Wagstaffe, Thomas (DNB00)

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WAGSTAFFE, THOMAS (1645–1712), nonjuror, who belonged to a family long settled in the county of Warwick, was born on 13 Feb. 1645 at Binley in Warwickshire, and was named after his father, who had settled there and married Anne Avery of Itchington. He was related to Sir Joseph Wagstaffe [q. v.] and to Dr. William Wagstaffe [q. v.] Thomas was educated at the Charterhouse, whence he passed in Lent term 1660 to New Inn Hall, Oxford, graduating B.A. on 15 Oct. 1664, M.A. on 20 June 1667. Just two years after, he was ordained deacon by Bishop Hackett of Lichfield, and in the same year priest by Bishop Henshaw of Peterborough, upon his institution to the benefice of Martinsthorpe. He afterwards became chaplain to Sir Richard Temple (1634–1697) [q. v.], and was made curate of Stowe. In 1684 he was preferred to the chancellorship of Lichfield Cathedral and to the prebend of Alderwas in the same cathedral, by James II, the bishop (Wood) being incapacitated through his suspension from making the appointment. In the same year, also at the presentation of the king as patron of the rectory of St. Gabriel Fenchurch, London, which after the great fire had been united with the neighbouring parish of St. Margaret Pattens, he was appointed first rector of the joint benefice. Of this and of his cathedral stall he was deprived at the revolution, as he refused to take the new oaths. For some time he made his living by practising as a physician, still wearing his canonical habit. As such he prescribed for Archbishop Sancroft and for Bishop Turner of Ely. With the archbishop he spent some time before his death at Fressingfield in Suffolk, whither he had retired from Lambeth Palace, after his deprivation, to a small estate of his own. Wagstaffe therefore was able to give some account of the archbishop's illness and death, which he did in ‘A Letter out of Suffolk’ (London, 1694, 4to; reprinted in vol. iii. of ‘Somers's Tracts,’ 1751, 4to). He must have been successful in his new profession, for, encouraged by him, his future son-in-law, Dr. William Wagstaffe [q. v.], came up to London and eventually secured the appointment of physician to St. Bartholomew's Hospital.

In 1693 the nonjurors took steps to continue a succession of their bishops under the Suffragan Bishops Act of Henry VIII, which had not been in force since the reign of Queen Elizabeth (it had been contemplated to make use of it during the Commonwealth, when the number of the bishops was reduced to about nine, but the Restoration made such a step needless). Dr. George Hickes [q. v.] went over to St. Germain in 1693 with a nominal list of most of the nonjurors, from which the king selected the names of Hickes himself and Wagstaffe for bishops. As the nonjurors held that James was de jure king, and Lloyd, whose suffragans the new bishops were to be, though deprived, was bishop of Norwich, Sancroft still being regarded as primate, it was thought that the conditions of the act were duly complied with. Before giving his consent to this scheme James had secured the approval of Innocent XII, of Harlay, archbishop of Paris, and of Bossuet, bishop of Meaux. Wagstaffe therefore was nominated bishop of Ipswich, and Hickes of Thetford, both in the diocese of Norwich. Their consecrations took place on the feast of St. Matthias, 24 Feb. 1694, at the house of the Rev. Mr. Giffard at Southgate in the parish of Enfield, near London, which apparently was occupied by White, the deprived bishop of Peterborough. A third bishop—Lloyd of Norwich taking the lead—took part in the ceremony, viz. Turner, deprived of Ely. The service, doubtless for prudential reasons, was quite private, and the consecrations were for a long time unknown to some of the leading nonjurors. Even Hearne, who at Oxford was in frequent communication with Hickes and Wagstaffe, knew nothing of these consecrations as late as 1732. The only persons present were, besides the bishops, Lord Clarendon and a notary named Douglas. Wagstaffe joined with the former in attesting Hickes's deed of consecration, Hickes doing a like service for him. There is no record of Wagstaffe performing any episcopal duties. There were no consecrations during his lifetime, nor does it appear that he ordained any of the few admitted to holy orders during that time. Apparently he passed much of the rest of his days in Warwickshire, though he was present when holy communion was given to Kettlewell on his deathbed in London in 1695; and in the following year, after a warrant for his apprehension, he appeared with Bishop Thomas Ken [q. v.] and three more of the deprived bishops, besides others, before the privy council, on account of his share in the ‘charitable recommendation’ on behalf of the ‘extreme want’ of the nonjuring clergy and their families. He was released, with the others, on 23 May. The ‘Post Boy’ of 23–5 Oct. 1712 thus records his death: ‘On Friday the 17th instant died the Reverend Dr. Wagstaffe, at his house at Binley, near Coventry. He was a person of extraordinary judgment, exemplary piety, and unusual learning; and had he not had the misfortune to dissent from the established government by not taking the oaths, as he had all the qualities of a great divine, and a governor of the church, so he would have filled deservedly some of the highest stations in it.’

