Fox, Richard

, an eminent prelate, and the munificent founder of Corpus Christi college, Oxford, was the son of Thomas Fox, and born *


According: to Wood, who availed himself of some ms accounts of Fox preserved in this college, written by i’roidentftreenway, “the Founder was born in an ancient house known to some by the name of Pullock’s Manor.” “This house,” he adds, “was well known for many years to the fellows of Corpus, who reverently visited it when they went to keep courts at their manors.” To what was before recorded of Fox, Mr. William Fulman, a scholar of Corpus, and an able antiquary, made many additions, with a view to publication, which he did not live to complete. His Mss. are partly in the library of this college, and partly in the Ashmolean Museum. Mr. GougU drew up a very accurate sketch of Fox’s Life, for the Vetusta Monumcnta.

at Ropesley, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire, about the latter end of the reign of Henry VI. His parents are said to have been in mean circumstances, but they must at least have been able to afford him school education, since the only dispute on this subject between his biographers, is, whether he was educated in grammar learning at Boston, or at Winchester. They all agree that at a proper age he was sent to Magdalen-college, Oxford, where he was acquiring distinction for his extraordinary proficiency, when the plague, which happened to break out about that time, obliged him to go to Cambridge, and continue his studies at Pembrokehall. After remaining some time at Cambridge, he repaired to the university at Paris, and studied divinity and | the canon law, and here, probably, he received his doctor’s degree. This visit gave a new and important turn to his life, and introduced him to that eminence which he preserved for many years as a statesman. In Paris he became acquainted with Dr. Morton, bishop of Ely, whom Richard III. had compelled to quit his native country, and by this prelate he was recommended to the earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry VII. who was then providing for a descent upon England. Richmond, to whom he devoted himself, conceived such an opinion of his talents and fidelity, that he entrusted to his care a negotiation with France for supplies of men and money, the issue of which he was not able himself to await; and Fox succeeded to the utmost of his wishes. After the defeat of the usurper at the battle of Bosworth, in 1485, and the establishment of Henry on the throne, the latter immediately appointed Fox to be one of his privy-council, and about the same time bestowed on him the prebends of Bishopston and South Grantham, in the church of Salisbury. In 1487, he was promoted to the see of Exeter, and appointed keeper of the privy seal, with a pension of twenty shillings a day. He was also made principal secretary of state, and master of St. Cross, near Winchester. His employments in. affairs of state both at home and abroad, were very frequent, as he shared the king’s confidence with his early friend Dr. Morton, who was now advanced to the archbishopric of Canterbury. In 1487, Fox was sent ambassador, with sir Richard Edgecombe, comptroller of the household, to James III. of Scotland, where he negociated a prolongation of the truce between England and Scotland, which was to expire July 3, 1488, to Sept. 1, 1489. About the beginning of 1491, he was employed in an embassy to the king of France, and returned to England in November following. In 1494 he went again as ambassador to James IV. of Scotland, to conclude some differences respecting the fishery of the river Esk, in which he was not successful. Having been translated in 1492 from the see of Exeter to that of Bath and Wells, he was in 1494 removed to that of Durham. Jn 1497, the castle of Norham being threatened by the king of Scotland, the bishop caused it to be fortified and supplied with troops, and bravely defended it in person, until it was relieved by Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, | who compelled the Scots to retire. Fox was then, a third time, appointed to negociate with Scotland, and signed a, seven years truce between the two kingdoms, Sept. 30, 1497. He soon after negociated a marriage between James IV. and Margaret, king Henry’s eldest daughter, which was, after many delays, fully concluded Jan. 24, 1501-.*

The succession of the House of Stuart, as well as that of Brunswick to the British throne, is to be referred to this alliance, and to the prudence of bishop Fox in the negociation of it, See Lord Bacon’s Hist, of Henry VII.

In 1500, the university of Cambridge elected him their chancellor, which he retained till 1502; and in the same year (1500) he was promoted to the see of Winchester. In 1507 he was chosen master of Pembroke-hall, Cambridge, which he retained until 1519. In 1507 and 1508 he was employed at Calais, with other commissioners, in negociating a treaty of marriage between Mary, the king’s third daughter, and Charles, archduke of Austria, afterwards the celebrated Charles V. In 1509-10, he was sent to France with the earl of Surrey, and Ruthal, bishop of Durham, and concluded a new treaty of alliance with Lewis XII. In 1512 he was one of the witnesses to the foundation charter of the hospital in the Savoy. In 1513 he attended the king (Henry VIII.) in his expedition to France, and was present at the taking of Teroiiane, and in October following, jointly with Thomas Grey, marquis of Dorset, he concluded a treaty with the emperor Maximilian against France. In 1514, he was one of the witnesses to the renunciation of the marriage with prince Charles of Spain by the princess Mary; one of the commissioners for the treaty of peace between Henry VIII. and Lewis XII. of France; and for the marriage between the said king of France and the princess Mary, the same year. He was also one of the witnesses to the marriage treaty, and to the confirmation of both treaties; to the treaty of friendship with Francis I. and to its continuation in the following year.

