Widdrington, Roger (DNB00)

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WIDDRINGTON, ROGER (1563–1640), Benedictine monk, whose real name was Thomas Preston, born in Shropshire in 1563, studied divinity under Vasquez at Rome and was ordained a secular priest, but in 1590 he made his profession as a monk of the order of St. Benedict at the convent of Monte Cassino. Being sent to the English mission in 1602 he was appointed by his abbot superior of the Italian Benedictines then serving it. Soon afterwards he was arrested and committed to prison. On his liberation he proceeded to Rheims, where he held a consultation with Dr. Gifford, Father John White alias Bradshaw (1576–1618) [q. v.], and Father John Jones (1575–1636) [q. v.], on forming a more intimate union among the several congregations of Benedictines [see Buckley, Sigebert]. After his return to the mission Widdrington, who was much admired for the elegance of his style and his rare knowledge of canon law, set himself up as a champion of the condemned oath of allegiance against the pope's deposing power, and he published several books on that subject against Bellarmin, Suarez, Fitzherbert, and others. He maintained his opinions stubbornly for a long time, notwithstanding papal threats; but eventually he submitted before his person was attacked by any express censure or declaration. Hackett states that at one time ‘this man for his own preservation lay quiet in the Marshalsea, his death being threatened by the rigid Papalins’ (Life of Williams, p. 158). He appears to have spent a great part of his life in prison. In the Record Office there is a letter, dated 25 Sept. 1614, authorising the archbishop of Canterbury to remove him from the Clink for the recovery of his health. On 28 Dec. 1621 he was examined before the archbishop at Lambeth, and he then denied the correctness of the statement that he had reconciled Dr. John King, bishop of London, to the church of Rome shortly before his death; his examination is appended to ‘A Sermon preached at Paul's Cross by Henry King’ (London, 1621, 8vo).

Secretary Conway, writing to secretary Calvert on 26 July 1623, wished some safeguard to be devised for Widdrington and others, who, having taken the oath of allegiance, incurred hazard from the church of Rome if they went beyond the bounds of his majesty's protection. Two days later Widdrington thanked the king for his care, and begged that he and others who had taken the oath of allegiance might on their release be forbidden to depart the realm without license, as otherwise they would be summoned to Rome on pain of excommunication. At the time when the negotiations for the Spanish marriage were in progress James I granted to Widdrington a pardon for all offences against certain statutes on religion named, and a dispensation to exercise in private houses the rites and ceremonies of divine worship according to the custom of the church of Rome. A copy of the pardon was placed in the hands of Inojosa, the Spanish ambassador in England, and it was arranged that the pardon itself should be issued as soon as it was known that the marriage ceremony had taken place at Madrid (Gardiner, Hist. of England, v. 127). Charles I confirmed the favours granted by his father to Widdrington. In the last document concerning him in the Record Office, conjecturally dated 1636, the king orders justices of the peace and others not to molest Thomas Preston, prisoner in the Clink, in respect of religion, he having by reason of age and infirmities been permitted to reside in any place in London or the suburbs under caution to return to his prison when commanded. He died in the Clink on 3 April 1640.

Among his works are: 1. ‘Apologia Cardinalis Bellarmini pro Jure Principum. Adversus suas ipsius Rationes pro Auctoritate papali Principes sæculares in Ordine ad bonum spirituale deponendi,’ Cosmopoli [Lond.], 1611, 8vo. 2. ‘R. W. … Responsio apologetica ad Libellum cujusdam Doctoris Theologi, qui ejus Pro Jure Principum Apologiam, tanquam Fidei Catholicæ … repugnantem … criminatur,’ Cosmopoli [Lond. 1612], 12mo. 3. ‘Disputatio theologica de Juramento Fidelitatis … Paulo Papæ quinto dedicata. In qua potissima omnia Argumenta, quæ a … Bellarmino, J. Gretzero, L. Lessio, M. Becano, aliisque nonnullis contra recens Fidelitatis Juramentum … facta sunt, … examinantur. (R. W. … Apologeticæ Responsionis ad Libellum cujusdam Doctoris Theologi Præfatio),’ 2 pts., Albionopoli [Lond.], 1613, 8vo. 4. ‘Purgatio,’ 1614. At the demand of the Cardinals de Propaganda Fide. 5. ‘A cleare … confutation of the … Reply of T. F., who is knowne to be Mr. Thomas Fitzherbert, an English jesuite. Wherein also are confuted the chiefest objections which Dr. Schulckenius, who is commonly said to be Card. Bellarmine, hath made against Widdrington's Apologie for the Right, or Soveraigntie of temporall princes. By R. W., an English Catholike,’ 1616, 4to. 6. ‘Appendix ad Disputationem theologicam de Juramento Fidelitatis, in quo omnia Argumenta, quæ à F. Suarez … pro Potestate Papali Principes deponendi, et contra recens Fidelitatis Juramentum allata sunt … examinantur,’ Albionopoli [Lond.], 1616, 8vo. 7. ‘R. Widdrington … ad … Paulum Quintum Pontificem hæc … Supplicatio cui adjungitur Appendix, in quo plurimæ Calumniæ … quas A. Schulckenius Widdringtono … imposuit, … deteguntur,’ 2 pt., Albionopoli [Lond.], 1616, 8vo. 8. ‘The tryal and execution of Father H. Garnet … for the Powder-Treason. Collected by R. W. … Printed in Latin in 1616 … and thence translated. Now published to make it further evident that it is no new thing for Jesuits to curse and ban to justifie a lie’ Lond. 1679, fol. 9. ‘Discussio Discussionis Decreti Magni Concilii Lateranensis, adversus L. Lessium nomine Guilhelmi Singletoni personatum, in quâ omnia Argumenta, quæ idemmet Lessius pro Papali Potestate Principes deponendi adducit, … examinantur & refutantur et quædam egregia … Cardinalis Peronii Artificia … deteguntur & refutantur,’ Augustæ [Lond.], 1618, 8vo. 10. ‘R. Widdringtons last reioynder to Mr. T. Fitz-Herberts Reply concerning the Oath of Allegiance and the Popes power to depose princes … Also many replies … of … Bellarmine in his Schulckenius, and of L. Lessius in his Singleton are confuted, and divers cunning shifts of … Peron are discovered,’ 1619, 4to, and [Lond.?], 1633, 4to. 11. ‘A New Yeares Gift for English Catholikes, or a brief and cleare Explication of the New Oath of Allegiance. By E. I., Student in Divinitie’ [Lond.], 1620, 8vo. Also published in Latin the same year, under the title of ‘Strena Catholica.’ 12. ‘An Adjoinder to the late Catholick New Year's Gift,’ 1620, 8vo.

[Works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Cal. State Papers, Dom.; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 420; Oliver's Cornwall, p. 521; Snow's Necrology, p. 45; Weldon's Chronicle, p. 180; Taunton's Black Monks of St. Benedict, 1898.]

T. C.