Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Petre, William (1602-1677)

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PETRE, WILLIAM (1602–1677), translator, the third son of William, second lord Petre (1575–1637) of Writtle in Essex, and great-grandson of Sir William Petre [q. v.], was born in his father's house at Ingatestone, Essex, 28 July 1602. His mother, who died in 1624, was Catherine, second daughter of Edward Somerset, fourth earl of Worcester. His family, who remained Roman catholic, had been steady benefactors of Exeter College, Oxford, whither he was sent as gentleman commoner, matriculating on 5 Feb. 1612, at the early age of ten. In the following year, however, when Wadham College was completed by his great-aunt, Dame Dorothy Wadham, he migrated thither, and ‘became the first nobleman thereof’ (Wood). In October 1613 his eldest brother John died, and the society of Exeter dedicated a threnody to the family (Madan, Early Oxford Press, p. 92). About the same time he was joined at Wadham by his elder brother Robert, and the two brothers, both of whom left without taking degrees, presented to the college two fine silver tankards, which were sacrificed to the royal cause on 26 Jan. 1643. After leaving Oxford he was entered of the Inner Temple. Subsequently he travelled in the south of Europe, and, according to Wood, ‘became a gent. of many accomplishments.’ In 1669 he issued from St. Omer a translation of the then popular ‘Flos Sanctorum’ of the jesuit Pedro de Ribadeneira, originally published at Barcelona in 1643, fol. The translation, which was entitled ‘Lives of the Saints, with other Feasts of the Year according to the Roman Calendar,’ is continued down to 1669. The first edition soon became scarce, and a second, corrected and amended, was issued at London in 1730, folio. Petre's rendering has been commended by Southey and Isaac Disraeli. Petre died on the estate at Stanford Rivers in Essex which had been given him by his father, and he was buried in the chancel of Stanford Rivers church. His wife Lucy, daughter of Sir Richard Fermor of Somerton, Oxfordshire—by whom he had three sons and two daughters—was buried by his side in March 1679.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 1144; Gardiner's Register of Wadham, i. 21; Collins's Peerage, vii. 36; Dodd's Church Hist. iii. 278; Morant's Hist. of Essex, ‘Hundred of Ongar,’ p. 152; Disraeli's Curiosities of Literature; Howard's Roman Catholic Families of England, pt. i. p. 44.]

T. S.