The New International Encyclopædia/Parker, Matthew

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PARKER, Matthew (1504-75). The second Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury. He was born at Norwich, August 6, 1504, studied at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and was ordained a priest in 1527. At the university he was a distinguished student, and was from an early period favorably disposed toward the doctrines of the Reformation, and lived in close intimacy with some of the more ardent reformers. In 1535 he was appointed chaplain to Queen Anne Boleyn. With this appointment he obtained the deanery of the monastic college of Stoke-by-Clare in Suffolk. Here he appears to have first definitely sided with the reforming party in the Church and State, the sermons which he preached containing bold attacks on different Catholic tenets and practices. In 1538 Parker took the degree of D.D.; and in 1544, after some minor changes, became master of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, which he ruled admirably. Three years later he married and probably about this time drew up his defense of the marriage of priests, entitled De Conjugio Sacerdotum. In 1552 he was presented by King Edward VI. to the rich deanery of Lincoln. On the accession of Queen Mary he refused to conform to the reëstablished order of things, and was deprived of his preferments, and even obliged to conceal himself. It does not appear, however, that he was eagerly sought after by the emissaries of Mary; for he was very unwilling to disturb the framework of the Church. On the death of Mary and the accession of Elizabeth (1558) he was appointed by the Queen Archbishop of Canterbury. The consecration took place in Lambeth Chapel, December 17, 1559.

The subsequent history of Archbishop Parker is that of the Church of England. The difficulties that beset him were very great. Elizabeth herself was addicted to various ‘popish’ practices, such as the use of images, and was strongly in favor of the celibacy of the clergy. But his greatest anxiety was in regard to the spirit of sectarian dissension within the bosom of the Church itself. Already the germs of Puritanism were beginning to spring up, and there can be no doubt that their growth was fostered by the despotic caprices of the Queen. Parker himself was manifestly convinced that if ever Protestantism was to be firmly established in the land at all, some definite ecclesiastical forms and methods must be sanctioned to secure the triumph of order over anarchy, and he vigorously set about the repression of what he thought a mutinous individualism incompatible with a catholic spirit. That he always acted wisely or well cannot be affirmed; he was forced into intolerant and inquisitorial courses, and as he grew older he grew harsher, the conservative spirit increasing with his years. He gave the English people the “Bishops' Bible,” which was undertaken at his request, prepared under his supervision, and published at his expense in 1572. Much of his time and labor from 1563 to 1568 was given to this work. He had also the principal share in drawing up the Book of Common Prayer, for which his skill in ancient liturgies peculiarly fitted him, and it was under his presidency that the Thirty-nine Articles were finally reviewed and subscribed by the clergy (1562). Parker died in the palace at Lambeth, London, May 17, 1575.

Among other literary performances, Parker published in 1567 an old Saxon Homily on the Sacrament, by Ælfric of Saint Albans, A Testimonie of Antiquitie Showing the Ancient Fayth in the Church of England Touching the Sacrament of the Body and Bloude of the Lord, to prove that transubstantiation was not the doctrine of the ancient English Church; edited (1571) the histories of Matthew of Westminster and Matthew Paris; and superintended the publication of a most valuable work, De Antiquitate Britannieæ Ecclesiæ, probably printed at Lambeth in 1572, where the Archbishop, we are told, had an establishment of printers, engravers, and illuminators. He also founded the ‘Society of Antiquaries,’ and was its first president; endowed the University of Cambridge, and particularly his own college, with many fellowships and scholarships and with a magnificent collection of manuscripts relating to the civil and ecclesiastical condition of England, and belonging to nine different centuries (from the eighth to the sixteenth). His correspondence from 1535 on was published by the Parker Society (Cambridge, 1853). Consult his Life by Strype (best ed., 3 vols., Oxford, 1821), and in Hook's Archbishops of Canterbury, new series, vol. iv. (London, 1872). In his honor the Parker Society was formed, which published 53 volumes of Elizabethan ecclesiastical literature (Cambridge, 1841-54).