Tunstall, Cuthbert

, a very learned, and in many respects a very excellent prelate of the church of Rome, was born at Hatchford, near | Richmond, Yorkshire, about 1474. He was a natural son*


The illegitimacy of his birth has not been called in question, and seems to rest upon the best foundation, See Hutchinson’s Durham, vol. I. 412.

of a gentleman named Tunstall or Tonstal, by a lady of the Conyers family. He became a student at Baliol college, Oxford, about 1491, but, on the plague breaking out, went to Cambridge, where he became a fellow of King’s hall, now part of Trinity college. After having for some time prosecuted his studies there, he went to the university of Padua, which was then in high reputation, studied along with Latimer, and took the degree of doctor of laws. According to Godwin, he was by this time a man of extensive learning, a good Hebrew and Greek scholar, an able lawyer and divine, a good rhetorician, and skilled in various branches of the mathematics. These accomplishments, on his return, recommended him to the patronage of archbishop Warham, who constituted him vicar-general or chancellor, in August 1511. The archbishop also recommended him to Henry VIII. and in December of the same year, collated him to the rectory of Harrow-on-the hill, Middlesex; which he held till 1522.

In 1514 he was installed prebendary of Stow-Ionga, in the church of Lincoln, and the following year admitted archdeacon of Chester. In 1516 he was made master of the rolls, a post for which his extensive knowledge of the laws had well qualified him. The same year he was sent on an embassy, with sir Thomas More, to the emperor Charles V. then at Brussels, and there had the satisfaction of living in the same house with Erasmus, who said of him that he not only excelled all his contemporaries in the knowledge of the learned languages, but was also a man of great judgment, clear understanding, and uncommon modesty, and of a cheerful temper, but without levity. In the performance of his duty at the Imperial court, he made himself well acquainted with such circumstances as were of importance to his royal master and the interests of his country, and gave such satisfaction to the administration at home, that about ten days after his arrival in London in 1517, he was a second time sent on an embassy to the emperor.

On his return, apparently in 1519, he was rewarded by a succession of preferments, in this year by the prebend of Botevant, in the church of York; in May 1521 by | another, that of Combe and Hornham, in the church of Sarum by the deanery of Salisbury; and in 1522 he wa promoted to the bishopric of London. In 1523 he was made keeper of the privy seal: and in 1525, he and sir Richard Wingfield went ambassadors into Spain, in order to confer with the emperor, after the king of France, Francis I was taken prisoner at the battle of Pavia.

In 1527, we find bishop Tunsiall employed in prosecuting several persons in his diocese for heresy; for he was strongly attached to the principles of the Romish church, but he never carried his zeal so far as to put any person to death for their opinions. On the contrary he was always an advocate for milder methods of reclaiming them from what he thought erroneous. Still his principles, the example of his contemporaries, and the spirit of the age in which he lived, were ajl too powerful for the natural mildness of his disposition; and although he shed no blood, he took many unjustifiable steps to obstruct the progress of the reformation, and that being at present but partial, he probably thought he might succeed without proceeding to the last extremities.

In July 1527, Tunstall attended cardinal Wolsey in his pompous embassy into France; and in 1529 was one of the English ambassadors employed to negociate the treaty of Camhray. It was on his return from this last place, that he exerted himself to suppress Tyndale’s edition of the New Testament, by means which will be noticed in our account of that celebrated reformer and martyr. Even in this matter, bishop Burnet observes that judicious persons discerned the moderation of Tunstall, who would willingly put himself to a considerable expence in burning the books of the heretics, but had too much humanity to be desirous, like many of his brethren, to burn the heretics themselves.

In the mean time he acquired great reputation by the political knowledge and talents which he displayed in his different embassies and negociations, and no promotion was thought too great for him. In 1530 he was translated to the rich bishopric of Durham. Before his removal from the see of London, he had bestowed a considerable sum of money in furnishing a library in Cambridge with valuable books, both printed and ms. which he had collected abroad; and now at Durham, he laid out large sums in adorning | the city with public buildings, and in repairing, and improving his episcopal houses.

