John Whitgift

John Whitgift

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John Whitgift was the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 from 1583 to his death. Noted for his hospitality, he was somewhat ostentatious in his habits, sometimes visiting Canterbury
Canterbury
Canterbury is a historic English cathedral city, which lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a district of Kent in South East England. It lies on the River Stour....

 and other towns attended by a retinue of 800 horsemen. Whitgift's theological views were often controversial.

Making of a High Churchman


He was the eldest son of Henry Whitgift, a merchant, of Great Grimsby
Grimsby
Grimsby is a seaport on the Humber Estuary in Lincolnshire, England. It has been the administrative centre of the unitary authority area of North East Lincolnshire since 1996...

, Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

, where he was born. His date of birth was probably somewhere between 1530 and 1533. His early education was entrusted to his uncle, Robert Whitgift, abbot
Abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 of the neighbouring monastery of Wellow, by whose advice he was afterwards sent to St Anthony's School, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. In 1549 he matriculated at Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College, Cambridge
Queens' College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou , and refounded in 1465 by Elizabeth Woodville...

, and in May 1550 he moved to Pembroke Hall
Pembroke College, Cambridge
Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.The college has over seven hundred students and fellows, and is the third oldest college of the university. Physically, it is one of the university's larger colleges, with buildings from almost every century since its...

, where the martyr John Bradford
John Bradford
John Bradford was a prebendary of St. Paul's. He was an English Reformer and martyr best remembered for his utterance "'There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford". These words were uttered by Bradford while imprisoned in the Tower of London when he saw a criminal on his way to execution;...

 was his tutor. In May 1555 he became a fellow of Peterhouse
Peterhouse, Cambridge
Peterhouse is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. It is the oldest college of the University, having been founded in 1284 by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely...

.

Francis Bacon


Dr. Whitgift is believed to have taught Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

 at Cambridge University in the 1570s.

Links with Cambridge


Having taken orders in 1560, he became chaplain to Richard Cox, Bishop of Ely
Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon...

, who collated him to the rectory of Teversham, Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire is a county in England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the northeast, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west...

. In 1563 he was appointed Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity
Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity
The Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity is the oldest professorship at the University of Cambridge. It was founded initially as a readership by Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, in 1502....

 at Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, and his lectures gave such satisfaction to the authorities that on 5 July 1566 they considerably augmented his stipend. The following year he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity
Regius Professor of Divinity
The Regius Professorship of Divinity is one of the oldest and most prestigious of the professorships at the University of Oxford and at the University of Cambridge.Both chairs were founded by Henry VIII...

, and also became master first of Pembroke Hall and then of Trinity
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

. He had a principal share in compiling the statutes of the university, which passed the great seal on 25 September 1570, and in November following he was chosen as vice-chancellor
Chancellor (education)
A chancellor or vice-chancellor is the chief executive of a university. Other titles are sometimes used, such as president or rector....

.

Promotions, improvements and more


Whitgift's theological views were controversial. An aunt with whom he once lodged wrote later that “though she thought at first she had received a saint into her house, she now perceived he was a devil”. Macaulay's description of Whitgift as "a narrow, mean, tyrannical priest, who gained power by servility and adulation," is rhetorical and exaggerated; but undoubtedly Whitgift's High Church
High church
The term "High Church" refers to beliefs and practices of ecclesiology, liturgy and theology, generally with an emphasis on formality, and resistance to "modernization." Although used in connection with various Christian traditions, the term has traditionally been principally associated with the...

 beliefs led him to treat the Puritans intolerantly. In a pulpit controversy with Thomas Cartwright
Thomas Cartwright (churchman)
Thomas Cartwright was an English Puritan churchman.He was born in Hertfordshire, and studied divinity at St John's College, Cambridge. On the accession of Queen Mary I of England in 1553, he was forced to leave the university, and found occupation as clerk to a counsellor-at-law...

