Death of Pope Gregory XIII – 10 April 1585

On this day in history, 10th April 1585, Pope Gregory XIII, died. He was the man who said of Elizabeth I in 1580 “Whosoever sends her out of the world … not only does not sin but gains merit” and who supported attempts to dethrone her and replace her with a Catholic monarch.

Of course, Pope Gregory XIII is best known for introducing the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, which sought to reform and replace the Julian Calendar which had been in use in Europe since 45BC. Many European countries did not introduce the new calendar in 1582 and Britain did not introduce it until 1752!

You can read all about the Gregorian Calendar in my article “The First Day of the Gregorian Calendar”.

8 thoughts on “Death of Pope Gregory XIII – 10 April 1585

  1. Hello Claire.
    I have often wondered about the different timelines with regard to different countries adoption of the Gregorian calendar. In Spanish history the Armada would have been defeated before the battle had even begun in England due to this country still using the Julian calendar. Coupled with this, from the 12th century until 1751, the Legal year began in England on the 25th March. So Paliamentary records list the execution of Charles 1st as 1648, but modern history adjusts the year to 1649 by making January 1st the start of the year. By this same method Catherine Howard’s execution would have taken place in 1541 in records of the time, although we accept this as 1542 by taking January 1st as the start of the year (January 1st was always celebrated as New Year’s Day, but the Legal year continued until March 24th).
    Was anybody in particular responsible for the huge task in adjusting these timelines and when was this done? The capacity for error must be huge with countries adopting the Gregorian calendar at different times (many countries did not accept this calandar until the 20th century – gosh!). As such, do historians in different countries disagree about dates and does it matter that much anyway, given the capacity for error between the various systems operating in different countries?
    A real minefield for historians I suspect!

  2. Good point, Neil! Over on the Anne Boleyn Files, we had a discussion about various Tudor ghosts, and I asked how the ghosts knew to show up on the ‘right’ date since the calendar has been adjusted and 11 days had been dropped to correct the calendar year. Seems to me they would show up when it was a certain date in their own time, not ours! Those clever, modern ghosts.

  3. I can’t begin to think aobut those calendar issues but find it amazing that a man of God would, for all intents and purposes, suggest murder and murder of a queen, no less. yet, in the name of religion, much horror has happened. Thankfully, Elizabet eluded any assassination attempts but it must have made her life difficult–in old age, she kept a rusty sword by her bed and often hacked at the curtains when she was angry. She must have been terrified a lot of the time.

  4. I don’t think anyone stands a ghost of a chance working out the differences between the calendars, Impish Impulse, so I’m hoping your spirits miss me by 11 days!
    Anne, On a more serious note, I must agree with you regarding a pope’s position to encourage murder, It’s probably best summed up by a quote from Steven Weinberg, who said the following:
    “With or withoutout it (religion) you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things,that takes religion”.
    This probably holds true for the past, the present and the future, when people act, or say things, with the belief that God is on their side.
    Phew, that was a bit heavy, but I think history proves the point.
    Regards to you both, It’s great to have debates, or leave comments on a subject I love; I.E. 16th century history and, as such, I love both of Claire’s websites.

  5. What a despicable man he was. “Thou shalt do no murder”, say the King James Bible. Well, I know Catholics were not allowed to read the Bible until relatively recently, but Gregory had certainly read a version of the Bible as priest, bishop, cardinal and Pope! What shameful behaviour he displayed in “Regnans In Excelsis”.

  6. The saddest thing about Pope Gregory is that he made life so much more difficult for the Catholics … not only during Elizabeth’s reign, but also for years after. I often wonder if his actions might have been different if he understood that most English Catholics preferred Elizabeth to any foreign monarch, even if Catholic. I also wonder why some of the people who criticize Elizabeth for asking Paulet to quietly murder Mary Queen of Scots … after Mary had been tried and condemned, and, when Paulet had already promised to perform such an act in the Bond of Association are silent on this Pope’s invitations.

  7. He seems to be no different from any other pope at that time in history. More of a secular ruler rather than a religious one. I don’t think he really understood the situation in England and I think Esther has a good point when she states that he made life much more difficult for Catholics living in England.

  8. “Well, I know Catholics were not allowed to read the Bible until relatively recently…” FIz
    I guess that statement is true if by “recently” you mean the mid 15th century.

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