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SANDERS or SANDER, NICHOLAS (1530?–1581), controversialist and historian, was one of the twelve children of William Sanders of Aston, one time high sheriff of Surrey, by Elizabeth Mynes, his wife. His ancestors had been settled in the county of Surrey from the time of King John, first at Sanderstead, and, in the reign of Edward II, at Sander Place, or Charlwood Place, in the parish of Charlwood, where Nicholas was born about 1530. Two of his sisters became nuns of Sion, and a third married Henry Pits, the father of John Pits [q. v.], the author of the ‘De Illustribus Angliæ Scriptoribus.’ Nicholas was admitted scholar of Winchester College in 1540, ‘aged 10’ (Kirby, Winchester Scholars, p. 123). He became scholar of New College, Oxford, 6 Aug. 1546, and fellow 6 Aug. 1548, and graduated B.C.L. in 1551 (Wood, Fasti, i. 132). He gave public lectures on canon law, and in 1557 he delivered the oration at the reception of Cardinal Pole's visitors to the university.

Shortly after the accession of Elizabeth he went abroad (1559) under the guidance of Sir Francis Englefield, who, as Sanders gratefully acknowledged (De Visib. Monarchia), became his main support for the next twelve years. He at first went to Rome, where he was befriended by Cardinal Morone, created doctor of divinity, and ordained priest by Thomas Goldwell [q. v.], bishop of St. Asaph. So high did his reputation stand already that, as early as 10 Nov. 1559 (if we may trust the date assigned to an extract from the letter-book of Sir Thomas Chaloner), the friends of Sanders were urging the king of Spain to obtain for him from the pope a cardinal's hat, that the English might have a man of credit to solicit their causes (Wright, Eliz. i. 7; Cal. State Papers, Foreign, Eliz. No. 236; cf. Strype, Parker, p. 217).

In 1561 he was taken by Stanislaus Hosius, the cardinal legate, to the council of Trent, and he subsequently attended Hosius on his important mission to Prussia, Poland, and Lithuania. At this same time (1563–4) he formed also an intimate friendship with Commendone, then apostolic nuncio to the king of Poland, and afterwards cardinal. From 1565 to 1572 he made his headquarters at Louvain, where his mother was then living in exile. Here he was appointed regius professor of theology at the university; and, in company with a band of English scholars, for the most part Wykehamists like himself, viz. Harding, Stapleton, Dorman, Poyntz, Rastall, and the printer Fowler, he threw himself ardently into the controversy provoked by the famous challenge of Bishop Jewel, and published a series of volumes in both Latin and English. For a few months in 1566 he was at Augsburg in attendance upon Commendone, who was assisting at the imperial diet as cardinal legate; and, shortly afterwards, Sanders and Dr. Thomas Harding were appointed by the pope in consistory as apostolic delegates, with powers to grant to priests in England faculties to absolve from heresy and schism, and were given a special commission to make known in England the papal sentence that under no circumstances could attendance at the Anglican service be tolerated. Lawrence Vaux, the ex-warden of the collegiate church of Manchester, conveyed the commission from Rome to the two priests at Louvain, and at their earnest request Vaux went himself into England, carrying with him from Sanders a manifesto, in the shape of a pastoral letter, which created some considerable stir (Fuller, Church Hist. ed. 1837, ii. 481). Sanders insisted upon the same doctrine in a preface to his ‘Treatise of Images,’ 1567. His great work, ‘De Visibili Monarchia Ecclesiæ,’ the argument of which had been suggested to him in conversations with Commendone, appeared in the summer of 1571, prefaced with a dedication to Pius V, and letters to his three patrons already mentioned, the Cardinals Morone, Commendone, and Hosius, whom he used to call ‘cardinalis meus.’ These epistles are the chief sources of our information regarding Sanders's career up to that date. The book is historically valuable as containing the first attempt to compile a descriptive list of the clergy and principal laity who suffered exile, imprisonment, or other losses for recusancy. The strong ultramontane position maintained by him throughout the work, his marked approval of the insurrection of 1569, and of the bull of deposition, with his panegyrics of Dr. Story, Felton, and others who had died refusing allegiance to the queen, provoked the bitterest hostility in England, and the book became subsequently a source of dangerous questionings and torments to captured priests (Burghley, Execution of Justice, sig. E, ii.; Allen, Defence, pp. 61–5; Butler, Memoirs, i. 425). In the previous year Sanders had printed a more formal treatise in defence of the bull of Pius V, so extremely outspoken as to cause alarm to his more prudent friends; and in proof of the moderation of the exiles and seminarists in general, Allen, in his reply to Burghley, written fourteen years later, declares that Sanders had himself withdrawn and utterly suppressed the tract in question, ‘no copie thereof that is knowen being now extant’ (p. 65).

