Robinson, Nicholas (d.1585) (DNB00)

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ROBINSON, NICHOLAS (d. 1585), bishop of Bangor, born at Conway in North Wales, was the second son of John Robinson, by his wife Ellin, daughter of William Brickdale. The families of both parents came originally from Lancashire and Cheshire respectively, but appear to have been settled at Conway for several generations (Dwnn, Heraldic Visitations, ii. 113-14; Wood, Athenae Oxon. ii. 797-8, footnote; Arch. Cambr. 5th ser. xiii. 37). Robinson was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he proceeded B.A. in 1547-8, and within a twelvemonth was made a fellow of his college, by the command, it is alleged, of the royal commissioners for the visitation of the university. In 1551 he commenced M.A., was bursar of his own college in 1551-3, and a proctor in the university for 1552, dean of his college 1577-8,. and vice-president of his college in 1561. Plays written by him were acted at Queens' College in 1550, 1552, and 1553, the last-mentioned being a comedy entitled 'Strylius.' In 1555 he subscribed the Roman catholic articles. He was ordained at Bangor by Dr. William Glynn, first as acolyte and sub-dean on 12 March 1556-7, then deacon on the 13th, and priest on the 14th, under a special faculty from Cardinal Pole, dated 23 Feb. preceding. Archbishop Parker's statement in his 'De Antiquitate Britannica' (see Strype, Parker, iii. 291), that Robinson 'suffered calamities for the protestant cause in the reign of Queen Mary,' is hardly probable.

On 20 Dec. 1559 Parker licensed him to preach throughout his province, and he was then, or about that time, appointed one of his chaplains (Strype, Parker, ii. 457). He proceeded at Cambridge B.D. in 1560 and D.D. in 1566. A sermon preached by him at St. Paul's Cross in December 1561 was described by Grindal as 'very good' (ib.); the manuscript is numbered 104 among Archbishop Parker's manuscripts at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (Strype's Parker, i. 464-5; and Haweis's Sketches of the Reformation, pp. 161-2). After this preferment came apace. He was appointed on 13 Dec. 1561 to the rectory of Shepperton in Middlesex (Newcourt, Repertorium, i. 726); on 16 June 1562 to the archdeaconry of Merioneth (Wallis, p. 142); and on 26 Aug. of the same year to the sinecure rectory of Northop in Flintshire. He also became rector of Witney in Oxfordshire (see Nasmith, Cat. of C.C.C. MSS. p. 154). In right of his archdeaconry he sat in the convocation of 1562-3, when he subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles (Strype, Annals, I. i. 490), and voted against the proposal which was made, but not adopted, to make essential modification in certain rites and ceremonies of the church (ib. pp. 502-3). In 1564 he also subscribed the bishops' propositions concerning ecclesiastical habits, and wrote 'Tractatus de vestium usu in sacris.'

He was at Cambridge during Queen Elizabeth's visit in August 1564, and prepared an account of it in Latin, an English version of which is probably that printed in Nichols's 'Progresses of Elizabeth' (i. 167-71). A similar account was written by him of the queen's visit to Oxford in 1566 (ib. i. 229247; see also Harl. MS. 7033, f. 131). He was one of the Lent preachers before the queen in 1565 (Strype, Parker, iii. 135).

Robinson was elected bishop of Bangor, in succession to Rowland Meyrick [q. v.], after much deliberation on the part of the archbishop, under a license attested at Cambridge on 30 July 1566. He also held in commendam the archdeaconry of Merioneth, and the rectories of Witney, Northop, and Shepperton. The archdeaconry he resigned in 1573 in favour of his kinsman, Humphrey Robinson, but he took instead the archdeaconry of Anglesey, which he held until his death (Willis, pp. 139, 142). He resigned Shepperton about November 1574.

For the next few years Robinson appears to have endeavoured to suppress the non-protestant customs in his diocese (cf. Strype, Grindal, p. 315). On 7 Oct. 1567 Robinson wrote to Sir William Cecil, giving an account of the counties under his jurisdiction, noticing the prevalence therein of 'the use of images, altars, pilgrimages, and vigils' (Cal. State Papers, ed. Lemon, p. 301). On the same day he sent to Archbishop Parker a copy of part of Eadmer's history, stating also his opinion as to the extent and authenticity of Welsh manuscripts (C.C.C. Cambridge MS. No. 114, f. 503; see Nasmith's Catalogue, p. 155; also Strype's Parker, i. 509). On 23 April 1571 he was acting as one of the commissioners for ecclesiastical causes at Lambeth (Strype, Annals, II. i. 141), and in the convocation held that year he subscribed the English translation of the Thirty-nine Articles and the book of Canons (Strype, Parker, ii. 54, 60). About 1581 he was suspected of papistry; on 28 May 1582 he wrote two letters, one to Walsingham and the other to the Earl of Leicester, 'justifying himself against the reports that he was fallen away in religion,' and stating that his ' proceedings against the papists and the declaration of the archbishop would sufficiently prove his adherence to the established church' (Cal. State Papers, ii. 56).

He died on 13 .Feb. 1584-5, and was buried on the 17th in Bangor Cathedral on the south side of the high altar. His effigy and arms were delineated in brass, but the figure had been removed at the time of Browne Willis's survey in 1720, when only a fragment of the inscription remained; this has since disappeared. His will was proved in the prerogative court of Canterbury on 29 Feb. 1584 (Arch. Cambr. 5th ser. vi. 130).

Robinson took considerable interest in Welsh history, and is said to have made 'a large collection of historical things relating to the church and state of the Britons and Welsh, in fol. MS.' (Wood, loc. cit.), which was formerly preserved in the Hengwrt Library. He translated into Latin a life of Gruffydd ab Cynan [q. v.] from an old Welsh text at Gwydyr, and the translation, apparently in Robinson's own handwriting, is still preserved at Peniarth. Both text and translation were edited by the Rev. Robert Williams for the 'Archaeologia Cambrensis ' for 1866 (3rd ser. xii. 30, 112; see especially note on p. 131, and cf. xv. 362). Bishop William Morgan (1540?-1604) [q. v.], in the dedication of his Welsh version of the bible (published in 1588), acknowledges assistance from a bishop of Bangor, presumably Robinson. At any rate, Robinson may be safely regarded as one of the chief pioneers of the reformation in North Wales, and he appears to have honestly attempted to suppress the irregularities of the native clergy, though perhaps he was himself not quite free from the taint of nepotism.

Robinson married Jane, daughter of Randal Brereton, by Mary, daughter of Sir William Griffith of Penrhyn, chamberlain of North Wales, and by her he had numerous sons, including Hugh [q. v.], and William, his eldest, whose son was John Robinson (1617-1681) [q. v.] the royalist.

[The chief authorities for Nicholas Robinson's life are Wood's Athenae Oxon. ii. 797-9; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 105, 115-16; Williams's Eminent Welshmen, pp. 459 et seq; Cooper's Athenae Cnntabr. i. 603-5; Yorke's Royal Tribes of Wales, ed. Williams, pp. 23, 173; Strype's various works.]

D. Ll. T.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.237
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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34 ii 4f.e. Robinson, Nicholas: for sub-dean read sub-deacon