Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cox, Richard (1500-1581)

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COX, RICHARD (1500–1581), bishop of Ely, one of the most active of the minor English reformers, was born at Whaddon in Buckinghamshire. After receiving some education at the Benedictine priory of St. Leonard Snelshall, near Whaddon, he went to Eton, and thence to King's College, Cambridge, in 1519, proceeding B.A. in 1523–4. He was invited by Wolsey to enter his new foundation of Christ Church in Oxford as junior canon soon afterwards, and was incorporated B.A. at Oxford 7 Dec. 1525, and was created M.A. 2 July 1526. Becoming known as a Lutheran, he was forced to leave the university, and removed to Eton, where he was head-master. He proceeded B.D. at Cambridge in 1535, and D.D. in 1537, and was made chaplain to the king, to Archbishop Cranmer, and to Gooderich, bishop of Ely. His name appears in several important transactions of the reign of Henry VIII. In 1540 he was on the commission which composed ‘The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition of a Christian Man,’ the third great formulary of Henry (Lords' Journals, April), and his answers to the questions which were preliminarily propounded to the commissioners are extant among the rest (Burnet, Coll. iii. 21). He was also on the commission of clergy, of the same date, which pronounced the king's marriage with Anne of Cleves null and void (State Papers, i. 634). In the same year (24 Nov.) he was made archdeacon of Ely; on 3 June 1542 became prebendary of Lincoln; on 8 Jan. 1543–4 he became dean of the cathedral, Osney, and when the seat of the deanery was transferred to Oxford he was the first dean of Christ Church (21 May 1547). In 1542 he was on the commission which was nominated by convocation for making an authoritative version of the Bible, where he was one of those to whom the Old Testament was assigned (WILKINS, iii. 860). That project was quashed by the interference of the king. In 1546 he was one of the officials appointed to hear Dr. Crome publicly recant at Paul's Cross, and with the others he denounced the recantation as feigned and insufficient; and in the subsequent inquiry before the privy council ‘did notably use himself against Crome’ (State Papers, i. 843). On the accession of Edward VI his advancement was rapid. He was already tutor and almoner (since 7 July 1544) of the king. On 28 Sept. 1547 he became rector of Harrow, Middlesex, and on 23 April 1548 canon of Windsor. He was in high favour with Cranmer, insomuch that he was one of the only two doctors who were included with the bishops in giving answers to the questions on the mass that were issued by the primate about the beginning of the reign (Burnet, Coll. to Edw. VI, i. 25; Dixon, ii. 476). He was on the celebrated Windsor commission, which in 1548 compiled the first English communion, the first prayer-book in 1549, and probably the first English ordinal in 1550, and which seems to have been further employed in revising the first prayer-book, and making the alterations that are found in the second, or book of 1552 (Strype, Mem. iv. 20; Dixon, iii. 249). Cox ceased to be royal tutor at the beginning of 1550 (Orig. Lett. p. 82), but he retained his post of almoner, and was raised to the deanery of Westminster (22 Oct. 1549), vacant by the death of the unfortunate Benson. From 21 May 1547 till 14 Nov. 1552 he was chancellor of the university of Oxford. He was a great harbourer of the foreign divines, and seems to have had the main hand in introducing such men as Peter Martyr, Stumphius, and John ab Ulmis into the university. In 1549 he was one of the seven royal visitors or delegates who swept the schools and colleges with the most destructive zeal, confiscating and converting funds, altering statutes, destroying books and manuscripts with unsparing fury. The ‘mad work,’ as Wood calls it, that he made procured for the chancellor the reproachful nickname of the cancellor of the university (Wood, Hist. et Ant. p. 270; Fuller; Macray, Bodleian; Dixon, iii. 101, 108). On this occasion he presided as moderator at the great disputation of four days, which was held between Peter Martyr and the Oxford schoolmen, Tresham, Chedsey, and Morgan (Strype, Cranmer; Dixon, iii. 116). He was said to have frequently interposed to help Martyr (Sanders). Next year he was sent by the council into Essex to appease the people, who were excited by the resistance of Bishop Day of Chichester to the turning of altars into tables (Harman, Specimen, p. 113). In 1551 he was among the adverse witnesses on the trial of Gardiner (Foxe, 1st ed.), and in the same year we find him engaged in a renewed and equally destructive visitation of Oxford (Dixon, iii. 384). During the same period he was upon the several commissions that were issued for revising the ecclesiastical laws, which at last resulted in the abortive code of the ‘Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum’ (Strype, Cranmer, ii. ch. xxvi.; Dixon, iii. 351, 439). On the death of Edward, Cox was apprehended (5 Aug. 1553) on suspicion of being concerned in Northumberland's plot (Orig. Lett. p. 684; Grey Friars' Chron. p. 82). He spent a few weeks in the Marshalsea, and was deprived of all his preferments. In May 1554 he made his way to the continent, choosing Frankfort for his place of exile, where he arrived 13 March 1554–5. The English congregation in that city had adopted, by the advice of Whittingham, a form of service that differed widely from the prayer-book, and accepted the Calvinistic doctrine. Most of the morning prayers were omitted, the confession was changed for another, the responses were not repeated, the surplice was not worn. At the same time, with the view of making Frankfort, as the nearest to England, the head of the English church colonies, ministers were invited from the other congregations; and from Strasburg came Haddon, Lever from Zurich, from Geneva Knox. The celebrated ‘Troubles of Frankfort’ were now begun. Knox soon stood at the head of the party which desired further alteration, while the moderate party were supported by the exiles of Strasburg and Zurich. After the English service had been submitted by Knox to Calvin, and treated by Calvin with contempt, a compromise to last four months was effected by which the rival forms of worship were used alternately. Things were in this posture when, before the expiration of the four months, Cox arrived upon the scene. He immediately exhorted his countrymen to maintain the Book of Common Prayer as it had been established in the reign of Edward VI. Knox replied by attacking Cox as a pluralist. The rival parties were thenceforth distinguished by the names of Knoxians and Coxians, and became so embittered in their animosity as to require the interposition of the magistrates of the city to prevent them from coming to blows. The Knoxians at first obtained from these authorities a decision that the services should be after the French or Calvinistic model; but their triumph was brief. In one of Knox's sermons his adversaries discovered treason against the emperor. They accused him to the magistrates, and the state of Frankfort expelled him and his followers from its territory (26 March 1555). The English service of Edward was then restored (Troubles at Frankfort; Fuller; Heylyn). It does not appear that Cox held any office in the church after this pacification. He apparently spent some time at Strasburg; but in a subsequent dispute which was waged at Frankfort with great bitterness between Horn, the deprived dean of Durham, and Ashley, an eminent member of the congregation, he was chosen by the magistrates to be one of the arbiters, and succeeded in bringing the contending parties to a tolerable agreement.

