World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Archbishop Whitgift

Article Id: WHEBN0002646346
Reproduction Date:

Title: Archbishop Whitgift  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Samuel Harsnett
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Archbishop Whitgift

John Whitgift
Archbishop of Canterbury
Installed August 1583
Term ended 29 February 1604
Predecessor Edmund Grindal
Successor Richard Bancroft
Personal details
Born c. 1530
Great Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire
Died 29 February 1604 (aged 73/74)
Lambeth, London
Buried Croydon

John Whitgift (c. 1530 – 29 February 1604) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1583 to his death. Noted for his hospitality, he was somewhat ostentatious in his habits, sometimes visiting Canterbury and other towns attended by a retinue of 800 horses. 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, Lincolnshire, where he was born, probably between 1530 and 1533. His early education was entrusted to his uncle, Robert Whitgift, abbot of the neighbouring monastery of Wellow, on whose advice he was sent to St Anthony's School, London. In 1549 he matriculated at Queens' College, Cambridge, and in May 1550 he moved to Pembroke Hall, where the martyr John Bradford was his tutor. In May 1555 he became a fellow of Peterhouse.[1]

Francis Bacon

Whitgift is believed to have taught Francis Bacon at Cambridge University in the 1570s.

Links with Cambridge

Having taken holy orders in 1560, he became chaplain to Richard Cox, Bishop of Ely, who collated him to the rectory of Teversham, Cambridgeshire. In 1563 he was appointed Lady Margaret's Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, 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, and became master first of Pembroke Hall and then of Trinity. He had a principal share in compiling the statutes of the university, which passed the great seal on 25 September 1570, and in the November following he was chosen as vice-chancellor.

Promotions and improvements

Whitgift's theological views were controversial. An aunt with whom he once lodged wrote 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 beliefs led him to treat the Puritans intolerantly. In a pulpit controversy with Thomas Cartwright 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. 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, and during the absence of Sir Henry Sidney in Ireland in 1577 he acted as vice-president of Wales.

Archbishop of Canterbury, 1583-1604

In August 1583 he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury to replace Edmund Grindal, who had been placed under house arrest after his disagreement with Queen Elizabeth 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 Elizabeth 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 her 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 tracts, in which the bishops and clergy were strongly opposed. Through Whitgift's vigilance the printers of the tracts were discovered and punished, and to prevent the publication of such opinions he had the Act against Seditious Sectaries passed in 1593, making Puritanism an offence.[2] In the controversy between Walter Travers and Richard Hooker he prohibited the former from preaching, and he presented the latter with the rectory of Boscombe in Wiltshire, to help him complete his Ecclesiastical Polity, a work that in the end did not represent Whitgift's theological or ecclesiastical standpoints.

In 1595, in conjunction with the Bishop of London and other prelates, he drew up the Calvinistic instrument known as the Lambeth Articles. Although the articles were signed and agreed by several bishops they were recalled by order of Elizabeth, 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. He was present at the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604, at which he represented eight bishops.

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


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, included in the Manuscripts Angliae. Many of his letters, articles and injunctions 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 the controversial tracts mentioned above, two sermons published during his lifetime, a selection from his letters to Cecil and others, and some portions of his previously unpublished manuscripts.

Whitgift set up a charitable foundation, now The Whitgift Foundation, in Croydon, the site of a palace, a summer retreat of Archbishops of Canterbury.[3] It supports homes for the elderly and infirm, and runs three independent schools – Whitgift School, founded in 1596,[4] Trinity School of John Whitgift and, more recently, Old Palace School for girls, which is housed in the former palace.

Whitgift Street near Lambeth Palace (the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury) is named after him.

A comprehensive school in his home town of Grimsby is named after him.[5]



  • Life of Whitgift by Sir George Paule, 1612, 2nd ed. 1649. It was embodied by John Strype 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.
  • Trinity College, Cambridge
  • Template:1911

External links

  • John Strype (1822 ed.)
  • John Strype (1822 ed.)
  • John Strype (1822 ed.)
  • The Whitgift Foundation
  • Timeline of the Whitgift Foundation
  • Charity Commission

Academic offices
Preceded by
Matthew Hutton
Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge
Succeeded by
William Chaderton
Preceded by
Matthew Hutton
Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
John Young
Preceded by
Robert Beaumont
Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
John Still
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Nicholas Bullingham
Bishop of Worcester
Succeeded by
Edmund Freke
Preceded by
Edmund Grindal
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
Richard Bancroft

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.