, and soon after Mary's accession he was commissioned to visit the diocese of Meath and deprive all married clergy. Among these was the bishop, Edward Staples [q. v.], and Walsh was nominated his successor by Cardinal Pole in virtue of his legatine authority. The temporalities were restored to him on 18 Oct. 1554, though, as he stated in his petition, his consecration had been prevented by his duties as commissioner. Nor was he papally confirmed until 1564; in the papal registers the delay is ascribed to Walsh's imprisonment, but that did not begin until Elizabeth's reign.

Walsh, however, commenced at once to exercise his episcopal functions, and was a constant attendant at the Irish privy council (P. C. Register in Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. App. pt. iii.). On 3 July 1556 he was placed on the commission of the peace for co. Meath, and on 8 Aug. following on that for the government of the city and county of Dublin during the lord-deputy's absence. On 3 Dec. he was also put on a commission for the restoration of church property. On 1 June 1558 he was again appointed commissioner for the government of Dublin, and on 3 Sept. to examine into a dispute about some monastic lands between the friars minor of Trim and Sir George Stanley (Cal. Fiants, Mary, Nos. 113, 159, 160, 181, 222, 241). He continued in possession of his see and in attendance on the privy council after Elizabeth's accession. In May 1559 he was made a commissioner of musters. When, however, the oath of supremacy was tendered him, he refused it on 4 Feb. 1559–1560 (Cal. Fiants, Elizabeth, No. 199). He also preached at Trim against the Book of Common Prayer. He was accordingly deprived before July and imprisoned for a time. He was, however, again at liberty and performing episcopal functions in 1565, for on 13 July in that year he was once more imprisoned by order of Loftus and the ecclesiastical commissioners who had vainly endeavoured to persuade him to conform. Loftus wrote that Walsh ‘was of great credit among his countrymen,’ who ‘depended wholly upon him as touching causes of religion.’ He suggested that Walsh should be sent to England to undergo the persuasions of English bishops. He seems, however, to have remained a prisoner at Dublin till Christmas 1572, when, probably with his gaoler's connivance, he escaped. After a sixteen days' voyage he was wrecked on the coast of France, near Nantes, where he remained unknown for six months. He then proceeded to Paris and thence to Alcalá in Spain, where he was hospitably received and made suffragan to the archbishop of Toledo. On 8 April 1575 he was empowered by the pope to act for the archbishops of Armagh and Dublin in the absence of the primate, but it is not clear that Walsh himself returned to Ireland. He died in the Cistercian abbey at Alcalá on 4 Jan. 1576–7, and was buried in the collegiate church of St. Secundinus; the inscription placed on his tomb is printed by Brady and O'Reilly.

[Cal. Fiants Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth in the Eighth Rep. of the Deputy-Keeper of Records in Ireland, App. pt. ix. passim; Register of the Irish Privy Council in Hist. MSS. Comm. 15th Rep. App. pt. iii.; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Brady's Episcopal Succession, i. 235–8; Gams's Series Episcoporum; Cotton's Fasti Eccl. Hib. iii. 115; Shirley's Original Letters and Papers in illustration of the Hist. of the Church of Ireland, pp. 87, 104, 220; Strype's Eccl. Mem. III. i. 261, ii. 257; Cogan's Diocese of Meath, i. 104–10; Moran's Archbishops of Dublin, O'Reilly's Memorials, 1868, pp. 5–10; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ii. 814; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, i. 317, 391, 392, ii. 359, 368.]

A. F. P.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.274
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
225 ii 5 Walsh, William (1512?-1577): for no doubt read perhaps
226 i 32 for convent read abbey