Thomas Preston (monk)

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Thomas Preston (1563 3 April 1640?) [1] was an English Benedictine monk serving as one of the leaders of the mission to re-establish the Benedictine Order in England after the closure of monasteries during the 16th century. He is also remembered for his writings upholding the cause of James I of England in the allegiance oath controversy.



Preston studied in the English College, Rome, where he was taught by Gabriel Vasquez. [2] He joined the Benedictine Order at Monte Cassino in 1590. [3] Following the decree granted by the Inquisition and confirmed by Clement VIII in 1602 for a mission to the Benedictines in England, Preston and Anselm Beech were sent to England in the spring of 1603. [4] They landed at Great Yarmouth and made contact with Sigebert Buckley, last survivor of the monks of St. Peter, Westminster, who had recently been released from imprisonment in Framlingham. [5] They lived with Buckley, who by letters of 1607 and 1609 [6] granted and confirmed to them authority to admit brethren to membership of the monastery and Congregation of which he had been the only surviving representative. To Preston, already the superior of the English of the Congregation of Monte Cassino, he entrusted the care of the English Congregation. [7] Buckley died in 1610. [8] Meanwhile, Preston had been indicted as a priest, and was soon afterwards imprisoned. [9]

English College, Rome Roman Catholic seminary in Regola, Rome, Italy

The Venerable English College, commonly referred to as the English College, is a Catholic seminary in Rome, Italy, for the training of priests for England and Wales. It was founded in 1579 by William Allen on the model of the English College, Douai.

Monte Cassino Rocky hill about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of Rome, Italy.

Monte Cassino is a rocky hill about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southeast of Rome, in the Latin Valley, Italy, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the west of the town of Cassino and 520 m (1,706.04 ft) altitude. Site of the Roman town of Casinum, it is best known for its abbey, the first house of the Benedictine Order, having been established by Benedict of Nursia himself around 529. It was for the community of Monte Cassino that the Rule of Saint Benedict was composed.

Great Yarmouth town in Norfolk, UK

Great Yarmouth, often known to locals as Yarmouth, is a seaside town in Norfolk, England. It straddles the narrow mouth of the River Yare, approximately 20 miles (30 km) east of Norwich. It had an estimated population of 38,693 at the 2011 Census, making it the most third populous place in Norfolk.

Expelled from England three years later, he took part at Rheims in the negotiations for the union of the English monks of Monte Cassino, Valladolid, and the old English Congregation. [10] He returned to England and was again imprisoned, first in The Clink in Southwark, and later in Croydon Palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury. [9]

Valladolid Municipality in Castile and León, Spain

Valladolid is a city in Spain and the de facto capital of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It has a population of 309,714 people, making it Spain's 13th most populous municipality and northwestern Spain's biggest city. Its metropolitan area ranks 20th in Spain with a population of 414,244 people in 23 municipalities.

The English Benedictine Congregation unites autonomous Roman Catholic Benedictine communities of monks and nuns and is technically the oldest of the 18 congregations that are affiliated in the Benedictine Confederation.

The Clink former prison in Southwark, England

The Clink was a prison in Southwark, England, which operated from the 12th century until 1780. The prison served the Liberty of the Clink, a local manor area owned by the Bishop of Winchester rather than by the reigning monarch. As the Liberty owner, the Bishop kept all revenues from the Clink Liberty, and could put people in prison for failing to make their payments. As the Bishop, he could also imprison heretics. The Clink prison was situated next to the Bishop's London-area residence of Winchester Palace. The Clink was possibly the oldest men's prison and probably the oldest women's prison in England.

Preston passed much of the rest of his life in prison. He died in The Clink prison, 5 April 1640. In one prison or another he wrote, under the assumed name of Widdrington, several works treating of the oath of allegiance. [11] Preston "evermore disowned" the books written under the name of Widdrington, [12] but there is no doubt that he was the author of them. [13] Towards the end of his life, however, he seems to have altered his views, or at any rate to have made full submission on the question of the oath to the authorities of Rome. [9] [14]


Preston took the pen name of Roger Widdrington for his controversial writings, concealing his own authorship, and using the real name of a Roman Catholic squire in Northumberland, [15] a Bailiff of Hexham who was associated with the recusant Radcliffe family and the conspirator Thomas Percy. [16] These publications upheld the oath of allegiance to King James I, which the King himself was proposing (Preston being one of the group of Benedictines and secular priests who were apologists for it), against the opposing policy of the Jesuits. [9] The 1611 Apologia was given a false imprimatur although in fact being published in London by government order: it is possible that the real Widdrington was complicit in the use of his name, though it was quickly recognised that he was unlikely to be the true author. [17]

Hexham market town and civil parish in Northumberland, England

Hexham is a market town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, south of the River Tyne, and was the administrative centre for the Tynedale district from 1974 to 2009. In 2011, it had a population of 11,829.

