Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzherbert, Thomas
FITZHERBERT, THOMAS (1552–1640), Jesuit, was the eldest son and heir of William Fitzherbert, esq., of Swynnerton, Staffordshire, by Isabella, second daughter and coheiress of Humphrey Swynnerton, esq., of Swynnerton. He was a grandson of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert [q. v.], justice of the common pleas. Born at Swynnerton in 1552, he was sent either to Exeter or to Lincoln College, Oxford, in 1568. Having openly defended the catholic faith, he was obliged to live in concealment for two years, and being at last seized in 1572 he was imprisoned for recusancy. After his release he found it prudent to remove to London, where he was an active member of the association of young men founded by George Gilbert in 1580 for the assistance of the jesuits Parsons and Campion. In that year he married Dorothy, the only daughter of Edward East, esq., of Bledlow, Buckinghamshire. He retired with his wife to France in 1582. There he was 'a zealous solicitor' in the cause of Mary Queen of Scots. After the death of his wife, in 1588, he went to Spain, where, on the recommendation of the Duke of Feria, he received a pension from the king. His name is repeatedly mentioned in the letters and reports preserved among our State Papers. When on a visit to Brussels in 1595 he was charged before the state of Flanders with holding a correspondence with the English secretary of state, and with a design to set fire to the magazine at Mechlin, but was extricated by the Duke of Feria. In 1598 Fitzherbert and Father Richard Walpole were charged with conspiring to poison Queen Elizabeth. For this plot Edward Squire was condemned and executed.
After a brief stay at Milan in the service of the Duke of Feria, Fitzherbert proceeded to Rome, where he was ordained priest 24 March 1601-2. For twelve years he acted as agent at Rome for the English clergy. In 1606 he made a private vow to enter the Society of Jesus. In 1607, when the court of Rome had some thoughts of sending a bishop to England, Fitzherbert was on the list, with three other candidates. He resigned the office of agent for the clergy in consequence of the remonstrance of the archpriest George Birkhead [q. v.] and the rest of the body, who appointed Dr. Richard Smith, bishop of Chalcedon, to take his place. Dodd says 'they were induced to it by a jealousy of some long standing. They had discovered that Fitzherbert had constantly consulted Father Parsons and the Jesuits in all matters relating to the clergy, and that, too, contrary to the express order lately directed to the archpriest from Rome.'
In 1613 he carried into effect his vow to enter the order of Jesuits, and in 1616 was appointed superior of the English mission at Brussels, an office which he filled for two years. In 1618 he succeeded Father Thomas Owen as rector of the English College at Rome, and governed that establishment till March 1639, when he was succeeded by Father Thomas Leeds, alias Courtney. He died in the college on 7 Aug. (O.S.) 1640, and was buried in the chapel.
Wood says : 'He was a person of excellent parts, had a great command of his tongue and pen, was a noted politician, a singular lover of his countrymen, especially those who were catholics, and of so graceful behaviour and generous spirit that great endeavours were used to have him created a cardinal some years after Allen's death, and it might have been easily effected, had he not stood in his own way.'
His portrait was formerly in the English College at Rome, and a copy of it by Münch was in the sacristy at Wardour Castle.
His works are: 1. 'A Defence of the Catholycke Cause, contayning a Treatise of sundry Untruthes and Slanders published by the heretics, . . . by T. F. With an Apology of his innocence in a fayned Conspiracy against her Majesty's person, for the which one Edward Squyre was wrongfully condemned and executed in November 1598,' St. Omer, 1602, 8vo. 2. 'A Treatise concerning Policy and Religion, wherein the infirmitie of humane wit is amply declared, . . . finally proving that the Catholique Roman Religion only doth make a happy Commonwealth,' 2 vols. or parts, Douay, 1606-10, 4to, and 1615, 4to ; 3rd edit. London, 1696, 8vo. The work is dedicated to the author's son, Edward Fitzherbert, who died on 25 Nov. 1612. Wood says that a third part was published at London in 1652, 4to. 3. 'An sit Utilitas in Scelere : vel de Infelicitate Principis Macchiavelliani, contra Macchiavellum et politicos ems sectatores,' Rome, 1610 and 1630, 8vo. This and the preceding work were most favourably received both by catholics and protestants. 4. A long preface to Father Parson's 'Discussion of the Answer of M. William Barlow, D.D., to the book entitled "The Judgment of a Catholick Englishman concerning the Oath of Allegiance,"' 1612. 6. 'A Supplement to the Discussion of M. D. Barlow's Answer to the Judgment of a Catholike Englishman,' &c., St. Omer, 1613, 4to, published under the initials F. T. 6. 'A Confutation of certaine Absurdities, Falsities, and Follies, uttered by M. D. Andrews in his Answer to Cardinall Bellarmine's Apology,' St. Omer, 1613, 4to, also published under the initials F. T. Samuel Collins, D.D., replied to it in ' Epphata, to F. T., or a Defence of the Bishop of Ely [Lancelot Andrewes] concerning his Answer to Cardinal Bellarmine's Apology against the calumnies of a scandalous pamphlet,' Cambridge, 1617, 4to. 7. 'Of the Oath of Fidelity or Allegiance against the Theological Disputations of Roger Widdrington,' St. Omer, 1614, '4to. Widdrington (vere Thomas Preston) published two replies to this work. 8. 'The Obmutesce of F. T. to the Epphata of D. Collins ; or, the Reply of F. T. to Dr. Collins his Defence of my Lord of Winchester's [Lancelot Andrewes] Answere to Cardinal Bellarmine's Apology,' St. Omer, 1621, 8vo. 9. 'Life of St. Francis Xavier,' Paris, 1632, 4to, translated from the Latin of Horatius Tursellinus.[Addit. MS. 5815, ff. 212, 213 b; Dr. John Campbell, in Biog. Brit. ; Catholic Spectator (1824), i. 171 ; Constable's Specimens of Amendments to Dodd's Church Hist. pp. 202-12; De Backer's Bibl. des Écrivains de la Compagnie de Jésus; Dodd's Church Hist. ii. 410,491-6, iii. 77 ; Erdeswick's Survey of Staffordshire, p. 110; Foley's Records, ii. 198-233, vi. 762, vii. 258 ; Gage's English-American, p. 208 ; Grillow's Bibl. Dict. ; Intrigues of Romish Exiles, pp. 31, 35; Morus, Hist. Missionis Anglic. Soc. Jesu, p. 235 ; Morris's Condition of Catholics under James I, p. ccxlii ; Oliver's Jesuit Collections, p. 92 ; Panzani's Memoirs, pp. 82, 83 ; Pits, De Angliæ Scriptoribus, p. 813 ; Southwell's Bibl. Scriptorum Soc. Jesu, p. 762 ; Calendars of State Papers ; Wadsworth's English-Spanish Pilgrim, p. 65 ; Wood's Atheæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 662.]