Immediately after the publication of the ‘De Monarchia,’ Sanders received a summons to Rome, and the supposition or hope of his friends that he was now to be raised to the purple was probably not without ground. He left Louvain towards the end of January 1572. Pius V, however, died on 1 May following. In October Northumberland, Leonard Dacre, and Englefield were writing to the cardinal of Lorraine begging him to accredit Sanders, as a staunch adherent of the Queen of Scots, to Gregory XIII, and in November 1573 Sanders was in Madrid bearing letters to the king and nuncio. Here he remained in high favour with the Spanish court and in receipt of a pension of three hundred ducats from Philip. His whole energies were now directed towards the dethronement of Elizabeth in favour of a catholic sovereign. He is, however, reported to have advised Philip not to claim the crown for himself by right of conquest or by a grant from the pope, but to content himself with the regency in the name of Queen Mary or her son. He soon grew impatient with the apparent timidity of the Spanish king. On 6 Nov. 1577 he wrote in cipher to Dr. Allen, ‘We shall have steady comfort but from God, in the pope not the king. Therefore I beseech you take hold of the pope, for the king is as fearful of war as a child of fire, and all his endeavour is to avoid such occasions. The pope will give you two thousand when you shall be content with them. If they do not serve to go into England, at the least they will serve to go into Ireland. The state of Christendom dependeth upon the stout assailing of England’ (Knox, Allen, p. 38). In this same year Gregory XIII had appointed as his nuncio in Spain Mgr. Sega, who was instructed to urge Philip to make an attack upon England on the side of Ireland, and he was to offer on the pope's part a force of four to five thousand men. When the papal expedition, soon afterwards fitted out under the conduct of Sir Thomas Stukeley [q. v.], was by him diverted from its purpose, Sanders, who had been in communication with Sega and James Fitzmaurice, was himself commissioned by the pope to go as his nuncio into Ireland, and there incite the chiefs to rise under the papal banner against the English government. Philip assisted with men and money, but very secretly; and Sanders, landing at Dingle with Fitzmaurice, set up the papal standard at Smerwick in July 1579. He soon secured the adherence of the Earl of Desmond, and showed extraordinary activity in directing the movements of the rebels and sustaining their failing courage. ‘We are fighting,’ he wrote to Ulick Burke, ‘by authority of the head of the church … If it please you to join with us in this holy quarrel, you shall be under the protection of that prince whom God shall set up in place of this usurper and of God's vicar.’ In September he was able to persuade Philip to send him reinforcements (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 28420). For nearly two years, notwithstanding the continued failure of the enterprise, ‘the diligence of the cunning-lettered traitor’ baffled all Burghley's attempts to capture him. He had many hair-breadth escapes; his servant was caught and hanged, his chalice and mass furniture were seized, and eventually, after wandering with Desmond for some time as a fugitive in the hills, he succumbed to want and cold in 1581 (says Rishton), and almost certainly in the spring of that year (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, St. Leger to Burghley, No. lxxxiii.). O'Sullivan, in his ‘Historia Catholicæ Iberniæ’ (1621), ascribes his death to a sudden attack of dysentery, and gives a circumstantial account of his receiving viaticum at the hands of Cornelius, bishop of Killaloe, and of his subsequent burial in secret. Mendoza reported to Philip as a certainty (1 March 1582) that Sanders's body had been found in a wood, ‘with his breviary and his Bible under his arm.’ The leading English exiles did not conceal their discontent at the pope's action in thus exposing in the Irish troubles a life so valuable to them. ‘Our Sanders,’ they exclaimed, ‘is more to us than the whole of Ireland.’ A last attempt had just been made to raise him to the cardinalate. Mendoza, 6 April 1581, represented the desires of the English catholics for a hat for either Sanders or Allen, and the king in reply promised to use his influence that not one but both should be made cardinals (Cal. State Papers, Simancas, pp. 97, 118, 119).

