Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Babington, Francis
BABINGTON, FRANCIS (d. 1569), Oxford divine, is said to have been a native of Leicestershire: to have entered Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1544, and to have taken his B.A. degree in 1548-9. Two years later he was appointed fellow of St. John's, and in 1552 became M.A. By 1555 he must have changed his religion, for at that date his name is found appended to the Roman catholic articles of belief (Lamb, Cambr. Doct. 176), About the same time he seems to have transferred his residence to Oxford, where he 'incepted' in arts 1554. (Gutch's WoodApp. 95). After three years he was unanimously chosen proctor of his new university (1557), being already a fellow of All Souls. In 1557 and 1558 he successively took his bachelor's and doctor's degree in divinity; but Wood adds a special warning that such rapid promotion was only due to the fact that the university was very empty, and wanted 'theologists to perform the requisite offices. 'There were only three doctors in theology who proceeded in six years; and sermons were so rare, that scarce one was given.' It is only fair, however, to add that in another passage Wood mentions Francis Babington as renowned for his philosophical and logical disputations.
In 1559 the Queen's visitors removed Dr. Wright from the mastership of Balliol, and appointed Dr. Babington in his stead; for with him conscience never seems to have stood in the way of preferment. Nor had Dr. Babington any objection to heaping together a plurality of livings and offices. Between 1557 and 1560 he was rector of at least four parishes, Milton Keynes, Twyford, Sherrington Aldworth,and Adstock; and two or three of these he must have held together. Besides these preferments he was, in May 1560, appointed rector of Lincoln College, and was Sir John Mason's commissary or vice-chancellor in 1560, 1561, and 1562. He even held the Lady Margaret readership in divinity for 1561, although the statutes forbade its being held by the vice-chancellor. In March 1562, he appears in conjunction with 'Anthony Forster, of Cumnore, gent.' (Sir W. Scott's Tony Foster), as assisting in forcing a protestant warden upon the Roman catholic fellows of Merton College. Wood has given a graphic description of the whole scene (Annals, anno 1562). Dr. Babington was the Earl of Leicester's chaplain, and seems about this time to have been high in favour with that nobleman. Anthony à Wood tells us that he was one of Leicester's five most trusted advisers in Oxford, and was chosen to preach Amy Robsart's funeral sermon at St. Mary's, on which occasion he 'tript once or twice by recommending to his auditors the virtues of that lady so pitifully murdered instead of so pitifully slain.' His text was 'Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur' (1560) (Bartlett's Cumnor). In the same year Dr. Babington stood as the representative of the more conservative party for the deanery of Christ Church against Dr. Sampson, the great pillar of the puritanical body. Strype, in his account of this contest, describes Dr. Babington as 'a man of mean learning and of a complying temper' (Annals of Refor. i. chap. 43), and it is hardly, necessary to say that he failed in his candidature. He seems by this time to have been losing Leicester's favour, and was more than suspected of being a concealed papist. In 1563 he had to resign the rectorship of Lincoln, and two years later was forced to flee beyond seas, where he is said to have died in 1569.
[Cooper's Athen. Cantab, i. 557; Wood's Athenæ Oxonieiises, Fasti, and History and Antiquities of Oxford; Lipscombe's History of Buckingham, ii. 515, iii. 133, iv. 249, 336; Nares's Burghley, i. 55; and authorities cited above.]