Thomas Percy (Gunpowder Plot) English conspirator

Thomas Percy was a member of the group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. A tall, physically impressive man, little is known of his early life beyond his matriculation in 1579 at the University of Cambridge, and his marriage in 1591 to Martha Wright. In 1596 his second cousin once removed, Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, appointed him constable of Alnwick Castle and made him responsible for the Percy family's northern estates. He served the earl in the Low Countries in about 1600–1601, and in the years before 1603 was his intermediary in a series of confidential communications with King James VI of Scotland.

Among his works are:

Matthew Kellison was an English Roman Catholic theologian and controversialist, and a reforming president of the English College, Douai.

Schulckenius was Adolf Schulcken, a Dutch theologian and supporter of Robert Bellarmine, thought at the time by many opponents to be pseudonymous. [20] [21]

See also


  1. The biography by dom Anselm Cramer gives the life-dates as 1567–1647, and shows that Preston's birth name was Roland, 'Thomas' being his name in religion. See Anselm Cramer, 'Preston, Roland (1567–1647)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  2. dom Bennet Weldon, Chronological Notes containing the Rise, Growth and Present State of the English Congregation of the Order of St Benedict (Stanbrook, 1881), p. 40 (Archive).
  3. (Augustine Baker), ed. Clement Reyner, 'Prima monachorum Anglorum in congregationem Cassinensem admissio, et difficultates inde exortae', Apostolatus Benedictinorum in Anglia (Laurentius Kellamus, Douai 1626), Tractatus 1, p. 242-44. (Bayerische StaatsBibliothek digital) (in Latin)
  4. Ethelred L. Taunton (the Revd.), The English Black Monks of St Benedict. A sketch of their history from the coming of St Augustine to the present day, 2 Vols (John C. Nimmo, London 1897), II, pp. 22–24. (Augustine Baker), ed. Clement Reyner, 'Quae fuerit vero occasio instaurandi antiquam congregationem Benedictinorum in Anglia', Apostolatus Benedictinorum in Anglia (1626), Tractatus 2, pp. 16 ff. (Bayerische StaatsBibliothek digital) (in Latin)
  5. Anthony Marett-Crosby, 'Buckley, Robert (1516/17–1610)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  6. Taunton, The English Black Monks of St Benedict, II, pp. 80–83.
  7. H.Connolly, 'The Buckley Affair', in Downside Review 30 (1931) 49–74. J. Stevens, 'The Revival of the English Congregation of Benedictin Monks after the Suppression of the Religious Orders in England' in The History of the Antient Abbeys, Monasteries, Hospitals, Cathedral and Collegiate Churches, being two additional volumes to Sir William Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum (London 1722), I, pp. 181–84, at p. 182 (Google books).
  8. Weldon, Chronological Notes, pp. 46, 76.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Thomas Preston". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  10. Weldon, Chronological Notes, pp. 94–95: Taunton, The English Black Monks of St Benedict, II, pp. 85–87.
  11. The terms of the oath are given by Taunton, The English Black Monks of St Benedict, II, pp. 103–04, note 2.
  12. Weldon, Chronological Notes, p. 180; (Augustine Baker), ed. Clement Reyner, 'Verus et legitimus status contoversiae in hoc secundo tractatu disceptandae', Apostolatus Benedictinorum in Anglia, Tractatus 2, pp. 24–25. (Bayerische StaatsBibliothek digital) (in Latin)
  13. Doubt over the identification is mentioned by E.L. Taunton, The English Black Monks of St Benedict, II, p. 108 (Archive).
  14. Weldon says 'he maintained a bad cause too well, which upon better considerations he afterwards detested', Chronological Notes, p. 40.
  15. dom Maurus Lunn, 'The Anglo-Gallicanism of dom Thomas Preston, 1567–1647', in D. Baker (ed.), Schism, Heresy and Religious Protest, Papers read at the tenth summer meeting and eleventh winter meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society- Studies in Church History 9 (Cambridge University Press, 1972), pp. 239–46, at p. 242 (Google books) ISBN   0 521 08486 5
  16. 'The Re-examination of Thomas Fenwicke, 1616', in Report of the MSS of the Duke of Buccleugh and Queensferry, Vol. I (Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1899), pp. 174–76.
  17. dom Maurus Lunn, 'The Anglo-Gallicanism of dom Thomas Preston', pp. 242–3.
  18. Peter Milward, 'Kellison, Matthew (1561–1642)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  19. Wikisource-logo.svg "Widdrington, Roger". Dictionary of National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  20. W. B. Patterson, James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom (Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 102. Google Books
  21. (in German) s:ADB:Schulcken, Adolf

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