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William Gifford

Archbishop of Reims, b. 1554; d. 1629

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Gifford, WILLIAM, Archbishop of Reims; b. in Hampshire, 1554; d. at Reims, April 11, 1629. He was the son of John Gifford, Esquire, of Weston-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir George Throckmorton, Knight, of Coughton, Warwickshire (Wood, “Athen. Oxon.”, below). He was sent to Oxford in 1569, where he was entrusted to the care of John Bridgewater, President of Lincoln College, who was a Catholic at heart. Gifford remained at Oxford for about four years, part of which time he spent in the celebrated boarding school kept by the Catholic physician Etheridge, whither he had been removed on the compulsory retirement of Bridgewater for refusal to conform. After this period, Gifford, accompanied by his tutor, proceeded to Louvain (1573), resumed there his studies, and took the degree of M.A. (Athen. Oxon.). After having also obtained his baccalaureate in theology on the completion of a four years’ course in that science under Bellarmine, Gifford was forced to quit Louvain owing to the disturbances in the Low Countries. Proceeding thence, he pursued his ecclesiastical studies at Paris, at Reims, which he visited (1577) at the invitation of Dr. Allen, and at the English college at Rome, of which he was admitted a member on September 15, 1579 [Foley, “Records of the English Province”, etc., VI (London, 1880), 139; but compare statement there given as to age with date of birth above]. Having been ordained priest in March, 1582 (Foley, “Records”, loc. cit.), he was recalled to Reims by Allen as professor of theology at the English College (“Douay Diaries”, infra: Diarium Primum, 11; Diarium Secundum, 189—note statement as to age). The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on him in December of 1584 at Pont-a-Mousson in Lorraine, after which, returning to Reims, Gifford taught theology at intervals for nearly twelve years.

On Allen’s” elevation to the cardinalate, Gifford accompanied him to Rome in the capacity of chaplain, and it is said that during this visit he resided for a time in the household of St. Charles Borromeo. About this time (1597) Gifford was preferred to the deanery of Lille, which office Clement VIII conferred on him at the instance, it is alleged, of the Archbishop of Milan. This dignity he retained for about ten years, and, after his withdrawal from Lille (c. 1606), he was made “rector magnificus” of Reims University. In 1608, Gifford, who had always held the Benedictines in high esteem and befriended them in many ways, took the habit of that order and subsequently became prior at Dieulouard (Dieulewart). In 1611, Father Gabriel of St. Mary, as Gifford was known in religion, went into Brittany and laid the foundation of a small community of his order at St. Malo. He was favorably received by the., bishop, and a chair of divinity was assigned to him (Petre, op. cit. infra). He was one of the nine definitors chosen in 1617 to arrange the terms of union among the Benedictine congregations in England, of which province he was elected first president in May of the same year. In 1618, Gifford was consecrated coadjutor to Cardinal Louis de Lorraine, Archbishop of Reims, with the title of Episcopus Archidalice (Bishop of Archidal). On the death of Guise, he succeeded to the archbishopric, becoming also, by virtue of his office, Duke of Reims and First Peer of France.

Before his death, which occurred in 1629, he had acquired a high reputation as a preacher. His writings include: “Oratio Funebris in exequiis venerabilis viri domini Maxaemiliani Manare praepositi ecclesiae D. Petri oppidi Insulensis” (Douai, 1598); “Orations divers,” (Douai); “Calvino-Turcismus”, etc. (Antwerp, 1597 and 1603). The latter work, begun by Dr. Reynolds, Gifford completed and edited. He translated from the French of Fronto-Ducaeus, S.J., “The Inventory of Errors, Contradictions, and false Citations of Philip Mornay, Lord of Plessis and Mornay”. He also wrote, at the request of the Duke of Guise, a treatise in favor of the League. The “Sermons Adventuales” (Reims, 1625) were a Latin rendering by Gifford of discourses originally delivered in French. He assisted Dr. Anthony Champney in his “Treatise on the Protestant Ordinations” (Douai, 1616); other of Gifford’s MSS. were destroyed in the burning of the monastery at Dieulouard in 1717.



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