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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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William Walsh

Bishop of Meath, Ireland (1554-77); b. at Dunboyne, Co. Meath, about 1512; d. at Alcala de Henares, Jan. 4, 1577

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Walsh, WILLIAM, Bishop of Meath, Ireland (1554-77); b. at Dunboyne, Co. Meath, about 1512; d. at Alcala de Henares, January 4, 1577. He joined the Cistercians at Bective, Co. Meath, and being sent to study at Oxford took a doctor's degree in divinity either there or elsewhere. The suppression of religious houses must have driven him from Oxford in 1536, and the confiscation of Bective in 1537 left him homeless. Going abroad, he became chaplain to Cardinal Pole at Rome. It was now probably that by papal dispensation he exchanged into the Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and was made prior of their suppressed monasteries of Duleek and Colpe. Walsh returned when Pole came as legate to England, for in 1554 he was in the Irish commission for depriving married clergy. Staples, Bishop of Meath, being thus deprived, Walsh, already nominated by the Crown, was appointed by the legate, October 18, 1554, subject to seeking papal confirmation within twelve months. He assumed his charge immediately, retaining, as the see was impoverished, the rectory of Loughsewdy and his priories. Henceforward he was busied in ecclesiastical and civil affairs, and the Government employed him in many commissions until the second year of Queen Elizabeth. But when she introduced a Protestant liturgy into Ireland, Walsh resisted strenuously in Convocation, and preached at Trim against the Book of Common Prayer. On February 4, 1560, he refused the oath of supremacy, was deprived of his temporalities, and by the Queen's order committed to custody. Divested of royal favor and withdrawn from secular affairs, he recalled the condition of his appointment, and when released, some eighteen months later, he submitted his case at Rome. In consistory held September 6, 1564, the legate's provision was declared void, and the pope, in the circumstances, reappointed Dr. Walsh. About the time when this would have become known in Ireland, Walsh was cited before the Ecclesiastical Commission, and on refusing the oath of supremacy or to answer interrogatories, was committed to Dublin Castle, July 13, 1565.

Loftus, the Protestant primate, advised his removal to England that the learned bishops there might win him to conformity; he was, he said, of great credit among his countrymen, who depended wholly on him in religious concerns. Nevertheless he was left in Dublin, and lay fettered in a dark and filthy cell until Christmas, 1572, when his friends contrived his escape to Nantes in Brittany. After six months of destitution he was aided by the nuncio in France to proceed to Spain. He reached Alcala almost moribund through privations, fatigues, and festering wounds from his fetters, and was first received in the house of a pious lady, who herself dressed his sores and nursed him with tender solicitude. Afterwards he removed to the Cistercian convent and expired among his former brethren, esteemed a martyr of the Faith. He was buried in the Church of St. Secundinus and the Bishop of Grenada erected a monument to his memory.

CHARLES MCNEILL


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