Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Standish, Henry

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STANDISH, HENRY (d. 1535), bishop of St. Asaph, is stated in Dugdale's ‘Visitation of Lancashire’ to have been son of Alexander Standish of Standish in that county, who died in 1445, but the dates render the relationship improbable. When young he became a Franciscan friar, and studied both at Oxford and Cambridge, but it is uncertain where he obtained his degree of D.D. He was afterwards appointed warden of the Franciscan house, Greyfriars, London, and provincial of the order. When Henry VIII came to the throne, Standish secured the royal favour, and preached at court in February 1511, and in the spring of every year from 1515 to 1520, receiving 20s. each time. He was chief of the king's spiritual council, and in 1515 was engaged in a remarkable controversy as to the liability of the clergy to punishment by lay tribunals. Richard Kedermyster [q. v.], abbot of Winchcomb, was the champion for the clergy, while Standish took the opposite side. Convocation was displeased, and summoned Standish before it. He sought the protection of the king, who heard the matter out at a meeting of judges and others held at Blackfriars, London, while parliament addressed the king to support Standish against the malice of his persecutors (Hallam, Const. Hist. i. 58–59). The royal protection was not asked in vain, and he accordingly escaped punishment. In other regards he was a zealous upholder of the church and persecutor of ‘heretics.’ He opposed both Colet and Erasmus. The latter related in his epistles several disparaging anecdotes of Standish. Erasmus stated that Standish, in a sermon preached at St. Paul's Cross, fell foul of him and his translation of the New Testament, but when taken to task by two friends of Erasmus, probably Sir Thomas More and Richard Pace, confessed that his zeal outran his knowledge. On another occasion Standish fell on his knees before the king and implored him not to desert the faith of his predecessors, adding that the church was in the greatest danger since Erasmus had published his new heretical books. Fuller remarks of Standish's resistance to Erasmus that this ‘was as unequal a contest as betwixt a child and man, not to say dwarf and giant.’

On the nomination of the king he was appointed bishop of St. Asaph by papal bull dated 28 May 1518, and was consecrated by Archbishop Warham at Otford, Kent, on 11 July following. Pace, in a letter to Wolsey, expresses his mortification at the promotion. He was one of those appointed in May 1522 to receive Charles V on his expected visit to Canterbury, and in the same year was assessed to find 200l. towards the king's expenses in France. In February 1523–4 he was sent with Sir John Baker on an embassy to Hamburg with a view to the restoration of the king of Denmark (Strype, Eccl. Mem. i. 90). He was one of Wolsey's examiners of heretics in 1525; received the recantation of Richard Foster in December 1527, and was on the bench of judges who tried Billney and Arthur in 1527, and John Tewkesbury on 20 Dec. 1531. On the return of Wolsey from Rome in December 1527, Standish was among the bishops who attended at St. Paul's to welcome the cardinal.

At the beginning of the proceedings for Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine, Standish bore an important part as one of the queen's counsellors (The Pretended Divorce of Queen Katherine, Camden Soc. p. 177); and when the proctors appeared before the papal legate on 29 June 1529, he spoke against the divorce after Bishop Fisher, ‘but with less polished eloquence.’ Catherine viewed him with distrust, as, though on her side, he was thought to be entirely in the king's favour. He afterwards assisted at the coronation of Anne Boleyn.

On Warham's death in August 1532 he was deputed by the prior and convent of Christ Church, Canterbury, to preside in convocation, and he was one of the three bishops who on 13 March 1533 consecrated Cranmer as metropolitan of the church of England in succession to Warham.

In 1533 John Salisbury (d. 1573) [q. v.] reported to Cromwell that he had great difficulties in serving an indictment of præmunire on Standish and his vicar-general, who both defied him. On 1 June 1535 he formally renounced the papal jurisdiction, the renunciation being dated at Wrexham, and on the 9th of the following month he died at an advanced age. He was buried in the Minories, afterwards Christ Church, London, where a monument, for which he left money, was erected over his remains, which perished in the great fire. By his will he left legacies to the cathedral of St. Asaph, and to the Franciscans of Oxford.

Wood makes him the author of:

  1. ‘Sermons preached to the People.’
  2. ‘Treatise against Erasmus his Translation of the New Testament;’ but there is no trace of them having been printed.

[Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic (Henry VIII), vol. ii–ix.; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss); Knight's Life of Erasmus, 1726; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), i. 73; Ellis's Original Letters, 3rd ser. i. 187; Burnet's Reformation, 1829 i. 25, ii. 147, &c.; Dodd's Church Hist. i. 186; Newcourt's Repertorium Eccl. i. 91; Dugdale's Visitation of Lancashire (Chetham Soc.), p. 291; Grey Friars' Chronicle (Camden Soc.), 1852, pp. 31–4; Foxe's Actes and Monuments; Tanner's Bibliotheca Brit.; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 55; Baines's Lancashire (Harland and Herford), 1870 ii. 160; Brewer's Reign of Henry VIII, 1884, i. 245, 250, ii. 304, 338, 346.]

C. W. S.