When Elizabeth came to the throne, Cox was at Worms. He returned to England; preached frequently before the queen; was appointed visitor of the university of Oxford (5 June 1559), and on 28 July 1559 was placed in the see of Ely. It was at first determined to give him the see of Norwich, and the change was made after he had been actually elected to that see. At Ely he remained twenty-one years. He refused to minister in the queen's chapel because of the crucifix and lights there, and justified himself in a letter to her majesty (Strype, Ann. App. i. 23). He was considered severe towards the Romanists in his custody, especially in 1577 when Feckenham, the former abbot of Westminster, was his prisoner. John Leslie, bishop of Ross, was in his custody from 14 May till 17 Oct. 1571. In 1579 several accusations were brought against him and his wife by Lord North and others for covetous and corrupt practices (ib. App. bk. i.). He seems to have vindicated himself successfully, but he was compelled to cede a manor to his chief accuser North. He had already ceded much property belonging to his see to the crown (1562), and in 1575 Sir Christopher Hatton used the queen's influence to induce Cox to give him his palace in Holborn. Cox resisted, but ultimately yielded. Disgusted with the court, Cox petitioned for permission to resign his see, and this request was granted in February 1579–80. He received a pension of 200l. and the palace of Doddington. Cox died on 22 July 1581. Twenty years after his death an elaborate monument, erected to his memory in Ely Cathedral, was defaced, because, it was said, of his evil memory (Willis, Cathedrals, iii. 359). Cox married twice: first while dean of Christ Church, and secondly about 1568. His second wife was Jane, daughter of George Auder, alderman of Cambridge, and widow of William Turner, dean of Wells. His children were John; Sir Richard of Brame, Ely; Roger; Joanna, widow of John, eldest son of Archbishop Parker; and Rhoda. The executors of his will, dated 20 April 1581, were Archbishop Grindal, Thomas Cooper, bishop of Lincoln, John Parker, archdeacon of Ely, his son John, and Richard Upchare. Cox translated the Acts and St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans for the bishops' Bible, and published ‘Articles to be inquired of … in his Visitations’ in 1573 and 1579. Manuscript tracts and letters on church policy are in the British Museum, and many are printed in Strype's ‘Annals’ and Burnet's ‘History of the Reformation.’ A notebook is in Corpus College library at Cambridge. Portraits are at King's College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

[Authorities cited above; and Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 437–445, where the fullest account is to be found.]

R. W. D.