Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mary's Eulogizer, Bishop John White, RIP

John White, the deprived Bishop of Winchester, died on January 12, 1560. He was in and out of prison during the Tudor era, according to the Dictionary of National Biography. John White was:

the son of Robert White of Farnham, where he was born in 1510 or 1511 (his brother John became lord mayor of London in 1563: see pedigree in Manning and Bray's History of Surrey, iii. 177; but Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vii. 212, says this is incorrect). In 1521, at the age of eleven, he was admitted scholar at Winchester, whence he proceeded as fellow to New College, Oxford (Kirby, p. 111). He was admitted full fellow in 1527, graduated B.A. on 13 Dec. 1529, M.A. on 30 Jan. 1534, B.D.(?) before 1554 (see Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 388), and D.D. 1 Oct. 1555. In 1534 he resigned his fellowship, being then master of Winchester College, of which he was made warden in February 1541 (Willis, Mitred Abbies, i. 333). Of his life at Winchester different accounts are given; favourable by Pits (De Rebus Anglicis, 1619, p. 763, partly on report of Christopher Johnson, himself master of Winchester), who describes him as ‘acutus poeta, orator eloquens, theologus solidus, concionator nervosus;’ and unfavourable by Bale (Scriptt. Britann. Illustr. p. 737), who describes him with scandalous suggestiveness, and dubs him ‘saltans asinus.’ He was appointed in March 1540–1 a prebendary of Winchester. Under Edward VI he began to attract attention as an opponent of the protestants. He was examined by the council on 25 March 1551, when he admitted receiving ‘divers books and letters from beyond sea,’ and was committed to the Tower (Hatfield MS. i. 83; Acts P. C. 1550–2, p. 242).

White served Queen Mary I, helping to re-establish the Catholic Church in England:

On the accession of Mary he came at once into prominence. He sat on several of the commissions which restored and deprived bishops. He preached at St. Paul's on 25 Nov. 1553 in favour of the restoration of religious processions (Machyn, p. 49). He was elected bishop of Lincoln on 1 March 1554 (Le Neve, Fasti; but see Rymer's Fœdera, xv. 374, for licence), was consecrated in St. Saviour's, Southwark, on 1 April by Bonner, Tunstall, and Gardiner (Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, ed. 1897, p. 104), and received restitution of the temporalities of the see on 2 May 1554. He was ‘provided’ to the see by the pope in a consistory on 6 July (Raynaldus, ann. 1554, § 5). He was granted the next presentation to the archdeaconry of Taunton on 2 Nov. (Hist. MSS. Comm. Wells MSS. p. 239). On the arrival of Philip II he was one of those who received him at the west door of Winchester Cathedral (Cal. State Papers, For. 1553–8, pp. 106–7). He preached at the opening of parliament on 21 Oct. 1555 (ib. Venetian, 1555–6, p. 217). He had already become famous in the pursuit of heretics, and on 30 Sept. 1555 he presided at Ridley's trial. He then twitted the accused with his change of opinion on the doctrine of the eucharist (Parsons, Conversion of England, iii. 209 sqq.; cf. Foxe, Actes and Monuments). He was one of the executors of Gardiner's will, preached at the requiem mass for him on 18 Nov. 1555, and went with the funeral procession (23 Feb. 1556) from St. Saviour's, Southwark, to Winchester. On 22 March 1556 he was one of the consecrators of Reginald Pole. In this year he visited his large diocese by commission of the new archbishop (interesting details in Strype, vi. 389, and see Dixon's History of the Church of England, iv. 597–9). He retained the wardenship of Winchester with the bishopric of Lincoln (cf. Cal. Hatfield MSS. v. 221).

The appointment to Winchester was delayed till Philip's return to England (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1555–6, p. 281), and when White was at last nominated to the see the bulls for his translation were long delayed, and were very costly (ib. For. 1653–8, pp. 227, 228, 242, and Venetian, 1555–6, pp. 393, 477). Pole, it is said, had wished to hold the bishopric in commendam, and White, who desired it especially because of his birth and long association, could only obtain it on his promise to pay 1,000l. a year to the cardinal as long as he lived, and to his executors a year after his death (Matthew Parker, De Antiq. Brit. Eccl. p. 353). The congé d'élire to the dean and chapter was dated 16 July 1556. White had already received custody of the temporalities on 16 May 1556, and they were formally restored to him on 31 May 1557 (Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 436, 437, 441, 466; cf. Machyn, p. 103).


