Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Powell, Edward

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POWELL, EDWARD (1478?–1540), catholic divine, born in Wales about 1478, was educated at Oxford, where he graduated M.A., and in 1495 became fellow of Oriel; he was licensed D.D. on 26 June 1506 (Boase, Reg. i. 47). In 1501 he was presented to the living of Bleadon, Somerset, and preached at Lincoln during the visitation of the cathedral by Bishop William Smith (d. 1514) [q. v.]; on 26 July 1503 he was collated to the prebend of Centum Solidorum in Lincoln Cathedral, exchanging it for Carlton-cum-Thurlby in 1505, and Carlton for Sutton-in-Marisco in 1525. He also received the prebends of Lyme Regis and Kalstock, and in 1508 of Bedminster and Radclive in Salisbury Cathedral, and the living of St. Edmund's, Salisbury. After the accession of Henry VIII, Powell became a frequent preacher at court.

On the spread of Luther's doctrines to England, Powell took an active part in opposing them. He seems to have been asked by the king to publish a reply to Luther; writing to Wolsey on 3 Nov. 1522, he said that he had commenced a treatise ‘De Immunitate Ecclesiæ,’ which he was sending for approval, promising the rest of the work as soon as it was completed. These writings are probably included in his ‘Propugnaculum Summi Sacerdotii Evangelici … editum per … Edoardum Povelum adversus Martinum Lutherum fratrem famosum et Wiclefistam insignem,’ 1523, 4to (Brit. Mus. and Bodl.) It consists of three books in the form of a dialogue between Luther and Powell: the first deals with the pope, the second with the sacrament of the altar, and the third with the other sacraments; there follow an appendix of the heresiarchs whose errors Luther had borrowed, and a long list of errata. The work won high commendation from the university of Oxford, and Dodd (Church Hist. i. 209) says it was the best performance of its kind hitherto published.

On the question of Henry's divorce from Catherine of Arragon, Powell was one of the learned divines who pronounced against the measure, and he is said to have been one of Catherine's advocates at her trial. He wrote a ‘Tractatus de non dissolvendo Henrici Regis cum Catherina matrimonio,’ which Stow (Chronicle, ed. 1615, p. 581) says he saw printed in quarto, but neither the manuscript nor any printed edition seems now to be extant. From this time Powell's zeal in preaching against the Reformation brought him into disfavour at court. When Latimer was invited to preach before the corporation at Bristol in March 1533, Powell was put forward by the Bristol clergy to answer him from the pulpit, and is said to have made aspersions on Latimer's private character which he afterwards retracted. Latimer complained to Cromwell of Powell's bitterness, and Powell aggravated his offence by denouncing the king's marriage with Anne Boleyn. In January 1534 his discharge as proctor of the Salisbury clergy was recommended, and a few months later he was condemned for treason in refusing the oath of succession by the same act of parliament as Fisher and others (Statutes of the Realm, Record ed. iii. 527). He was deprived of all his preferments, and committed to the Tower, where he remained until 1540, resolutely refusing to take the oath. On 30 July in that year he was one of the famous six—three catholics and three protestants—who were dragged two and two on hurdles from the Tower to Smithfield. There the catholics were hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors, and the protestants were burned as heretics. Powell's companion was Robert Barnes [q. v.], and soon after their execution appeared a dialogue in English verse, entitled ‘The metynge of Doctor Barons and Doctor Powell at Paradise Gate and of theyr communicacion bothe drawen to Smithfylde frõ the Towar’ [1540?], 8vo (Brit. Mus.)

[Authorities quoted; works in Brit. Mus. Libr.; Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, 1518–1538 passim; Lansd. MSS. 979, f. 191; Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy, ii. 124, 130, 218; Willis's Cathedrals, iii. 160, 166; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, i. 117–19; Myles Davies's Athenæ Brit. i. 108; Treatise of the Pretended Divorce, &c. (Camden Soc.) pp. 208, 329; Wriothesley's Chron. (Camden Soc.), i. 121; Churton's Lives of the Founders of Brasenose, pp. 118, 181, 245, 363; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Ames's Typogr. Antiq. p. 273; Hazlitt's Handbook and Collections; Seyer's Memorials of Bristol, ii. 216 et seq.; Latimer's Sermons, ed. 1824, p. xxvi; Foxe's Actes and Mon. vol. vii. passim; Strype's Works, Index; Burnet's Reformation, passim; Dixon's Church Hist. of England, i. 237, ii. 246, 250; Lingard's and Froude's Histories.]

A. F. P.