Godwin, Thomas

, an English prelate, was born in 1517 at Oakingham in Berkshire; and being put to the grammar-school there, quickly made such a progress as discovered him to be endowed with excellent parts. But his parents being low in circumstances, he must have lost the advantage of improving them by a suitable education, had they not been noticed by Dr. Richard Layton, archdeacon of Bucks, a zealous promoter of the reformation, who, taking him into his house, and instructinghim in classical learning, sent him to Oxford, where he was entered of Magdalen college about 1538. Not long after, he lost his worthy patron; but his merit, now become | conspicuous in the university, had procured him other friends; so that he was enabled to take the degree of B. A. July 12, 1543. The same merit released his friends from any farther expence, by obtaining him, the year ensuing, a fellowship of his college; and he proceeded M. A. in 1547. But he did not long enjoy the fruits of his merit in a college life; his patron, the archdeacon, had taken care to breed up Godwin in the principles of the reformation, and this irritating some popish members of the college, they made his situation so uneasy, that, the free-school at Brackley in Northamptonshire becoming vacant in 1549, and being in the gift of the college, he resigned his fellowship, and accepted it. In this station, he married the daughter of Nicholas Purefoy, of Shalston, in the county of Bucks, and lived without any new disturbance as long as Edward VI. was at the helm: but, upon the accession of Mary, his religion exposed him to a fresh persecution, and he was obliged to quit his school. In this exigence, although the church was his original intention, and he had read much with that view, yet now it became more safe to apply to the study of physic; and being admitted to his bachelor’s degree in that faculty, at Oxford, July 1555, he practised in it for a support till Elizabeth succeeded to the throne, when he resolved to enter into the church. In this he was encouraged by Bullingham, bishop of Lincoln, who gave him orders, and made him his chaplain; his lordship also introduced him to the queen, and obtained him the favour of preaching before her majesty; who was so much pleased with the propriety of his manner, and the grave turn of his oratory, that she appointed him one of her Lentpreachers. He had discharged this duty by an annual appointment, with much satisfaction to her majesty, for a series of eighteen years. In 1565, on the deprivation of Sampson, he was made dean of Christ church, Oxford, and had also the prebend of Milton-ecclesia in the church of Lincoln conferred on him by his patron bishop Bullingham. This year also he took his degrees of B. and D. D. at Oxford. In 1566, he was promoted to' the deanery of Canterbury, being the second dean of that church: and queen Elizabeth making a visit to Oxford the same year, he attended her majesty, and among others kept an exercise in divinity against Dr. Lawrence Humphries, the professor; in which the famous Dr. Jewel, bishop of Salisbury, was moderator. | In June following he was appointed by archbishop Parker, one of his commissioners to visit the diocese of Norwich; and that primate having established a benefaction for a sermon on Rogation Sunday at Thetford in Norfolk and other places, the dean, while engaged in this commission, preached the first sermon of that foundation, on Sunday morning July 20, 1567, in the Green-yard adjoining to the bishop’s palace at Norwich. In 1573 he quitted his prebend of Milton-ecclesia, on being presented by Cooper, then bishop of Lincoln, to that of Leighton-Bosard, the endowment of which is considered the best in the church of Lincoln. In 1576 he was one of the ecclesiastical commissioners, empowered by the queen to take cognizance of all offences against the peace and good order of the church, and to frame such statutes as might conduce to its prosperity.

The see of Bath and Wells had in 1584 been vacant since the death of Dr. Gilbert Berkley in Nov. 1581. To this bishopric the queen now nominated dean Godwin, who accordingly was consecrated Sept. 13, 1584. He immediately resigned the deanery of Canterbury; and as he arrived at the episcopal dignity “as well qualified,” says his contemporary, sir John Harrington, “for a bishop as might be, umeproveable, without simony, given to good hospitality, quiet, kind, and affable,” it is to be lamented that he was unjustly opposed in the enjoyment of what he deserved. At the time of his promotion there prevailed among the courtiers no small dislike to the bishops; prompted by a desire to spoil them of their revenues. To cover their unjust proceedings, they did not want plausible pretences, the effects of which Godwin too severely experienced. He was a widower, drawing towards seventy, and much enfeebled by the gout, when he came to the see; but in order to the management of his family, and that he might devote his whole time to the discharge of his high office, he married a second wife, a widow, of years suitable to his own. An illiberal misrepresentation, however, of this affair was but too readily believed by the queen, who had a rooted aversion to the marriages of the clergy, and the crafty slanderers gratified their aim in the disgrace of the aged prelate, and in obtaining part of his property.*


A part of their slanders was that the old bishop had married a young girl of twenty. The earl of Bedford happened to be at court when this


story was told, and said to the queen, “Madam, I know not how much the woman is above twenty, but I know a son of hers is but little under forty.

This unfortunate affair, which affected his | public character as well as his private happiness, contributed not a little to increase his infirmities. He continued, however, attentive to the duties of his function, and frequently gave proof that neither his diligence nor his observation were inconsiderable. During the two last years of his life, his health more rapidly declined, and he was also attacked with a quartan ague. He was now recommended by his physicians to try the benefit of his native air. Accordingly he came to Oakingham with this intention, but breathed his last there, Nov. 19, 1590. He was buried in the chancel of Oakingham church, where is a modest inscription to his memory, written by his son, the subject of the next article.

The memory of bishop Godwin will ever be respected. His own merit brought him into public notice, and when he rose in the church he adorned it by his amiable qualities. Though he was a distinguished scholar, yet he did not publish any of his labours. Among the Parker Mss. in Bene’t college, Cambridge, is a sermon which he preached before the queen at Greenwich in 1566, concerning the authority of the councils and fathers. 1


Godwin de Praesulibus. —Ath. Ox. vol. I. Biog. Brit. Todd’s Deans of Canterbury. —Strype’s Life of Parker, p. 285, 244, and of Whitgift, p. 213. Harrington’s Brief View. Fuller’s Worthies.