, regarding the constitutions and customs of the Church of England, his oratorical effectiveness proved inferior, but was able to exercise arbitrary authority. Together with other heads of the university, he deprived Cartwright of his professorship, and in September 1571 Whitgift exercised his prerogative as master of Trinity to deprive him of his fellowship also. In June of the same year Whitgift was nominated Dean of Lincoln. In the following year he published An Answere to a Certain Libel entitled an Admonition to the Parliament, which led to further controversy between the two churchmen. On 24 March 1577, Whitgift was appointed Bishop of Worcester
Bishop of Worcester
The Bishop of Worcester is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Worcester in the Province of Canterbury, England. He is the head of the Diocese of Worcester in the Province of Canterbury...

, and during the absence of Sir Henry Sidney
Henry Sidney
Sir Henry Sidney , Lord Deputy of Ireland was the eldest son of Sir William Sidney of Penshurst, a prominent politician and courtier during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, from both of whom he received extensive grants of land, including the manor of Penshurst in Kent, which became the...

 in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 (1577) he acted as vice-president of Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

.

Archbishop of Canterbury (1583-1604)



In August 1583 he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 to replace Edmund Grindal
Edmund Grindal
Edmund Grindal was an English church leader who successively held the posts of Bishop of London, Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Elizabeth I of England.-Early life to the death of Edward VI:...

, who had been placed under house arrest after his disagreement with the Queen over 'prophesyings' and died in office. Whitgift placed his stamp on the church of the Reformation, and shared Elizabeth's hatred of Puritans. Although he wrote to Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

 remonstrating against the alienation of church property, Whitgift always retained her special confidence. In his policy against the Puritans, and in his vigorous enforcement of the subscription test, he thoroughly carried out the queen's policy of religious uniformity.

He drew up articles aimed at nonconforming ministers, and obtained increased powers for the Court of High Commission. In 1586 he became a privy councillor. His actions gave rise to the Martin Marprelate
Martin Marprelate
Martin Marprelate was the name used by the anonymous author or authors of the seven Marprelate tracts which circulated illegally in England in the years 1588 and 1589...

 tracts, in which the bishops and clergy were strongly opposed. Through Whitgift's vigilance the printers of the tracts were discovered and punished; and in order to prevent the publication of such opinions he got a law passed in 1593 making Puritanism an offence against the statute law. In the controversy between Walter Travers
Walter Travers
Walter Travers was an English Puritan theologian. He was at one time chaplain to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, and tutor to his son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury.He is remembered mostly as an opponent of the teaching of Richard Hooker...

 and Richard Hooker he prohibited the former from preaching; and he presented Hooker with the rectory of Boscombe in Wiltshire
Wiltshire
Wiltshire is a ceremonial county in South West England. It is landlocked and borders the counties of Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It contains the unitary authority of Swindon and covers...

, in order to afford him more leisure to complete his Ecclesiastical Polity, a work which in the end did not represent either Whitgift's theological or his ecclesiastical standpoint.

In 1595, in conjunction with the Bishop of London and other prelates, he drew up the Calvinistic
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 instrument known as the Lambeth Articles
Lambeth Articles
The Lambeth Articles were a series of nine doctrinal statements drawn up by Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift in 1595, in order to define Calvinist doctrine with regard to predestination and justification....

. Although the articles were signed and agreed upon by several bishops, they were afterwards recalled by order of Elizabeth I, claiming that the bishops had acted without her explicit consent. Whitgift maintained that she had given her approval.

Whitgift attended Elizabeth on her deathbed, and crowned James I
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

. He was present at the Hampton Court Conference
Hampton Court Conference
The Hampton Court Conference was a meeting in January 1604, convened at Hampton Court Palace, for discussion between King James I of England and representatives of the Church of England, including leading English Puritans.-Attendance:...

 in January 1604, in which he represented 8 bishops.

He died at Lambeth
Lambeth
Lambeth is a district of south London, England, and part of the London Borough of Lambeth. It is situated southeast of Charing Cross.-Toponymy:...

 the following February. He was buried in Croydon at the Parish Church of St John Baptist (now Croydon Minster), but his monument there, with his recumbent effigy, was practically destroyed when the church was burnt down in 1867.

