Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Philips, Robert

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PHILIPS, ROBERT (d. 1650?), confessor to Queen Henrietta Maria, and an oratorian or father of the Oratory, is described as of Scottish origin. He was attached to the service of the queen after the expulsion of her French priests and attendants in August 1626. He left Rome for England in order to take up this position on 29 Aug. 1628, in company with Father Henry Morley. He seems to have possessed influence over the queen, and it was to him that she appealed to intercede with the pope for aid against the Long parliament in 1640. Philips represented to her, as the pope's nuncio Rossetti had already done, that help could not be given unless her husband were a catholic. He afterwards informed Rossetti that the queen had promised him that, if the pope would send her money, the king on regaining his authority would grant liberty of worship in all his kingdoms. These negotiations, in which the queen was probably the only serious participator, became known by rumour to the House of Commons, and were construed by them to signify a ‘popish plot.’ Early in 1641 a letter from Philips to his friend and fellow-oratorian Walter Montagu [q. v.] was intercepted, and he was sent for by the house. Having managed to evade the first summons, a warrant was issued for his arrest. But when the sergeant-at-arms arrived at his rooms in Whitehall, Philips was not to be found. On the following day, however, 25 June 1641, by the king's direction, he appeared before the house, and excused his previous non-appearance on the ground that the warrant was in the name of Francis Phillips (the name of another of the queen's priests). After some delay he admitted the authenticity of the letter. Subsequently articles of impeachment, containing a number of vague charges, such as that he had attempted to pervert Prince Charles and was, together with Sir Tobie Matthew [q. v.], a secret emissary and spy of the pope, were exhibited against him. Richard Browne, the English ambassador at Paris, reported that Richelieu was much displeased by the mention made of his name in these articles. The articles were ultimately allowed to drop, as was also the proposal, substituted by Pym, that Philips should be banished as ‘tending to prejudice the state,’ together with the queen's capuchins. Philips was merely ordered to hold himself in readiness to appear again when sent for. The lords' committee summoned him on 2 Nov. 1641 to be sworn and examined ‘touching state matters’ by the lords' committee. Thinking that some one had betrayed the secret of the queen's negotiations with Rome, he raised the preliminary objection that the English bible was no true bible, and that he could not be sworn on it. The lords committed him to the Tower. There it was stated that numerous catholics resorted to see him. During the month the queen wrote a diplomatic letter to the speaker on his behalf. In December, upon his own petition, he was removed to Somerset House, on condition of his not going near the court. Subsequently, in March 1642, he and another priest accompanied Henrietta Maria to The Hague. Foley states that he died at Paris about 1650 at a ripe old age.

[Nalson's Collection of Affairs of State, ii. 310, 315, 594, 597, 605, 691; Rushworth's Collections, iv. 301; Letters of Queen Henrietta Maria, ed. Green, p. 50; Panzani's Memoirs, p. 90; Foley's Records, v. 1008; Clarendon Rebellion, v. 183–184; Gardiner's Hist. vols. ix. x.; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1641–3.]

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