He preached the funeral oration of Queen Mary I on December 13, 1558 and his praise of her half-sister did not please Elizabeth I:

“She was a King’s daughter, she was a King’s sister, she was a King’s wife. She was a Queen, and by the same title a King also … What she suffered in each of these degrees and since she came to the crown I will not chronicle; only this I say, howsoever it pleased God to will her patience to be exercised in the world, she had in all estates the fear of God in her heart … she had the love, commendation and admiration of all the world. In this church she married herself to the realm, and in token of faith and fidelity, did put a ring with a diamond on her finger, which I understand she never took off after, during her life … she was never unmindful or uncareful of her promise to the realm. She used singular mercy towards offenders. She used much pity and compassion towards the poor and oppressed. She used clemency amongst her nobles … She restored more noble houses decayed than ever did prince of this realm, or I did pray God ever shall have the like occasion to do hereafter … I verily believe, the poorest creature in all this city feared not God more than she did.”

The same site reports:

The last sentence was based on two verses of Ecclesiastes which said the following: “I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive … for a living dog is better than a dead lion”. This and wishing Elizabeth “a prosperous reign” while adding “if it be God’s will” landed him once more into trouble. It was a veiled reference to Elizabeth, alluding to his point of view that Mary had been a great queen and her death left a hole in many Catholic’s hearts, while Bess was not. He was placed under house arrest the next day “for such offenses as he committed in his sermon at the funeral of the late queen”.


He continued to displease the new queen:

On 18 March he voted against the supremacy bill in the House of Lords, and on 31 March 1559 he took part in the conference in the choir of Westminster Abbey between nine Romanists and nine Anglicans (Cal. State Papers, Spanish, 1558–67, pp. 45, 46–8, Dom. 1547–1550, p. 127, and Venetian, 1558–80, pp. 65, 69; see Camden, Annals, p. 27; Parsons, A Review of Ten Public Disputations, 1604, pp. 77 sqq.; Burnet, History of the Reformation, ii. 388, 396). White declared that he was not ready to dispute, as they ‘had not their wrytynge ready to be read there,’ and the conference broke up not without disorder. It was renewed on 3 April, and at the close White, with the bishop of Lincoln [see Watson, Thomas, 1513–1584], was removed to the Tower (Acts P. C. 1558–70, p. 78). On 21 June he was deprived of his bishopric (deprivation formally completed on 26 June, Machyn, p. 201), and was sent back to the Tower after a new attempt had been made to induce him to take the oath of supremacy (Cal. State Papers, Spanish, 1558–67, p. 79, cf. Venetian, 1558–80, p. 104). Before long his health began to fail (Strype, Annals, i. 142–3), and on 7 July he was released to live with his brother, Alderman John White, ‘near Bartholomew Lane.’ He was now dependent on his friends for maintenance (5 Aug. 1559, Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1558–80, p. 117). He was shortly afterwards allowed to retire to the house of his sister, wife of Sir Thomas White, at South Warnborough, Hampshire, where he died on 12 Jan. 1560, ‘of an ague’ (Machyn, Diary). He was buried in Winchester Cathedral on 15 Jan. He had many years before written his own epitaph, but this, though in the cathedral, was not apparently placed over his grave. He ‘gave much to his servants’ (Machyn), and was a benefactor to New College, Oxford (Wood, History and Antiquities, ed. Gutch, p. 185), and to Winchester (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. i. 314).

May he rest in the peace of Christ. I will try to highlight these Recusant Bishops as their dates come up this year. It is fascinating to see their different responses to the final Tudor Religious settlement under Elizabeth I. Many who had acquiesced to Henry VIII's Supremacy finally refused to accept the monarch as the Governor of the Church.

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