Before leaving Spain Sanders placed in the hands of Sega the manuscript of his ‘De Clave David,’ a reply to the attacks made upon his ‘De Monarchia,’ with a request that, if any accident should befall him, Sega would see that the book was published, which was done in 1588. Sanders also left behind him unfinished his more famous book, ‘De Origine ac Progressu Schismatis Anglicani,’ which he was writing at Madrid in 1576. About this he had apparently given no instructions, and after his death many copies circulated in manuscript. Edward Rishton [q. v.] edited the work, making some retrenchments and carrying on the history from the point at which Sanders had broken off, viz. the accession of Elizabeth, to the date of publication. It was printed at Cologne in 1585. On the continent it was frequently reprinted and translated, and it formed the basis of every Roman catholic history of the English Reformation. In England it obtained for its author the evil name of Dr. Slanders. He was said to have invented his facts as well as his authorities. The French translation made by Maucroix (ed. 1676) was the proximate occasion of Burnet writing his ‘History,’ in which he catalogues and refutes the alleged calumnies of Sanders. Especially is Sanders denounced as the originator of the story that Anne Boleyn was Henry's own daughter. Recent historians have, however, shown that, notwithstanding his animus and the violence of his language, his narrative of facts is remarkably truthful. In almost every disputed point he has been proved right and Burnet wrong. The statement of Sanders, for instance, that Bishop John Ponet [q. v.] was tried and punished for adultery with a butcher's wife has been unquestionably confirmed by the publication of Machyn's ‘Diary’ and the ‘Grey Friars Chronicle;’ and, even in the extreme case of the impossible story regarding Anne Boleyn's birth, it is proved to have been at least no invention of Sanders, but was repeated by him, in apparent good faith, on the authority of Rastall's ‘Life of More,’ to which he refers, and of common gossip. In respect to information derived from Roman sources, Sanders is particularly accurate (Saturday Review, xxi. 290, xxvi. 82, 464, xliv. 398; Lewis, translation of the De Schismate, pp. xxi–xlvii).

The following is a complete list of works written by or attributed to Sanders: 1. ‘The Supper of our Lord set foorth in Six Books, according to the Truth of the Gospell,’ Louvain, 1565 and 1566, 4to. 2. ‘Tres Orationes Lovanii habitæ, A.D. 1565. De Transsubstantiatione; De Linguis Officiorum Eccles.; De pluribus Missis in eodem Templo,’ &c. Antwerp, 1566. 3. ‘A Treatise of Images of Christ and his Saints,’ Louvain, 1567, 8vo. 4. ‘The Rocke of the Churche wherein the Primacy of Peter,’ &c., Louvain, 1567, 8vo. 5. ‘A briefe Treatise of Usurie,’ Louvain, 1568, 8vo. 6. ‘De Typica et Honoraria S. Imaginum Adoratione,’ Louvain, 1568. 7. ‘Sacrificii Missæ ac ejus partium Explicatio,’ Louvain, 1569; Antwerp, 1573. 8. ‘Quod Dominus in sexto cap. Joannis de Sacramento Eucharistiæ proprie sit locutus Tractatus,’ Antwerp, 1570, 12mo. 9. ‘Pro Defensione Excommunicationis a Pio V,’ &c., suppressed as mentioned above. 10. ‘De Visibili Monarchia Ecclesiæ,’ Louvain, 1571, fol. The following were edited posthumously: 11. ‘De Origine ac Progressu Schismatis Anglicani … editus et auctus per Edouardum Rishtonum,’ Cologne, 1585, 8vo; English translation with notes and introduction by David Lewis, London, 1877. 12. ‘De Justificatione contra Colloquium Altenburgense libri sex in quibus explicantur dissidia Lutheranorum,’ Trèves, 1585. 13. ‘De Clave David, seu regno Christi contra calumnias Acleri’ (edited by F. de Sega, bishop of Piacenza), Rome, 1588, 4to. 14. Wood and Dodd add ‘De Militantis Eccles. Romanæ Potestate,’ Rome, 1603, 4to; and Pits mentions ‘Sedes Apostolica,’ Venice, 1603. 15. ‘De Martyrio quorundam temp. Hen. VIII et Elizabethæ,’ printed in 1610 (Wood), is an excerpt from the ‘De Vis. Monarchia.’ 16. ‘Orationum partim Lovanii partim in Concilio Trident. et alibi habitarum liber’ (Pits) is perhaps the same as No. 2. Pits also ascribes to Sanders, on the authority of Richard Stanyhurst, who declared to Pits that he had seen them, (a) a chronicle of things done in his presence in Ireland, and (b) a book of letters written by Sanders from Ireland to Gregory XIII.

[Biographies, with list of publications, in Pits, p. 773, Dodd, ii. 75, and Wood's Athenæ, i. 469; Strype's Memorials, ii. 29, 472, Annals, ii. 196, 551; Parker, ii. 168–73, iii. 214; Lewis's introduction to his translation of Sanders's Hist. of the Schism; Froude's History, vol. x. ch. lxii.; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors; Teulet's Papiers d'État, ii. 329, 312; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Eliz. Addit. xxi., For. Eliz. 1572, No. 41, 1573, No. 1262, Ireland, 1574–85, pp. 163–306, Spanish, ii. 666–706, iii. 44, 69, 211, 301; Carew MSS. 1579, 159–293; Allen's Letters and Memorials, p. xxvii; Vaux's Catechism (Chetham Soc.), p. xxxi.]

T. G. L.