Capon, John (DNB00)

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CAPON, JOHN, alias Salcot (d. 1557), bishop of Salisbury, was a Benedictine monk when in 1488 he proceeded B.A. at Cambridge, and a monk of St. John's Abbey in Colchester when ordained deacon on 16 May 1502. His name probably implies that he was a native of Salcot, near Colchester. He became B.D. in 1512, and D.D. in 1515. In the ‘King's Book of Payments’ (Cal. of Hen. VIII, ii. 1441) he is named as receiving 20s. in February 1516 and again in March 1517 for preaching at court. On 16 Feb. 1516–17, being then prior of St. John's, Colchester, he was made abbot of St. Benet's Hulme in Norfolk (Pat. Roll, 8 Hen. VIII, p. 2, m. 20). His brother, Dr. William Capon [q. v.], was chaplain to Cardinal Wolsey, and he himself enjoyed Wolsey's favour. There is extant (Cal. of Hen. VIII, iv. App. 38) a letter from Capon to Wolsey, 10 April 1525, thanking him for ‘continual favours’ towards his ‘promotion and advancement,’ and referring to ‘this bringer, Mr. Cromwell, your servant,’ to explain that the writer is ill and cannot come up as commanded. ‘This bringer’ was afterwards lord privy seal and earl of Essex. As part of a scheme for redeeming first-fruits in Norwich diocese, St. Benet's Abbey was by bull, dated 31 May 1528, of Pope Clement VII (Rymer, xiv. 244), and by private act of parliament (Tanner, Notitia Monast. p. 333), made directly subject to the bishops of Norwich who were to be ex officio abbots there; but Capon continued abbot and was succeeded by Repps, afterwards bishop of Norwich. In February 1529–30 he was at Cambridge to assist in obtaining a declaration from the university in favour of the king's divorce from Catherine of Arragon. Next month, 15 March 1529–30, he was translated to the abbey of Hyde beside Winchester (Pat. Roll, 21 Hen. VIII, p. 1, m. 19). In July following he signed, as one of the spiritual lords, the letter to the pope praying him to consent to the divorce. In August 1533 he was nominated to the bishopric of Bangor, but the pope would not grant the bull of consecration. However, on 11 April 1534 he had the royal assent, and on the 19th was consecrated bishop of Bangor by Archbishop Cranmer—the second bishop made in England after Henry VIII assumed papal authority. He continued abbot of Hyde, holding the bishopric in commendam, until the suppression, when, with his convent, he surrendered the abbey to the king in April 1539 (? ‘30 Henry VIII’ Public Records Report, viii. App. ii. 24). ‘What wonder,’ exclaims Stevens (Suppl. i. 503), ‘that in a depraved age surrenders should be so universal, when the betrayers of their trust, the sacrilegious Judases, were made bishops!’ Latimer of Worcester and Shaxton of Salisbury resigned their bishoprics in the summer of 1539 in consequence of the ‘Six Articles,’ and Capon was translated to the see of Salisbury on 31 July 1539 (Pat. Roll, 31 Hen. VIII, p. 3, m. 28), which he held till his death. He reverted to the Roman faith on the accession of Queen Mary, at which time (31 Aug. 1553) he had license because of his great age to be absent from the queen's coronation and from future parliaments (Haynes, Burghley Papers, p. 177); he was, however, at the trial of Bishop Hooper at Southwark in January 1555. He died on 6 Oct. 1557, and was buried in Salisbury Cathedral on the south side of the choir. Capon was a preacher of some note and a man of learning. Henry VIII wrote to Benet, his ambassador at Rome, on 10 July 1531, to urge the pope to refer judgment of the divorce case to the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the abbot of Westminster and ‘the abbot of Hyde, a great clerk’ (Cal. of Hen. VIII, v. 327). Convocation in 1542, directing certain bishops to revise a translation of the New Testament, assigned the Epistles to the Corinthians to Capon, and the same convocation appointed him and the Bishop of Ely examiners of church books. Protestant writers inveigh against him as a time-server and a papist—‘a false dissembling bishop,’ as he is called by Foxe (v. 484), who frequently names him as a ‘persecutor’ of martyrs under Henry VIII and Mary. Fuller and Strype say he despoiled his bishopric to enrich himself. His will, dated 18 July 1557, directs that all his goods be divided among his servants, and as his executors ‘renounced,’ the prerogative court of Canterbury appointed an administrator on 29 Oct. 1557. Arms: ‘S, a chevron between 3 mullets O,’ or perhaps ‘A, on a chevron S between 3 trefoils of the second, 3 escallops of the field.’

[Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 171, 550; Annals of Cambridge, i. 338–9; Cal. of Henry VIII; Stevens's Suppl. to Dugdale, i. 503; Dodsworth's Salisb. Cath. p. 57; Fuller's Church Hist.; Foxe's Acts and Mon.; Dodd's Church Hist. p. 489; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 247, ii. 741, 767, 779, 809; Strype; Leland's Collect. vi. 220, 234; Lemon's Calendar; Richardson's Godwin; Milner's Winchester, ii. 223; Le Neve's Fasti; State Papers Henry VIII; Browne Willis's Not. Parl. i. 128; Burnet's Hist. of Reformation; Anderson's Annals of Engl. Bible, ii. 150; Haynes's Burghley Papers, p. 177; Britton's Salisb. Cath. 41, 95; Grey Friars' Chronicle, p.37; Wriothesley's Chronicle, i. 35, 103; Clive's Ludlow, 287; Bedford's Blazon of Episcopacy, 14.]

R. H. B.