Weston, William

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Jesuit priest; b. Trimworth Manor, Crundale, near Maidstone, Kent, 1551; d. Valladolid, April 9, 1615. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, Christ's Church, Oxford, and Lincoln's Inn, London. In 1571 he studied at Paris, then for three years at the English College, Douai. On Nov. 5, 1575, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Sant'Andrea, Rome. After being ordained in Spain (1579), he taught Hebrew and other ecclesiastical subjects at San Lucar and Seville. At Easter 1584 he left the latter city for the English mission, landing south of Yarmouth, Norfolk, on September 10 of the same year; his companion, Brother Ralph Emerson, was arrested in London within ten days. For the next two years Weston was the only Jesuit at liberty in England. During this time he became the chief organizer of the Catholic resistance; he also received into the Church, (St.) Philip howard, the principal English nobleman. In July 1586 he was joined by (St.) Robert southwell and Henry garnet, but as soon as he initiated them into their work he himself was arrested (Aug. 3, 1586). The efforts of the Council to implicate him in the Babington plot failed: his stature as a priest and his innocence made them reluctant to bring him to trial. For the next 18 years he was kept in prison, first in the Clink (158688), then at Wisbech (158898), and finally in the Tower (15981603). From Wisbech he exercised much influence in the neighboring countryside. In the prison itself he became the reluctant spiritual guide of a group of fellow priests who bound themselves into a confraternity, thus causing resentment among the others; hence the Wisbech Stirs. For five years in the Tower he was in the most absolute solitary confinement.

On the accession of James I, Weston, broken in health, half blind, and prematurely old, was exiled. During his long imprisonment he had become a symbol of Catholic resistance: the popular saying ran: "If I spoke with the tongue of Father Campion and wrote with the pen of Father Persons and led the austere life of Father Weston and yet had not charity, it would avail me nothing." When on May 13, 1603, he set out from the Tower wharf on his journey to the continent, the Catholics of London gathered to pay their tribute to a man they all regarded as a saint. After convalescing at Saint-Omer (160305) he returned to Seville. In June 1614 he was appointed rector of the English College, Valladolid, where he later died.

Bibliography: w. weston, The Autobiography of an Elizabethan, tr. p. caraman (New York 1955). p. renold, ed., The Wisbech Stirs (Cath RecSoc 51; London 1958).

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Weston, William

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