When the great question of Henry VIII. ‘s divorce was agitated, Tti install at first favoured the divorce, and even wrote on that side of the question; but, having reason afterwards to change his sentiments, he espoused the queen’s cause, which many of the Roman catholics then and now consider as the conscientious side. When Henry took the title of Supreme head of the church of England, Tunstall recommended it both in his injunctions, and in a sermon preached at Durham, although he had, in 1531, solemnly protested against that title. He also vindicated the king’s supremacy, in 1538, in a sermon preached before his majesty, upon Palm-sunday, in which he zealously condemned the usurpations of the bishop of Rome. In 1535, he was one of the commissioners for taking the valuation of ecclesiastical benefices, in order to settle the first fruits and tenths. And in 1537, the king commanded him, on account of his learning and judgment, to peruse cardinal Pole’s book of “Ecclesiastical Union,” which occasioned some letters between the cardinal and Tunstall, particularly, a severe one written jointly by him and by Stokesley, bishop of London, against the pope’s supremacy. The year following, he was appointed to confer concerning the reformation, with the ambassadors of the German protestant princes; but matters were not yet ripe for an alteration in this kingdom. In 1541 a new edition of the English Bible was revised by him and Nicholas Heath, bishop of Rochester. Attached as he was to popery, he appears to have taken in many cases a calm and judicious view of the questions agitated in Henry VIII.’s reign, and this led him to concur in some of the measures which were favourable to the reformation; and in that of Edward VI. he yielded obedience to every law which was enacted, and to all the injunctions, at the same time that he protested, in his place in parliament, against the changes in religion, which, Burnet says, he thought he might with a good conscience submit to and obey, though he could not consent to them. In the question of the corporal presence, he adhered to the popish opinion, and wrote on the subject.

In December 1551, Tunstall was committed to the Tower, upon an accusation of misprision of treason. What the particulars were, is not known; but Burnet thinks that the secret reason was that, if he should be attainted, the | duke of Northumberland intended to have had the dignities and jurisdiction of that principality conferred on himself, and thus he count palatine of Durham. It appears, however, that Tunstall was charged by one Vivian Menville, with having consented to a conspiracy in the north for exciting a rebellion; and it is said, that something of this kind was proved, by a letter in the bishop’s own hand-writing, found when the duke of Somerset’s papers were seized. It has been conjectured, that he, being in great esteem with the popish party, was made privy to some of their treasonable designs against king Edward’s government: but which he neither concurred in, nor betrayed. However, on March 28, 1552, a bill was brought into the House of Lords, to attaint him for misprision of treason. Archbishop Cranmer spoke warmly and freely in his defence, but the bill passed the Lords. When, however, it came to the Commons, they were not satisfied with the written evidence which was produced, and having at that time a bill before them, that there should be two witnesses in case of treason, and that the witnesses and the party arraigned should be brought face to face, and that treason should not be adjudged by circumstances, but plain evidence, they therefore threw out the bill against Tunstall. This method of proceeding having been found ineffectual, a commission was granted to the chief justice of the King’s bench, and six others, empowering them to call bishop Tunstall before them, and examine him concerning all manner of conspiracies, &c. and if found guilty, to deprive him of his bishopric. This scheme, in whatever manner it might be conducted, was effectual, for he was deprived, and continued a prisoner in the Tower during the remainder of Edward’s reign. In 1553 also, the bishopric of Durham was converted into a county palatine, and given to the duke of Northumberland, which certainly favours bishop Burnet’s conjecture that there was a secret as well as an open cause for the deprivation of our prelate.

While in the Tower, Tunstall was frequently visited by his nephew, the celebrated Bernard Gilpin, who had probably been brought up to the church with a view of being advanced by this prelate, but he was now in no capacity to serve him otherwise than by his advice, and the advice he gave him about this time, places Tunstall in a very favourable point of view. When Gilpin, just entered on his | parochial duties in the north, found that his mind was not quite settled in his religious opinions, he wrote to his uncle Tunstall, who told him, in answer, that he should thiuk of nothing till be had fixed his religion, and that, in his opinion, he could not do better than put his parish into the hands of some person in whom he conld confide, and spend a year or two in Germany, France, and Holland; by which means he might have an opportunity of conversing with some of the most eminent professors on both sides of the question. To this admirable advice, for such it surely is, from a popish bishop of that age, Giipin had but one objection, namely the expence; but the bishop wrote, that his living would do something towards his maintenance; and he would supply deficiencies. When they parted, the bishop gave him some books he had written while in the Tower, particularly one" on the Lord’s supper, which he wished to be printed under his inspection at Paris.

