Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Death of An Exile

The English Catholic scholar, Father John Pitts, died on October 17, 1616. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Born at Alton, Hampshire, 1560; died at Liverdun, Lorraine, 17 Oct., 1616. He was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, where he remained, 20 March, 1578-1580. He was admitted to the English College, Rome, 18 Oct., 1581, ordained priest 2 March, 1588, became professor of rhetoric and Greek at the English College, Reims, proceeded M.A. and B.D. at Pont-à-Musson, Lic.D. at Trèves (1592), and D.D. at Ingolstadt (1595). After holding a canonry at Verdun for two years he was appointed confessor and almoner to the Duchess of Cleves, and held this position for twelve years. After her death his former pupil, the Bishop of Toul, appointed him dean of Liverdun. His chief work is the "Relationum Historicarum de rebus Angliæ", of which only one part, "De Illustribus Angliæ Scriptoribus", was published (Paris, 1619). The other sections, "De Regibus Angliæ", "De Episcopis Angliæ", and "De Viris Apostolicis Angliæ", remained in Manuscript at Liverdun. The "De Scriptoribus" is chiefly valuable for the notices of contemporary writers. On other points it must be used with caution, being largely compiled from the uncritical work of Bale. Pitts also published "Tractatus de legibus" (Trier, 1592); "Tractatus de beatitudine' (Ingolstadt, 1595); and "Libri septem de peregrinatione" (Dusseldorf, 1604).

His employer, the Duchess of Cleves, must have been Antonia or Antoinette of Lorraine, the second wife of John William, Duke of Jülich-Cleves-Berg. She was one of the daughters of Charles III, the Duke of Lorraine and Claude of Valois, the second daughter of Henri II and Catherine de Medici.

Father John Pitts shows us another path for Catholic priests in exile from England during the recusant era--he did not return to England as a missionary priest but remained on the Continent. Father Pitts taught other English Catholics in exile as they prepared for ordination, served the French nobility, and wrote scholarly works, some of which were never published.

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