Treasures from the London Library: Training for martyrdom

Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros explores the work and influence of William Allen, who fought to restore Roman Catholicism to England during the reign of Elizabeth I.

In 1558, Mary Tudor’s brief Catholic reign came to an end. Just as English Protestants who had fled to Lutheran and Calvinist havens on the continent began to return home, in Oxford and Cambridge, Catholic scholars who refused to conform to the new Elizabethan order packed their bags and planned their escape to France and the Spanish-ruled Low Countries. Some travelled to the universities of Douai and Louvain, but many were scattered across Europe until an Oxford don, William Allen (1532-1594), founded an English college in Douai, in 1568, where they could study together. With Papal approval and the financial support of King Philip II of Spain, the college gradually attracted more and more learned exiles. It became so successful that a subsidiary branch was set up in Rome, in 1576, to accommodate the growing numbers of students.

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