On the accession of queen Mary in 1553, Tunstall was restored to his bishopric; but still he was not a man to her mind, behaving with great lenity and moderation, and consequently his diocese escaped the cruel persecutions which prevailed in others. When he left London, he was strictly charged with the entire extirpation of heresy in his diocese; and was given to understand, that severity would be the only allowed test of his zeal. These instructions, says Mr. Giipin, he received in the spirit they were given; loudly threatening, that heretics should no where find a warmer reception than at Durham: and it was thought indeed that the protestants would hardly meet with much favour from him, as they had shown him so little. But nothing was further from his intention than persecution: insomuch that his was almost the only diocese where the poor protestants enjoyed any repose. When most of the other bishops sent in large accounts of their services to religion, very lame ones came from Durham; they were filled with high encomiums of the orthodoxy of the diocese, interspersed here and there with the trial of an heretic, but either the depositions against him were not sufficiently proved, or there were great hopes of his recantation; no mention however was made of any burnings. A behaviour of this kind was but ill relished by the zealous council: and the bishop lay deservedly under the calumny of being not actuated by true Romish principles. When his | nephew Bernard Gilpin, an avowed protestant, came home from his travels, the bishop not only received him with great friendship, but gave this heretic the archdeaconry of Durham; and Fox tells us, that when one Mr. Russel, a preacher, was before bishopTunstail, on a charge of heresy, and Dr. Hinmer, his chancellor, would have examined him more particularly, the bishop prevented him, saying, “Hitherto, we have had a good report among our neighbours; I pray you bring not this man’s blood upon my head.

From such a man it was naturally expected that, on the accession of queen Elizabeth, there would have been little difficulty in reconciling him to the reformation, and in fact the queen had nominated him as the first in a list of prelates to officiate at the consecration of several new bishops; but notwithstanding this, he refused to take the oath of supremacy, and was consequently deprived of his bishopric in July 1559. At the same time he was committed to the custody of Parker, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, and then in possession of Lambeth palace, by whom he was entertained in a very kind, friendly, and respectful manner; and Parker is said to have produced a change in some of his sentiments. It appears that Tunstall told Bernard Gilpin, that in the matter of transubstantiation, pope Innocent III. had done unadvisedly, in making it an article of faith; and he further confessed, that the pope committe<l a great error in the affair of indulgences, and in other things. Tunstall also held the doctrine of justification by faith only.

Bishop Tunstall did not continue long in this state of retirement, for he died Nov. 18, 1559, aged eighty-five, and was handsomely buried in the chancel of Lambeth church, at the expence of archbishop Parker, with a Latin epitaph by the learned Dr. Haddon. The character of Tunstall may in part he collected from the preceding particulars. Gilpin, who has frequently introduced notices of him in his Lives of Bernard Gilpin, Latimer, &c. says “he was a papist only by profession; no way influenced by the spirit of popery; but he was a good catholic, and had true notions of the genius of Christianity. He considered a good life as the end, and faith as the means; and never branded as an heretic that person, however erroneous his opinions might be in points less fundamental, who had such a belief in Christ as made him live like a Christian. He was just therefore the reverse of (his early patron) | Warham, and thought the persecution of protestants one of the things most foreign to his function. For parts and learning he was very eminent: his knowledge was extensive, and his taste in letters superior to that o- most of his contemporaries. The great foible of which he stands accused in history, was the pliancy of his temper. Like most of the bishops of those times, he had been bred in a court; and was indeed too dextrous in the arts there practised.” On this last failing, Mr. Gilpin seems to us to lay too much stress, for even the particulars which, in the preceding sketch we have extracted from his life of Bernard Gilpin, shew decidedly that Tnnstall was no courtly complier in those measures which were particularly characteristic of the times, and which have been more or less the test of the worth of every eminent man who lived in them.

Bishop Tunstall’s writings that were published, were chiefly the following: 1. “In Laudem Matrimonii,” Lond. 1518, 4to. 2. “De Arte Supputandi,” Lond. 1522, 4to, dedicated to sir Thomas More. This was afterwards several times printed abroad. 3. “A Sermon on Palm Sunday” before king Henry the 8th, &c. Lond. 1539 and 1633, 4to. 4. “De Veritate Corporis & Sanguinis Domini in Eucharistia,” Lntet. 1554, 4to. 5. “Compendium in decem Libros Ethicorum Aristotelis,” Par. 1554, 8vo. 6. “Contra impios Blasphematores Dei praedestinationis,” Antw. 1555, 4to. 7. “Godly and devout Prayers in English and Latin,1558, in 8vo.

Several of his letters and papers are published in Burnet’s History of the Reformation, Strype’s Memorials, Collier’s Ch. History, Lodge’s Illustrations, &c. 1


Ath. Ox. vol. I. Tanner. Bale and Pits. —Strype’s Cranmer, pp. 6i>, 77 81, 288, 309. —Strype’s Patker, pp.47, 54. —Strype’s Grindal, 27. More’s Life of sir Thomas More. Gilpin’s Life of Gilpin, pp.45 47, 65, 71, 101.Gilpin’s Life of Latimer, see Index. Biog. Brit. Hutchinson’s Hist. of Durham. Dodd’s Ch. Hist. Burnet’s Reformation. Fox’s Acts and Monuments. Lodge’s Illustrations.