Personal and Family Life

Hadrian Saravia was one of three translators born outside of England, the others being John Perin and Richard "Dutch" Thomson. Saravia was born in early January 1532 in Hesdin, Artois, France. His father was Christopher de Saravia, a native of Spain and his mother was Elizabeth Boulengier from Artois. Hadrian was religiously inclined as a youth and became attached to the friars of the Franciscan Order at St. Omer. There he became acquainted with Protestants, finally leaving the Franciscans in 1557 through the influence of the Calvinist, Jacques Toffin.

His first trip to England occurred in early 1554. He stayed only a few months and was back in the Netherlands by July. Two years later in 1561 he married Catherine d'Olsey. Catherine was from St. Omer where Hadrian had lived with the Franciscans. Her father was a Protestant religious martyr. Together they had a son, Thomas and a number of daughters. Thomas died before his parents in 1588.

Hadrian Saravia had maintained his contacts in both England and moved to Southampton in 1571, his parents and family accompanying him. By the summer of 1578 he had left Southampton for the Netherlands where he spent the next ten years.

He returned to England in 1588 and remained there for the balance of his life. In 1606 his wife, Catherine died and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral where her husband was a canon. Within the year Saravia had married Marguerite Wiits, the daughter of John Wiits. Hadrian died on 15 January 1613 at Canterbury and was buried in the cathedral. Marguerite later married Robert Hill.


Hadrian Saravia's first formal training was likely with the Franciscan friars in St. Omer. Leaving the friary in 1557, he came under the informal tutelage of many of the Protestant reformers of his day, both in England and on the Continent. Although Saravia had already served as a schoolmaster and was recognized as a scholar and churchman, he resumed his studies at the University of Leiden in 1583, and was appointed a professor of theology there before a year's time. He received his D.D. at the University of Leiden and was incorporated D.D. at Oxford in 1590.


Hadrian Saravia's first ecclesiastical position came in 1562 as minister to the Wallon congregation in Antwerp, Belgium. Thereafter, he founded the Wallon Church in Brussels. A year later he assumed the post of headmaster at Elizabeth College on the Isle of Guernsey. He also was an assistant minister there. In 1568 when the Protestant William of Orange mounted an attack on the Netherlands to wrest it back from Spanish control, Saravia became William's chaplain following the successful campaign. Hadrian returned to England in 1571 and became headmaster of the King Edward VI School in Southampton. In 1578 he resigned to return to the Continent where he served as an inspector of the newly founded theological school at Ghent. While there he also chaired the provincial synod and served as a minister. He was very active in all kinds of Protestant church activities and, as mentioned, became a faculty member and "rector magnificus" of the University of Leiden in 1584.

In 1586 Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Queen Elizabeth's close friend, led a military expedition to the Netherlands. He was accompanied by his chaplain and Translator to be, Thomas Holland. They were greeted by Saravia, who by this time was an advisor to Dudley on church issues. While still occupying his professorship at the university, Saravia was suspected of aiding Dudley in capturing Leiden. For his alleged role he was sentenced to death, but was able to escape to England where he stayed for the rest of his life.

Arriving in England he received a series of church appointments including rector of Tatonhill, Staffordshire (1588), prebendary of Gloucester (1591) and Canterbury (1595) Cathedrals, vicar of Lewisham (1595), and rector of Great Chart, Kent (1610).

In addition to his other duties, he worked on various theological projects until his death.

Hadrian Saravia and the Translation

Saravia, like his fellow Translator from Kent, Richard Clerke, was selected to be part of Lancelot Andrewes' First Westminster Company responsible for translating the Old Testament books of Genesis through 2 Kings. At 73 he was the oldest man in his company and the senior of all the King James Bible Translators.

He brought to the task of translation a lifetime of scholarship and experiences which must have been an enormous contribution to his company.

Bio Bits

In 1606 when Hadrian Saravia's wife, Catharine died, they had been married for forty-four years. Marguerite, the wife of Hadrian's second marriage was much younger, only thirty years old. They had six years together before Hadrian's death. In tribute to her husband Marguerite erected a monument to Hadrian at Canterbury Cathedral, which still can be seen on the wall in the north aisle of the nave, with the following inscription:

To Hadrianus de Saravia, a beloved husband, Margareta Wiits, surviving to the present, whom he married as his second wife and with whom he lived piously and happily for six years, arranged for this memorial to be set up as an, albeit small, but sincere token of her love. Whilst he lived he was a distinguished Doctor of Theology, a most worthy prebendary of this cathedral church, an outstanding man in all branches of letters, remarkable for the piety, uprighteous sobriety and sweetness of his conduct, renowned for his writing, full of faith and abounding richly in good works. He was a native of the Netherlands, born in Hesdin in Artois. Sometimes rector of Leiden, he first came to England at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth of blessed memory. Doctor, first of Leiden, and afterwards incorporated at Oxford, the righteous man will be remembered forever. 1612