Nicholas French

Life
1604-1678; b. Wexford, ed. Louvain; returned to Wexford as parish priest; compiled a philosophy course in manuscript as Dicta physicalia et metaphysicalia (1630); Bishop of Ferns, 1643 [var. 1645], elected to represent Wexford borough at Confederation of Kilkenny, 1645; accepted the Viceroy Duke of Ormond’s peace proposals in opposition to Rinuccini, 1648; revoked his opinion and subsequently issued The Unkinde Deserter or Royall Men & True Friends (Brussels 1652), accusing Ormonde of causing the failure of Lorraine’s interest on behalf of Catholics; travelled to Rome to seek assistance from Innocent X for the Confederation; made unsuccessful mission to Brussels to treat with Duke Charles IV of Lorraine; appt. coadjudicator of Archbishop of Santiago de Compostella, 1652-66; afterwards to Archbishop of Paris and to Archbishop of Ghent; issed The dolefull fall of Andrew Sall on the apostate; Narrative of the Earl of Clarendon’s Settlement and Sale of Ireland (1668); President of Louvain in 1670; The Settlement and Sale of Ireland (Louvain 1668); also issued The Bleeding Iphigenia (Louvain 1674), repudiating claims brought against Irish Catholics in reign of Charles I; d. Ghent. CAB DIW ODNB

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Commentary
W. B. Stanford, Ireland and the Classical Tradition (1984), Nicholas French, bishop of Ferns, in exile, published The Bleeding Iphigenia (Louvain 1674), a vigorous plea for the Catholic cause; his reasons for the title as follows, ‘the picture of Iphigenia (one of the rarest peeces of antiquity) going to be sacrifised for appeasing the anger of Diane, offended with her Father Agamemnon for killing a stagg consecrated to the Goddess, made Timanthes the Author thereof very famous. He placed in lively cullors, round about this fair Princes [sic], her Kinsmen, Fri[e]nds, Allyes, and suite in great Consternation, all drown’d in lamentations and tears; but the gallant Lady (nothing in nature appear’d more comely) smiled, bearing in her countenance a Majesty, and contempt of death, soe charming was the art of this picture, that few could view it without teares. / Courteous reader, the Author of this Preface hath drawne another Iphigenia of the body of a noble, ancient Catholic Nation, cla’d all in redd Robes, not to bee now offered up as a victim; but already sacrific’d, not to a profane Deity, but to the living God for holy Religion, look but on this our bleeding Iphigenia, and I dare say you will lament her Tragedy.’ Thus French appealed not in terms of Christian or Gaelic imagery - Dark Rosaleen or Cathleen Ní Houlihan - but in terms of the classical language of polite culture in the continental Renaissance, detached from sectarian loyalties, since all condemned her suffering as unjust, as met with in the accounts by Aeschylus, Euripides, and Ovid. [~205] ALSO, In another work, The Unkinde Deserter (1676), French attacked the Duke of Ormonde, citing figures such as Cincinnatus, Epaminondas, Phocion, Socrates, and Cato. [20]

Letters of Charles O’Connor, ed. Ward and Ward (1988), on Iphigenia, ‘The author was Titular Bishop of Ferns in the unfortunate reign of Charles I and rendered himself odious to the Confederate Catholics through his close connection with the Nuncio Rinuccini, whose conduct here was condemned by the Pope himself. The bishop, a man of poor abilities, undertook the defense of this nuncio’s ruinous measures, as well as the bigotted party who joined him, and at this day his memoiry would be lost with his book among mankind if the marquis of Ormond and my Lord Clarendon had not preserved the memory of both by descending so low as to take notice of him.’ (p.72.)

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References
University of Ulster Library, Morris Collection holds The Historical Works of the Rt. Rev. Nicholas French, Bishop of Ferns, 2 vols. in 1 (Duffy 1846).

Dicta physicalia et metaphysicalia (1630), MS 463 fols. [‘Walter Jones 1650’ signed on title page], Marsh’s Library; in three headings, Physics, Logic, and Metaphysics; includes inquiry into existence of God and nature of ignis fatuus; bound in brown calf, with inscription tooled in gilt: Nicholas Frensh. Wexfordiensis ... 1630’; also The dolefull fall of Andrew Sall ([Louvain?] Superiorum permissu 1674), 8o [Wing F2178; Walsh 249]. .

Dictionary of National Biography: 1606-1678; bishop of Ferns, 1646; missions to Rome, Brussels, and Paris; coadjudicator to archbishop of Santiago de Compostella, 1652-66, Paris, and the bishop of Ghent, where he died; Narrative of the Earl of Clarendon’s Settlement and Sale of Ireland (1668) and other rare tracts.

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