Saturday, July 14, 2007

George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon

George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon
by George Frederic Watts (1817-1904)
oil on canvas, 1895
National Portrait Gallery, London

One of the most prominent converts to Roman Catholicism was George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon in 1874.

Prior to his conversion, he had been a Cabinet Minister as well as the Grand Master of the Freemasons in England from 1870 to 1874.

The reaction to his conversion was hostile and adverse amongst the Establishment. Much moral courage was needed by Lord Ripon to face the hostile comments, private and public, made on his conversion.

"How dreadful this perversion of Lord Ripon's," Queen Victoria commented. "I knew him so well and thought him so sensible." As the Queen had declared on an analogous occasion, "I do blame those who go from light to darkness!"

The Times said, " His conversion by itself was a proof of his having renounced his mental and moral freedom," " that his mind must have necessarily undergone a fatal demoralisation," that by his conversion " he forfeits at once the confidence of the English people," and "abandons every claim to political and even social influence."

Such censures in the public press Lord Ripon would have passed over unnoticed, but they were brought home to him personally by a public speech of Mr. Gladstone's on Ritualism, repeating the first comment of The Times.

It was thought his public career was at an end for ever. However he persevered and continued his public service and went on to serve in more Liberal Cabinets until 1908.

On his death, Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster said in a Sermon preached by him on the Feast of Blessed Thomas More, July 11th, 1909:

"While I have spoken to you of the Blessed THOMAS MORE, and of the place, ennobled by devotion to duty, which he held in the England of his day, doubtless you have thought, as I have done, of the statesman who has just been taken from us, who formerly for many years worshipped in this church (St. Mary s, Cadogan Square, Chelsea), and lived not very far away. I ask your very earnest prayers and those of the whole Archdiocese for the repose of the soul of LORD RIPON.

He, too, has left us an example of un swerving obedience at whatever cost.

Thirty five years ago he became convinced of the claims of the Catholic Church upon his faith and obedience, and without hesitation he submitted himself to her authority, although in so doing he had reason to think, as thought all his friends, that thereby he was putting an end to his public and political career.

Loyalty to duty was the key note of his life, and we had striking proof of this in these latter years.

In the midst of our recent Educational struggles his conscience bade him pursue a course which he knew would be misunderstood and keenly did he feel the misunderstanding- -by many of his fellow Catholics.

Yet he held on his way determined never to falter in his duty to the Church or to the State, and ready at the same time to relinquish office in the very moment that claims should be made upon him which his conscience forbade him to allow.

His private life was marked by the same sense of duty. He was a man of prayer, with his fixed hours for spiritual reading and communing with his MAKER ; a very frequent communicant and a daily hearer of Holy Mass. Associated with every form of public charity, he visited the poor in private with a personal service which few witnessed as a Brother of St.VINCENT DE PAUL.

LORD RIPON will remain in our grateful memory as a Catholic in word and deed, a true and loyal servant of GOD, of Holy Church, and of his country."


George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon

Life of the first Marquess of Ripon (1921)
By Wolf, Lucien, 1857-1930