Wagstaffe was the author of several pamphlets, the best known being his ‘Vindication of King Charles the Martyr, proving that his Majesty was the author of Εἰκὼν Βασιλική’ (London, 1693; another edit. 1697, 8vo; Wagstaffe published ‘A Defence of the Vindication’ in 1699, 4to), and his ‘Present State of Jacobitism in England’ (1701?), in answer to Bishop Burnet, who had advised the nonjurors to end their troubles by taking the oaths. To this Wagstaffe ironically rejoins that it was ‘a kindness with the utmost unkindness in the belly thereof,’ and goes on to contrast the severity with which the nonjurors were treated with the comparative leniency of Cromwell under the Commonwealth, or even of Elizabeth, towards those who held to the unreformed religion. Burnet replied in ‘The Present State of Jacobitism in England. The Second Part’ (1702, 4to). Wagstaffe's learning included ritual; some manuscript notes on the subject by him are appended to a copy of the ‘Sarum Ordinale’ in the British Museum. His other pamphlets included ‘A Letter to the Author of a late Letter out of the Country occasioned by a former Letter to a Member of the House of Commons concerning the Bishops lately in the Tower and now under Suspension’ (1690? 4to); ‘An Answer to a late Pamphlet entitled “Obedience and Submission to the present Government demonstrated from Bishop Overall's ‘Convocation Book,’” with a postscript in answer to Dr. Sherlock's “Case of Allegiance,”’ London, 1692; ‘An Answer to Dr. Sherlock's “Vindication of the Case of Allegiance due to Sovereign Powers” made in Reply to an Answer to a late Pamphlet entitled “Obedience and Submission to the present Government demonstrated from Bishop Overall's ‘Convocation Book,”’ with a postscript in answer to Dr. Sherlock's “Case of Allegiance,”’ London, 1692; ‘An Answer to a Letter of Dr. Sherlock written in Vindication of that part of Josephus's “History” which gives the Account of Jaddas' Submission to Alexander, in answer to the piece entitled “Obedience and Submission to the present Government”’ (1691, 4to); ‘Remarks on some late Sermons, and in particular on Dr. Sherlock's Sermon at the Temple, December the 30th, 1694, in a Letter to a Friend’ (1695, 4to); ‘A Letter to a Gentleman elected a Knight of the Shire to serve in the present Parliament,’ London, 1694; ‘An Account of the Proceedings in Parliament in relation to the Recoining of Clipped Money,’ London, 1696 (1696, 4to; another edit. 1697–8; a proclamation was issued in 1696 by the king for the discovery of the author of the pamphlet, which was published anonymously). He had a fine library, which was sold in London by Fletcher Gyles in 1713.

Wagstaffe married Martha Broughton, by whom he had four sons and five daughters. His first-born son died in infancy. One of his daughters married Dr. William Wagstaffe, before mentioned.

The second son, Thomas Wagstaffe (1692–1770), was, like his father, a prominent nonjuror. He was born, shortly after his father's deprivation, in 1692. About 1713 he was a frequent correspondent with Hearne at Oxford, and seems to have visited him there. At that time he was closely associated with Hickes and Hilkiah Bedford [q. v.] in London, where his writings were published as late as 1725. In 1718 he was ordained deacon by Jeremy Collier, one of the nonjurors' bishops, and, by the same, priest in the following year. The ordinations took place in the chapel of Richard Lawrence, afterwards also a nonjurors' bishop, the author of ‘Lay Baptism Invalid,’ on College Hill, in the city of London. At that time Wagstaffe was keeper of the nonjurors' church registers, as appears from a manuscript note signed by the principal nonjurors in a copy of their prayer-book in the library of Sion College. It is uncertain when he went to Rome, but apparently he was there some time before 1738, and had been engaged in collating manuscripts in the Vatican and Barberini libraries. In the library of Sion College is treasured one result of his labours, thus described by its donor, the Rev. J. Berriman: ‘In the year 1738 I obtained from ye very learned Mr. Thomas Wagstaffe yn at Rome, a more particular Acct of ye Greek MSS. of St. Paul's Epistles in ye Vatican Library and that of Cardinal Barbarini yn had been ever before communicated to the world. Mr. Wagstaffe had for some time free access to ye Vatican & ye Liberty of collecting MSS.’ The donor received this manuscript through the hands of Dr. Bedford, son of Hilkiah Bedford. While at Rome Wagstaffe held the office of Anglican chaplain to the Chevalier St. George, and to his son, Charles Edward. The Scottish Jacobites were hopeful that he would be able to convert the latter and so strengthen their cause. He seems to have been consulted by Charles Edward, who writes thus to his father from Perth, 10 Sept. 1745: ‘I must not close this letter without doing justice to your Majesty's Protestant subjects, who, I found, are as zealous in your cause as the Roman Catholics, which is what Dr. Wagstaffe often told me I should find them.’ Again, eleven days later, and after the battle of Prestonpans: ‘I remember Dr. Wagstaffe (with whom I wish I had conversed more frequently, for he always told me the truth) once said that I must not judge of the English clergy by the bishops, who are not promoted for their ability and learning, but for very different talents.’ Wagstaffe seems to have been much respected at Rome for his learning and general character. He died there on 3 Dec. 1770. Besides his own, he was familiar with seven languages. He was described as ‘a fine, well-bred old gentleman, and, what is still infinitely more valuable, a sincere, pious, exemplary, good Christian, so conspicuously so that the people there were wont to say that had he not been a Heretic, he ought to have been canonised.’ He put forth several pamphlets, chiefly on the usages of the church, a subject of controversy with the nonjurors at the time.

[Lathbury's Nonjurors, pp. 97, 228 sq.; Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary; Biographie Universelle; Nichols's Literary Anecdotes; Records of the New Consecrations; Hawkins's Life of Ken; Hearne's Collections (Oxford Hist. Soc.); Lichfield Wills and Administrations, 1516–1642; Bishop Forbes's Journal of Episcopal Visitations, 1763–70.]

J. L. F.