Robert Parsons
Historical Figure
Nationality: England (spent most of his adult life in exile)
Date of Birth: 1546
Date of Death: 1610
Cause of Death: Natural causes
Occupation: Priest, Educator, Missionary, Author of Non-Fiction
Professional Affiliations: Society of Jesus
Turtledove Appearances:
Ruled Britannia
POD: July-August, 1588
Date of Death: 1598
Cause of Death: Execution by decapitation
Political Office(s): Archbishop of Canterbury
Robert Parsons (born Robert Persons, 24 June 1546 – 15 April 1610) was an English Jesuit priest in the 16th century. He secretly and illegally ministered to English Catholics during Queen Elizabeth's reign and went into exile after his companion, St Edward Campion, was caught and executed in 1581. He lived out his life in exile, founding seminaries around Catholic Europe, and publishing Memorial for the Reformation of England.

Robert Parsons in Ruled BritanniaEdit

Robert Parsons (1546-1598) returned from exile in 1588 when the Spanish Armada and the Duke of Parma's Spanish army conquered England in 1588, deposed Queen Elizabeth, and installed Queen Isabella and King Albert as monarchs. Isabella and Albert reintroduced Catholicism as England's official state religion. Some time prior to 1597, Parsons was made a cardinal and assigned to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury.[1] As part of these duties he marched in an auto da fe procession on All Saints Day in 1597.[2]

In 1597, Cardinal Parsons enlisted the help of Spanish playwright and soldier Lope de Vega in the investigation of the English playwright William Shakespeare. Parsons suspected a conspiracy in the English theater, in part because the alchemist Edward Kelley called out to Shakespeare before being executed by the English Inquisition in an auto da fe. For his part, de Vega held Shakespeare in too high esteem to believe Parsons' allegations, but did attempt to carry out the task[3][4]

Parsons was actually correct, but de Vega was unable to detect the conspiracy. After the successful English rebellion, inspired by Shakespeare's play, Boudicca, Elizabeth returned to the throne. She ordered Parsons executed and his head placed on a pike outside St. Paul's Cathedral.[5]


  1. Ruled Britannia, pg. 6.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., pgs. 77-82.
  4. Apparently, Parsons' encounters with persecuted Catholic John Shakespeare several years earlier had not absolved the younger Shakespeare of suspicion in the Cardinal's mind. See: Inconsistencies in Turtledove's Work#Inconsistencies in Ruled Britannia.
  5. Ibid., pg. 440-442.