Randolph, Francis (DNB00)

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RANDOLPH, FRANCIS (1752–1831), divine, born at Bristol on 29 Dec. 1752, was King's scholar at Eton in 1771, and was admitted at King's College, Cambridge, in the following year. He became fellow on 15 Aug. 1775 (B.A. in 1777, and M.A. in 1780; D.D. from Dublin in 1806). Having taken holy orders, he became vicar of Broad-Chalke, Wiltshire, in 1786, and incumbent of Chenies, Buckinghamshire, in 1788. In the latter year he published a letter to Pitt ‘on the slave trade,’ advocating partial and progressive emancipation (cf. Mathias, Pursuits of Lit. Dialogue iv. n. 73). Subsequently he lived for a time in Germany, and was appointed to instruct the Duchess of York in English. He became chaplain to the Duke of York, and prebendary of Bristol on 24 Dec. 1791. Among his patrons was Francis Russell, fifth duke of Bedford [q. v.], who in 1817 presented him to the living of St. Paul's, Covent Garden. In the same year he became vicar of Banwell, Somerset. In 1796 Laura Chapel, Bathwick, Bath, with sittings for one thousand people, was opened, having been erected on a tontine promoted by Randolph, who frequently occupied the pulpit (Major, Notabilia of Bath, pp. 69, 70). He had gained some reputation as a theologian by contributing to the Socinian controversy the tracts ‘Scriptural Revision of Socinian Arguments, in a Letter to Dr. Priestley’ (1792), and ‘Scriptural Revision, &c. vindicated against the Reply of Benjamin Hobhouse, Esq.’ (1793).

Randolph was entrusted in August 1795 with some letters of the Princess of Wales to carry to Brunswick, but being prevented from going, sent them back by coach from London to the princess at Brighton. They were lost on the way. Lady Jersey was accused in the press of having intercepted them, and of sending some of them to Queen Charlotte, on whom they are said to have cast free reflections. At the request of Lady Jersey, who denied the charge, Randolph published a full account of his conduct in the matter. The princess was unconvinced, and her friends represented that Randolph was promised a bishopric for parting with the papers. Mathias, in his ‘Pursuits of Literature,’ makes merry over the incident (see A Pair of Epistles in Verse, with Notes, the first to the Rev. Dr. Randolph, 2nd edit. 1796; Pursuits, 1812, p. 296). In 1808 Randolph issued ‘A Few Observations on the State of the Nation,’ addressed to the Duke of Bedford, in which he revived a plan propounded by Watson, bishop of Llandaff, for a redemption of the national debt. He died at his prebendal house, Bristol, on 14 June 1831. In the north aisle of Banwell church there is a mural tablet to his memory. The view from a ‘gazebo’ or summer-house that he erected on the summit of Banwell Hill is described in Bowles's poem (‘Days Departed, or Banwell Hill,’ 1828). A portrait of him was painted by Bradley and engraved by Lupton (Evans, Cat. No. 20633).

[Gent. Mag. 1831, i. 648 (which gives age wrongly); Lit. Mem. of Living Authors; Dict. of Living Authors, 1816; Harwood's Alumni Etonenses; Lists of Cambridge and Dublin Graduates; Corresp. of Rev. Francis Randolph with the Earl and Countess of Jersey upon subject of some Letters belonging to H.R.H. the Princess of Wales, 1796; Huish's Memoirs of George IV, i. 383–7, and Memoirs of Queen Caroline, p. 62; Whereat's Banwell and Cheddar Guide, pp. 41, 44, and App.; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit. ii. 1738; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Public Characters; authorities cited; information from the librarian of King's Coll. Cambridge.]

G. Le G. N.