Milton the Catholic

No, not famous poet John Milton, but his brother, Christopher.

I have actually been reading a lot of Milton’s prose work lately and have been quite enjoying it, despite the fact that I obviously have profound ideological disagreements with the famous luminary of the Puritans. His prose is easy, full of wit and humor and well constructed.

In reading Milton’s prose I came across references to John’s brother, Sir Christopher. While John Milton sought to work for the kingdom through religion and writing, Christopher sought to do so through the legal profession. Though not distinguished as a lawyer, he won the gratitude of the Stuarts for his support of Charles I during the Civil War, for which his house was confiscated during Cromwell’s time.

Christopher, like John, was born Anglican and remained so Anglican throughout Cromwell’s years. After the return of the Stuarts, however, he drifted towards Catholicism, along with many other eminent statesmen of the Restoration period, and was received into the Roman Catholic Church later in life, probably around 1680. Historians as well as contemporary writers suggested that Christopher may have converted for political motives; indeed shortly after his conversion, in 1686, he was invested with the coif, knighted, and raised to the Exchequer Bench by his fellow Catholic, King James II, in late April 1686. This may not be the case, however, for his eminent brother John, in his personal writings, made mention of the Catholicizing tendencies of his brother years before the latter’s conversion and indicated that the two had heated debates in the years leading up to John’s death (1674) and Christopher’s reception into the Catholic Church. Clearly if the two brothers had argued heatedly about the subject for years, as John’s writings seem to suggest, it would be more probable that Christopher was converting sincerely, though he could not have been blind to the potential benefits of embracing Catholicism during the brief reign of the Catholic James II. There is, regrettably, a historiographical tendency to portray converts to Catholicism as political opportunists while converts to Protestantism are portrayed as prinicpled men of conscience.

Sir Christopher died in March  1693, and was buried, on 22nd of that month, in the church of St. Nicholas in Ipswich.

It’s nice to learn about the Catholics that are always “hiding in the shadows” behind the personages of their more eminent Protestant kinsmen.

Phillip Campbell, “Milton the Catholic,” Unam Sanctam Catholicam, November 29, 2011. Available online at