Legacy


Whitgift is described by his biographer, Sir George Paule, as of "middle stature, strong and well shaped, of a grave countenance and brown complexion, black hair and eyes, his beard neither long nor thick." He left several unpublished works, which are included among the Manuscripts Angliae. Many of his letters, articles, injunctions, etc. are calendared in the published volumes of the "State Paper" series of the reign of Elizabeth. His Collected Works, edited for the Parker Society by John Ayre (3 vols., Cambridge, 1851–1853), include, besides the controversial tracts already alluded to, two sermons published during his lifetime, a selection from his letters to Cecil and others, and some portions of his unpublished manuscripts.

Croydon
Croydon
Croydon is a town in South London, England, located within the London Borough of Croydon to which it gives its name. It is situated south of Charing Cross...

 was the site of a palace which was used as a summer retreat by Archbishops of Canterbury in those days. Whitgift set up there a charitable foundation, which still exists as The Whitgift Foundation. It supports homes for the elderly and infirm, and runs three independent schools – Whitgift School
Whitgift School
Whitgift School is an independent day school educating approximately 1,400 boys aged 10 to 18 in South Croydon, London in a parkland site.- History and grounds :...

, founded in 1596. Trinity School of John Whitgift
Trinity School of John Whitgift
The Trinity School of John Whitgift, usually referred to as Trinity School, is a British independent boys' day school with a co-educational Sixth Form, located in Shirley Park, Croydon. The current building was constructed in 1965 on the site of the former Shirley Hotel...

 and, more recently, Old Palace School
Old Palace School
The Old Palace of John Whitgift School is an independent school for girls in Surrey, England, founded in 1889. The "Old Palace" itself was for 500 years the summer residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury.In the 19th century the Archbishops ended their residence at Croydon Palace and used...

 for girls, which is housed in the palace buildings once used by him.

Whitgift Street, near Lambeth Palace
Lambeth Palace
Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury in England. It is located in Lambeth, on the south bank of the River Thames a short distance upstream of the Palace of Westminster on the opposite shore. It was acquired by the archbishopric around 1200...

 (the official London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury), is named after him.

A comprehensive school in his home town of Grimsby is named after him.

Sources

  • Life of Whitgift by Sir George Paule, 1612, 2nd ed. 1649. It was embodied by John Strype
    John Strype
    John Strype was an English historian and biographer. He was a cousin of Robert Knox, a famous sailor.Born in Houndsditch, London, he was the son of John Strype, or van Stryp, a member of a Huguenot family whom, in order to escape religious persecution within Brabant, had settled in East London...

     in his Life and Acts of Whitgift (1718).
  • A life included in Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biography (1810)
  • W. F. Hook, Archbishops of Canterbury (1875)
  • Vol. i. of Whitgift's Collected Works
  • C. H. Cooper, Athenae Cantabrigienses.
  • The Master of Trinity at Trinity College, Cambridge
    Trinity College, Cambridge
    Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...


External links

  • The Life and Acts of John Whitgift, D.D., Volume I by John Strype
    John Strype
    John Strype was an English historian and biographer. He was a cousin of Robert Knox, a famous sailor.Born in Houndsditch, London, he was the son of John Strype, or van Stryp, a member of a Huguenot family whom, in order to escape religious persecution within Brabant, had settled in East London...

     (1822 ed.)
  • The Life and Acts of John Whitgift, D.D., Volume II by John Strype
    John Strype
    John Strype was an English historian and biographer. He was a cousin of Robert Knox, a famous sailor.Born in Houndsditch, London, he was the son of John Strype, or van Stryp, a member of a Huguenot family whom, in order to escape religious persecution within Brabant, had settled in East London...

     (1822 ed.)
  • The Life and Acts of John Whitgift, D.D., Volume III by John Strype
    John Strype
    John Strype was an English historian and biographer. He was a cousin of Robert Knox, a famous sailor.Born in Houndsditch, London, he was the son of John Strype, or van Stryp, a member of a Huguenot family whom, in order to escape religious persecution within Brabant, had settled in East London...

     (1822 ed.)
  • The Whitgift Foundation
  • Timeline of the Whitgift Foundation