Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nicholson, Francis (1650-1731)

NICHOLSON, FRANCIS (1650–1731), theologian, son of Thomas Nicholson, was baptised on 27 Oct. 1650 at the collegiate church at Manchester, and admitted a servitor of University College, Oxford, early in 1666. He graduated B.A. on 18 Jan. 1669, and M.A. on 4 June 1673, and after his ordination ‘preached at Oxford and near Canterbury’ (Wood). Obadiah Walker [q. v.] was his tutor at Oxford, and from him he appears to have acquired his high church and Roman catholic views. A sermon in favour of penance, which he preached at St. Mary's Church, Oxford, on 20 June 1680, caused him to be charged before the vice-chancellor with spreading false doctrine, and he was ordered to recant. This, however, he declined to do, and his name was reported to the bishop, ‘to stop his preference.’ On the accession of James II he avowed himself a Roman catholic, and became an ardent champion of his adopted church. He attempted in vain to persuade John Hudson of University College to become an adherent of the king (Hearne). In 1688 he wrote an appendix to Abraham Woodhead's ‘Discourse on the Eucharist,’ entitled ‘The Doctrine of the Church of England concerning the substantial Presence and Adoration of our B. Saviour in the Eucharist asserted,’ &c. On the deposition of James II in 1688 Nicholson joined the English College of Carthusians at Niewport in the Netherlands, but the austerities of their rule obliged him about four years afterwards to leave the order, and he returned to England. Thence he shortly proceeded to Lisbon, in the service of Queen Catherine, widow of Charles II. He spent some years at the Portuguese court, formed a close intimacy with the heads of the English College at Lisbon, and afterwards retired to an estate which he had purchased at Pera, a suburb of Constantinople.

About 1720 he conveyed the whole of his property to the Lisbon College on the understanding that his debts should be paid, and that board and lodging, besides a sum of 12l. a year, should be allowed him for life. He died at the college on 13 Aug. 1731, aged nearly 81.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 449; Jones's Chetham Popery Tracts (Chetham Soc.), ii. 359; Hearne's Collections (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), i. 404, ii. 61, 93; Gillow's Bibl. Dict. vol. iv., manuscript, from extract kindly communicated by the author; Manchester Cathedral Reg.]

C. W. S.