Giffard, Bonaventure (DNB00)

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GIFFARD, BONAVENTURE, D.D. (1642–1734), Roman catholic bishop, and president of Magdalen College, Oxford, second son of Andrew Giffard of Chillington, in the parish of Brewood, Staffordshire, by Catherine, daughter of Sir Walter Leveson, was born at Wolverhampton in 1642. His father was slain in a skirmish near Wolverhampton early in the civil war (Smith, Brewood, p. 38). The family still exists, and traces a pedigree without failure of heirs male from before the Conquest. Bonaventure was educated in the English College at Douay, and thence proceeded on 23 Oct. 1667 to complete his ecclesiastical studies in Paris. He received the degree of D.D. in 1677 from the Sorbonne, having previously been ordained as a secular priest for the English mission. James II soon after his accession made Giffard one of his chaplains and preachers. On 30 Nov. 1686 he and Dr. Thomas Godden [q. v.] disputed with Dr. Jane and Dr. Simon Patrick before the king and the Earl of Rochester concerning the real presence (Macaulay, Hist. of England, ed. 1858, ii. 149-53). In 1687 Innocent XI divided England into four ecclesiastical districts, and allowed James to nominate persons to govern them. Accordingly Giffard was appointed the first vicar-apostolic of the midland district by propaganda election on 12 Jan. (N.S.) 1687-8. His briefs for the vicariate and the see of Madaura, in partibus, were dated 30 Jan. 1687-8, and he was consecrated in the banqueting hall at Whitehall on Low Sunday, 22 April (O.S.) 1688, by Ferdinand d'Adda, archbishop of Amasia, in partibus, and nuncio apostolic in England. Some writers say, however, that Bishop John Leyburn was the consecrator. Giffard's name is attached to the pastoral letter from the four catholic bishops which was addressed to the lay catholics of England in 1688.

On the death of Samuel Parker, bishop of Oxford, who had been appointed president of Magdalen College by the king in spite of the election of John Hough by the fellows, Bishop Giffard, by royal letters mandatory, was appointed president. He was installed by proxy on 31 March 1688, and on 15 June ( took possession of his seat in the chapel, and lodgings belonging to him as president' (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 235, 898). His brother, Andrew Giffard, a secular priest, and eleven other members of the church of Rome were then elected fellows. The college was practically converted into a Roman catholic establishment, and mass was celebrated in the chapel (Burnet, Hist. of James II, ed. Routh, 1852, p. 262). By virtue of special authority from the king, Giffard on 7 Aug. expelled several fellows who had refused to acknowledge him as their lawful president. On 3 Oct. Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, with other bishops then in London, advised the king to restore the president (Hough) and fellows. James, according to Macaulay, did not yield till the vicar-apostolic Leyburn declared that in his judgment the ejected president and fellows had been wronged. Giffard and the other intruders were in their turn ejected by Mew, bishop of Winchester, visitor of the college, on 25 Oct. 1688. Luttrell (Relation of State Affairs, i. 469) relates that the catholic fellows and scholars embezzled much of the college plate; but Bloxam remarks that it is only due to them to say that a diligent inspection completely disproved the charge (Magdalen College Register, ii. p. clviii).

At the revolution Giffard and Bishop Leyburn were seized at Faversham, on their way to Dover, and were actually under arrest when James II was brought into that town. Both prelates were committed to prison, Leyburn being sent to the Tower, and Giffard to Newgate. They were both liberated on bail by the court of king's bench on 9 July 1690, on condition that they would transport themselves beyond sea before the end of the following month (Luttrell, Hist. Relation of State Affairs, ii. 73).

In 1703 Giffard was transferred from the midland to the London district, on the death of Leyburn. He also took charge of the western district from 1708 to 1713 in the absence of Bishop Ellis [see Ellis, Philip]. Dodd says he lived privately in London, under the connivance of the government, who gave him very little disturbance, being fully satisfied with the inoffensiveness of his behaviour (Church Hist. iii. 469). It is certain, however, that he was exposed to constant danger. He tells Cardinal Sacripanti in 1706 that for sixteen years he had scarcely found anywhere a place to rest in with safety. For above a year he found a refuge in the house of the Venetian ambassador. Afterwards he again lived in continual fear and alarm. In 1714 he wrote that between 4 May and 7 Oct. he had had to change his lodgings fourteen times, and had but once slept in his own lodging. He added: ‘I may say with the apostle, in carceribus abundantius. In one I lay on the floor a considerable time, in Newgate almost two years, afterwards in Hertford gaol, and now daily expect a fourth prison to end my life in’ (Catholic Miscellany, 1827, vii. 170).

In 1720 he applied to the holy see for a coadjutor. Henry Howard, brother to the Duke of Norfolk, was accordingly created bishop of Utica, in partibus, and nominated to the coadjutorship, cum jure successionis, on 2 Oct. 1720, but he died before the end of the year, and in March 1720–1 the propaganda appointed Benjamin Petre coadjutor in his stead. Giffard died at Hammersmith on 12 March 1733–4, in his ninety-second year, and was buried in the old churchyard of St. Pancras. The tomb has disappeared, but the inscription upon it is printed in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 3rd ser. xii. 191 (cf. Addit. MS'. 27488, f. 130). Giffard bequeathed his heart to Douay College, and it was buried in the chapel, where a monument with an epitaph in Latin was erected to his memory (Brady, Episcopal Succession, iii. 161).

Dodd highly commends Giffard for his charity to the poor, and Granger says he was much esteemed by men of different religions. He procured many large benefactions for the advancement of the catholic religion and the benefit of the clergy, and at his death left about 3,000l. for the same ends (Gillow, Dict. of the English Catholics, ii. 456).

Two of his sermons preached at court were published separately in 1687, and are reprinted in ‘Catholic Sermons,’ 2 vols. Lond. 1741 and 1772. Many interesting letters written by him are printed in the ‘Catholic Miscellany’ for 1826 and 1827. There is a fine picture of him at Chillington, a life size, half length. His portrait has been engraved by Claude du Bosc, from a painting by H. Hysing.

[Bloxam's Magdalen Coll. and King James II, pp. 214, 242, 243, 244, 245, 250, 253 n., 265, 270, 271; Bloxam's Magdalen Coll. Reg. i. 121 n., ii. pp. clii, cliii, clv, iii. 184, 196; Brady's Episcopal Succession, iii. 147, 149–61, 203, 206, 245, 283, 289; Cansick's Epitaphs at St. Pancras, i. 29; Catholic Mag. (1833), iii. 103; Catholic Miscell. (1826) v. 131, 310, vi. 12, 83, 158, 227, 320, 378, (1827) vii. 30, 169, 322; Dodd's Church Hist. iii. 425, 469, 486; Gillow's Bibl. Dict. ii. 451, 454; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. vi. 107; Laity's Direct. for 1805 (portrait); Lingard's Hist. of England (1849), x. 296; Luttrell's Hist. Relation of State Affairs, i. 68, 430, 435, 445, ii. 65, 73, v. 469; Noble's Contin. of Granger, iii. 171; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. vii. 242, 3rd ser. i. 263, xi. 455, 509, xii. 76, 189, 190, 512, 4th ser. i. 64; Palmer's Life of Cardinal Howard, p. 203; Panzani's Memoirs, pp. 338, 361, 365, 373, 378, 387; Smith's Brewood; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 598; Wood's Fasti, ii. 402.]

T. C.