Archbishop Adam Loftus

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Loftus, Adam, Archbishop of Dublin, and Lord-Chancellor of Ireland, was born at Swineshead, Yorkshire, in 1534. His graceful deportment at a Cambridge examination attracted Queen Elizabeth's notice, and he was appointed, after his ordination in 1559, chaplain to the Bishop of Kildare. This conscientious bishop, Craike, eventually desired to be relieved of his Irish charge, as "he could not preach to the people, nor could the people understand him." Loftus was advanced rapidly, and when but twenty-seven was consecrated Archbishop of Armagh. Six years afterwards he exchanged the primacy for the archbishopric of Dublin. His anathemas against O'Neill in 1566, for burning the Cathedral of Armagh, passed unheeded, that chief ostentatiously disregarding a Protestant excommunication. A general system of Irish education was a favourite project with the Archbishop, and by his influence, in 1570, an Act was passed directing that free schools should be established in the principal town of each diocese, at the cost of the clergy.

Not satisfied with being appointed Lord-Chancellor in 1573, he, either for himself or his family, grasped at every public place that became void. In the Parliament of 1585 he was amongst the prelates that defeated the Bill for the repeal of Poyning's Act. Although he opposed Sir J. Perrot's plan for the application of the revenues of St. Patrick's Cathedral to the establishment of an Irish university, he was foremost in supporting and carrying out Queen Elizabeth's foundation of Trinity College on the site of the suppressed monastery of All-Hallows. At a meeting convened at the Tholsel he addressed the Mayor, citizens, and Council on the subject; and on 29th December 1591 the Queen's licence was obtained for the foundation of the College. Loftus was named the first Provost. The charter was dated the following year, when Fitzwilliam, the Lord-Deputy, made an appeal to the country at large on behalf of the institution, "whereby knowledge, learning, and civilitie may be increased, to the banishing of barbarisme, tumults, and disordered lyving from among them." Some time after this he fell into disgrace, and was reprimanded in a letter from the Queen for committing a servant of hers on a frivolous pretext to the Marshalsea, "a noysome place, repleat with sundry prisoners."

The spirit of the time was shown by Archbishop O'Hurley being tortured and executed at his instance, for keeping steadfast to the open profession of Roman Catholicism. His daughters made fortunate marriages; one of them, who married Sir Henry Colley, was ancestress of the Duke of Wellington. He expired at the palace of St. Sepulchre's, Dublin, 5th April 1605, aged about 71, and was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Sources

76. Chancellors of Ireland, and Keepers of the Great Seal: J. Roderick O'Flaherty. 2 vols. London, 1870.

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