This appears to be the last of his public acts. During the reign of Henry VII. he enjoyed the unlimited favour and confidence of his sovereign, and bore a conspicuous share, not only in the political measures, but even in the court amusements and ceremonies of that reign. Henry likewise appointed him one of his executors, and | recommended him strongly to his son and successor.*


The Historian of Winchester remarks, that no higher proof of the consideration in which the king held him can be adduced, than that he was chosen to be sponsor to the young prince, who was afterwards Henry VII F, Dr. Milner also contests Mr. Gough’s opinion that he was not sponsor, but baptised the young prince,

But although he‘ retained his seat in the privy-council, and continued to hold the privy-seal, his influence in the new reign’ gradually abated. Howard, earl of Surrey and lord treasurer, had been his rival in Henry the Seventh’s time, and learned now to accommodate himself to the extravagant passions of his new master, with whom he was for a considerable time a confidential favourite; and the celebrated Wolsey, who had been introduced to the king by Fox, in order to counteract the influence of Surrey, soon became more powerful than either. After remaining some time in office, under many mortifications, our prelate, together with archbishop Warham, retired from court in 1515. Such was the political life of bishop Fox, distinguished by high influence and talent, but embittered at length, by the common intrigues and vicissitudes to which statesmen are subject.

His retirement at Winchester was devoted to acts of charity and munificence, although he did not now for the first time appear as a public benefactor. He had bestowed large sums on the repairs of the episcopal palace at Durham, while bishop of that see, and on every occasion of this kind discovered a considerable taste for architecture. In 1522 he founded a free-school at Taunton, and another at Grantham, and extended his beneficence to many other foundations within the diocese of Winchester. But the triumphs of his munificence and taste are principally to be contemplated in the additions which he built both within and without the cathedral of Winchester. Of these we shall borrow a character from one whose fine enthusiasm cannotbe easily surpassed. “Itis impossible to survey the works of this prelate, either on the outside of the church, or in the inside, without being? struck with their beauty and magnificence. In both of them we see the most exquisite art employed to execute the most noble and elegant designs. We cannot fail in particular of admiring the vast but well-proportioned and ornamented arched windows which surround this (the eastern) part, and give light to the sanctuary; the bold and airy flying | buttresses that, stretching over the said ailes, support the upper walls; the rich open battlement which surmounts these walls; and the elegant sweep that contracts them to the size of the great eastern window: the two gorgeous canopies which crown the extreme turrets, and the profusion of elegant carved work that covers the whole east front, tapering up to a point, where we view the breathing statue of the pious founder resting upon his chosen emblem, the Pelican. In a word, neglected and mutilated as this work has been during the course of nearly three centuries, it still warrants us to assert, that if the whole cathedral had been finished in the style of this portion of it, the whole island, and perhaps all Europe, could not have exhibited a gothic structure equal to it.*


Milner’s History of Winchester, vol. II. p. 19, 20. On the top of the vail which he built round the piesbytery, he placed, in leaden chests, three rn a side, the bones of several of the WestSaxon kings and bishops, and some later princes, who had been buried behind the high altar, or in dif­ fercnt parts of the church, with their names inscribed on the face of the chest, and a crown on each. But the havock of fanaticism in the late civil war deranged the bones, which were collected again as well as circumstances originally permitted, 1661. Gough, Vetuita, Monumenta, vol. II. plate L.

His last appearance in parliament was in 1523; he had then been nearly five years deprived of his sight, which he never recovered. Wolsey endeavoured to persuade him to resign his bishopric to him, and accept of a pension, but this he rejected, asserting, according to Parker, that “Tho‘ by reason of his blindness he was not able to distinguish white from black, yet he could discern between true and false, right and wrong; and plainly enough saw, without eyes, the malice of that ungrateful man, which be did not see before. That it behoved the cardinal to take care not to be. so blinded with ambition as not to foresee his own end. He needed not trouble himself with the bishopric of Winchester, but rather should mind the king’s affairs.

His last days were spent in prayer and meditation, which at length became almost uninterrupted both day and night. Me died Sept. 14, 1528, and was buried in the fine chantry which he built for that purpose in Winchester cathedral, immediately behind the high altar, on the south side. During his residence here, he was indefatigable in preaching, and exciting the clergy to their duty. He was also unbounded in his charities to the poor, whom he assisted with food, clothes, and money; at the same time | excrcising hospitality, and promoting the trade of the city, by a large establishment which he kept up at Wolvesey, of two hundred and twenty servants.

His character,” says Mr. Gough, “may be briefly summed up in these two particulars: great talents and abilities for business, which recommended him to one of the wisest princes of the age; and not less charity and munificence, of which he has left lasting monuments.” Of his writings, we have only an English translation of the “Rule ofSt. Benedict,” for the use of his diocese, printed by Pinson, 1516, and a Letter to cardinal Wolsey, the subject of which is the cardinal’s intended visitation and reformation of the clergy. Fox expresses his great satisfaction at any measures which might produce so desirable an effect. The general and respectful style of this letter either affords a proof of Fox’s meek and conciliatory temper, or suggests a doubt whether our historians have not too implicitly followed each other in asserting that Wolsey’s ingratitude was the principal cause of his retiring from court. That Wolsey was ungrateful may be inferred from the preceding quotation from archbishop Parker, but Fox’s discovery of it, there implied, was long subsequent to his leaving the court;and it is certain that in the letter now mentioned, and in another written in 1526, he addresses the cardinal in terms of the utmost respect and affection. Of these circumstances Fiddes and Grove, the biographers of Wolsey, have not neglected to avail themselves, but they have suppressed all notice of his offer to Fox respecting the resignation of the bishopric.

