Feckenham, John De

, so called, because he was born of poor parents in a cottage, near the forest of Feckenham in Worcestershire, his right name being Howmau, was the last abbot of Westminster. Discovering in his youth very good parts, and a strong propensity to learning, the priest of the parish took him under his care, instructed him some years, and then procured him admission into Evesham monastery. At eighteen, he was sent by his abbot to Gloucester-hall, Oxford; from whence, when he had sufficiently improved himself in academical learning, he was recalled to his abbey; which being dissolved Nov. 17, | 1536, he had a yearly pension of an hundred florins allowed him for his life. Upon this he returned to Gloucester-hall, where he pursued his studies some years; and in 1539, took the degree of bachelor of divinity, being then chaplain to Bell bishop of Worcester. That prelate resigning his see in 1543, he became chaplain to Bonner bishop of London but Bonner being deprived of his bishopric, in 1549, by the reformers, Feckenham was committed to the Tower of London, because, as some say, he refused to administer the sacraments after the protestant manner. Soon after, he was taken from thence, to dispute on the chief points controverted between the protestants and papists, and disputed several times in public before and with some great personages.

He was afterwards remanded to the Tower, where he continued till queen Mary’s accession to the crown in 1553; but was then released, and made chaplain to the queen. He became also again chaplain to Bonner, prebendary of St. Paul’s, dean of St. Paul’s, rector of Finchley in Middlesex, which he held only a few months; and then rector of Greenford in the same county. In 1554, he was one of the disputants at Oxford against Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, before they suffered martyrdom, but said very little against them; and during Mary’s reign, he was constantly employed in doing good offices to the afflicted protestants from the highest to the lowest. Francis Russel earl of Bedford, Ambrose and Robert Dudley, afterwards earls of Warwick and-Leicester, were benefited by his kindness; as was also sir John Cheke, whose life he and sir Thomas Pope, the founder of Trinity college, Oxford, are said to have saved, by a joint application to queen Mary. Feckenham was very intimate with sir Thomas, and often visited him at Tyttenhanger-house. Feckenham also interceded with queen Mary for the lady Elizabeth’s enlargement out of prison, and that so earnestly, that the queen was actually displeased with him for some time. In May 1556, he was complimented by the university of Oxford with the degree of doctor in divinity; being then in universal esteem for his learning, piety, charity, moderation, humility, and other virtues. The September following, he was made abbot of Westminster, which was then restored by queen Mary; and fourteen Benedictine monks placed there under his government, with episcopal power.

Upon the death of Mary, in 1558, her successor | Elizabeth, not unmindful of her obligations to Feckenham, sent for him before her coronation, to consult and reward him; and, as it is said, offered him the archbishopric of Canterbury, provided he would conform to the laws; but this he refused. He appeared, however, in her first parliament, taking the lowest place on the bishop’s form; and was the last mitred abbot that sat in the house of peers. During his attendance there he spoke and protested against every thing tending towards the reformation; and the strong opposition which he could not be restrained from making, occasioned his commitment to the tower in 1560. After nearly three years confinement there, he was committed to the custody of Home bishop of Winchester: but having been old antagonists on the subject of the oath of supremacy, their present connection was mutually irksome, and Feckenham was remanded to the Tower in 1564. Afterwards he was removed to the Marshalsea, and then to a private house in Holborn. In 1571, he attended Dr. John Storie before his execution. In 1578 we find him in free custody with Cox bishop of Ely, whom the queen had requested to use his endeavours to induce Feckenham to acknowledge her supremacy, and come over to the church: and he was at length prevailed on to allow her supremacy, but could never be brought to a thorough conformity. Soon after, the restless spirit of some Roman catholics, and their frequent attempts upon the queen’s life, obliged her to imprison the most considerable among them: upon which Feckenham was sent to Wisbich-castle in the Isle of Ely, where he continued a prisoner to the time of his death, which happened in 1585. As to his character, Camden calls him “a learned and good man, that lived long, did a great-deal of good to the poor, and always solicited the minds of his adversaries to benevolence.” Fuller styles him, “a man cruel to none; courteous and charitable to all who needed his help or liberality.” Burnet says, “he was a charitable and generous man, who lived in great esteem in England.” And Dart concludes his account of him in these words: “though I cannot go so far as Reyner, to call him a martyr; yet I cannot gather but that he was a good, mild, modest, charitable man, and a devout Christian.

Wood has given us the following catalogue of his works: 1. “A Conference dialogue-wise held between the lady Jane Dudley and Mr. John Feckenham, four days before | her death, touching her faith and belief of the sacrament, and her religion, 1554.” In April 1554, he had been sent by the queen to this lady to commune with her, and to reduce her from the doctrine of Christ to queen Mary’s religion, as Fox expresses it. The substance of this conference may be seen also in Fox’s “Acts and Monuments of Martyrs.” 2. “Speech in the house of lords, 1553.” 5. “Two Homilies on the first, second, and third articles of the Creed.” 4. “Oratio funebris in exequiis ducissae Parmse,” &c. that is, “A funeral oration on the Death of the duchess of Parma, daughter of Charles V. and governess of the Netherlands.” 5. “Sermon at the exequy of Joan queen of Spain, 1555.” 6. The declaration of such scruples and staies of conscience, touching the Oath of Supremacy, delivered by writing to Dr. Home, bishop of Winchester, 1566.“7.” Objections or Assertions made against Mr. John Cough’s Sermon, preached in the Tower of London, Jan. 15, 1570.“8.” Caveat emptor:“which seems to have been a caution against buying abbey-lands. He had also written,” Commentaries on the Psalms,“and a” Treatise on the Eucharist,“which were lost among other things. Thus far Wood: but another author mentions, 9.A Sermon on the Funeral of queen Mary, on “Ecclesiastes iv. 2.1

1 Bios:. Brit. Dodd’s Ch. Hist. Nash’s Worcestershire. TindaPs Hist, of Evesham. Sirype’s Cranmtr, pp. 258, 269, 335. Atfc, Ox, vol. 1. Warton’s Life of sir T. Pope, &c. &c.