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Second Earl of Bristol, b. at Madrid, Spain, where his father, the first earl, was ambassador, 1612; d. at Chelsea, England, 1677. As a boy of twelve he presented a petition at the bar of the House of Commons on behalf of his father who had been committed to the Tower by the Duke of Buckingham. He was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he became M. A., 31 Aug., 1636. Shortly afterwards he entered into a correspondence with his kinsman, Sir Kenelm Digby, in which he attacked the Catholic Church. In the struggle between king and Parliament he was at first on the side of the Parliament. He was elected member for Dorset in 1640 and was shortly afterwards made a member of the committee which undertook to impeach Strafford. When the impeachment was abandoned for process of attainder, however, he vigorously opposed it and thus incurred unpopularity with his own party. In 1641 he took his seat in the House of Lords as Baron Digby and joined the king's party. His advice to the king upon the retreat of the five members to the city, that they should be seized by force, was rejected by Charles, but, becoming known, added greatly to his unpopularity. Shortly afterwards, being summoned before the House of Lords to answer for his conduct, he fled to Holland. Returning during the Civil War he fought at Edgehill and Lichfield, but resigned his command by reason of a quarrel with Prince Rupert. In Sept., 1643, he was made secretary of state and privy councillor, in which offices he was not successful.
In 1645 Digby replaced Rupert as lieutenant-general of the king's forces north of the Trent, but was defeated at Carlisle Sands and fled to the Isle of Man. He next took service under the King of France, and he became a lieutenant-general in the French army in 1651. On 6 Jan., 1653, he succeeded his father as Earl of Bristol and was made Knight of the Garter. Owing to an unsuccessful intrigue against Mazarin he was ordered to leave France, and he proceeded to the Netherlands, where he visited Charles II then in exile. In 1657 he was reappointed secretary of state but again lost office on his conversion to the Catholic Faith. On the Restoration he returned to England, becoming a political opponent of Clarendon. This displeased the king, and Digby spent two years in concealment, till Clarendon's fall. Though a Catholic he spoke in favour of the Test Act, drawing a distinction between a "Catholic of the Church of Rome" and a "Catholic of the Court of Rome". He was high Steward of Oxford University 1643-46 and again 1660-1663. He published "The Lord George Digbie's Apology for Himself" (1642) and "Elvira, a Comedy" (1667). Many of his speeches and letters were also published.
WOOD, Athenae Oxon., BLISS ed. (London, 1817), III, 1100 sqq.; CLARENDON, History of the Rebellion, ed. MACRAY (OXFORD, 1888); DODD, Church History (Brussels, 1739), III; WALPOLE, Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors (London, 1806); GILLOW, Bibl. Dict. Eng., Cath., s.v.; RUSSELL BARKER in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v.
APA citation. (1908). George Digby. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04791a.htm
MLA citation. "George Digby." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04791a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph E. O'Connor.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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