The foundation of Corpus Christi college was preceded by the purchase of certain pieces of land in Oxford, belonging to Merton college, the nunnery of Godstow, and the priory of St. Fridesvvyde, which he completed in 1513, But his design at this time went no farther than to found a college for a warden and a certain number of monks and secular scholars belonging to the priory of St. Svvithin, in Winchester, in the manner of Canterbury and Durham colleges, which were similar nurseries in Oxford for the priories of Canterbury and Durham. The buildings for this purpose were advancing under the care of William Vertue, mason, and Humphrey Cook, carpenter and master of the works, when the judicious advice of Hugh Oldham, bishop of Exeter, induced him to enlarge his plan to one pf more usefulness and durability. This prelate, an emir | nent patron of literature, and a man of acute discernment, is said to have addressed him thus: “What! my lord, shall we build houses, and provide livelihoods fo/ a company of monks, whose end and fall we ourselves may live to see? No, no, it is more meet a great deal, that we should have care to for the increase of learning, and for such as who by their learning shall do good to the church and commonwealth.” These arguments, strengthened probably by others of a similar tendency, induced Fox to imitate those founders who had already contributed so largely to the fame of the university of Oxford. Accordingly, by licence of Henry VIII. dated Nov. 26, 1516, he obtained leave to found a college for the sciences of divinity, philosophy, and arts, for a president and thirty scholars, graduate and not graduate, more or less according to the revenues of the society, on a certain ground between Mefton college on the east, a lane Dear Canterbury college (afterwards part of Christ-church), and a garden of the priory of St. Frideswyde on the west, a street or lane of Oriel college on the north, and the town wall on the south, and this new college to be endowed with 3 50l. yearly. The charter, dated Cal. Mar. 151 G, recites that the founder, to the praise and honour of God Almighty, the most holy body of Christ, and the blessed Virgin Mary, as also of the apostles Peter, Paul, and Andrew, and of St. Cuthbert and St. Swithin, and St. Birin, patrons of the churches of Exeter, Bath and Wells, Durham, and Winchester, (the four sees which he successively rilled) doth found and appoint this college always to be called Corpus Christi College. The statutes are dated Feb. 13, 1527, in the 27th year of his translation to Winchester, and according to them, the society was to consist of a president, twenty fellows, twenty scholars, two chaplains, two clerks, and two choristers.

But what conferred an almost immediate superiority of reputation on this society, was the appointment of two lectures for Greek and Latin, which obtained the praise and admiration of Erasmus and the other learned men who urere now endeavouring to introduce a knowledge of the classics as an essential branch of academic study. With this enlightened design, the founder invited to his new college Ludovicus Vives, Nicholas Crucher the mathematician, Clement Edwards and Nicholas Utten, profes-f ors of Greek; Thomas Lupset, Richard Pace, and other | men of -established reputation. This, Mr. Warton observes, was a new and noble departure from the narrow plan of academical education. The course of the Latin lecturer was not confined to the college, but open to the students of Oxford in general. He was expressly directed to drive barbarism from the new college, barbarieme nostro alveario pro virili si quando pullulet cxtirpet et ejiciat. The Greek lecturer was ordered to explain the best Greek classics, and those which Fox specified on this occasion, are the purest in the opinion of modern times. But such was the temper of the age, that Fox was obliged to introduce his Greek lectureship, by pleading that the sacred canons had commanded, that a knowledge of the Greet tongue should not be wanting in public seminaries of education. By the sacred canons he meant a decree of the council of Vienne, in Dauphiny, promulgcd so early as 1311, which enjoined that professorships of Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic, should be instituted in the universities of Oxford, Paris, Bononia, Salamanca, and the court of Rome. This, however, was not entirely satisfactory. The prejudices against the Greek were still, so inveterate, that the university was for some time seriously disturbed by the advocates of the school-learning. The persuasion and example of Erasmus, who resided about this time in St. Mary’s college, had a considerable effect in restoring peace, and more attention was gradually bestowed on the learned languages, and this study, so curiously introduced under the sanction of pope Clement’s decree of Vienne, proved at no great distance of time, a powerful instrument in effecting the reformation. Those who would deprive Clement of the liberality of his edict, state his chief motive to have been a superstitious regard for the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, because the superscription on the cross was written in these languages. 1

1 Chalmers’s Hist, of Oxford. Life in Biog. Brit, and especially that by Mr. Gough, in the Vetusta Monumenta, Wood’s Colleges and Halls, Atb, Ojf:. vol. 1. Jortin’s Erasmus, &c.