Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trelawny, Jonathan

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TRELAWNY, Sir JONATHAN (1650–1721), third Baronet, bishop successively of Bristol, Exeter, and Winchester, third son of Sir Jonathan, second baronet, by Mary, daughter of Sir Edward Seymour, second baronet, of Berry Pomeroy, Devonshire, was born at Pelynt, Cornwall, on 24 March 1650 (Cassan, Lives of the Bishops of Winchester, ii. 196). His grandfather, Sir John Trelawny (1592–1665), first baronet, opposed the election of Sir John Eliot to parliament for Cornwall in 1627–8, and was, on that ground, committed to the Tower of London by order of the House of Commons on 13 May 1628. He was released by the king on 26 June, and created a baronet on 1 July. Sir Jonathan's father (1624–1685) was sequestered, imprisoned, and ruined for loyalty, during the civil war. The bishop's younger brother, Charles [q. v.], is separately noticed.

In 1663 Jonathan went to Westminster school, was elected to Oxford, and matriculated from Christ Church on 11 Dec. 1668. He became student the following year, graduated B.A. on 22 June 1672, and M.A. on 29 April 1675. Ordained deacon on 4 Sept. 1673, he took priest's orders on 24 Dec. 1676, and obtained from his relatives the livings of St. Ive (12 Dec. 1677 to 1689) and Southill (4 Oct. 1677). The death of his elder brother in 1680 left him heir to the baronetcy, ‘yet he stuck to his holy orders and continued in his function’ (Wood). He was resident at Oxford during that autumn (1681), but the Cornish baronet there, who was described as likely to be soon in Bedlam, was apparently Trelawny's father, if 1685 be accepted as the date at which Jonathan succeeded to the baronetcy (Prideaux, Letters, ed. Thompson, Camd. Soc. p. 94 n.; Bibliotheca Cornubiensis). He was one of the benefactors by whom Wren's Tom tower at Christ Church was mainly built (June 1681–November 1682), and his arms were carved among the rest on the stone roof of the gatehouse (Wood, History and Antiquities, 1786, pp. 449–51). On the discovery of the Rye House plot in 1683, Trelawny drew up an address in the name of the corporation of East Looe congratulating the king and the Duke of York on their escape (Trelawne MSS.; Trelawny Papers, Camd. Soc. ed. Cooper, 1853).

In the expectation that Monmouth would land in the west, James, in June 1685, sent Sir Jonathan down to Cornwall, where he arrived after the duke had landed. Finding the deputy-lieutenants, with one exception (Rashleigh), unwilling to call out the militia, he signed all commissions, and despatched Rashleigh to inspect each regiment and to station them at the most important points. He held himself ready to follow Monmouth's march (Trelawny Papers, Camd. Soc. document No. 4). In the ‘Tribe of Levi,’ a doggerel against the seven bishops, Trelawny figures as fighting Joshua, the son of Nun:

    … a spiritual dragoon
    Glutted with blood, a really Christian Turk,
    Scarcely outdone by Jeffreys or by Kirke

(London, 1691, in Strickland's Lives of the Seven Bishops).

‘Trelawny will be a bishop somewhere,’ wrote his college friend, Humphrey Prideaux, from Oxford on 9 July 1685, three days after Sedgemoor, ‘it's supposed at Bristol’ (Letters, p. 142). Trelawny begged Lord-treasurer Rochester to contrive the substitution of Exeter for Bristol, on the ground that the see of Bristol was too unremunerative to enable him to meet his father's debts (Correspondence of Clarendon and Rochester, ed. Singer, 1828, i. 146). Nevertheless Bristol was offered him. On 17 Oct. the intimation of the congé d'élire was conveyed to him by Sunderland; on the 26th his university conferred the degree of D.D.; and on 8 Nov. he was consecrated at Lambeth by both archbishops and six bishops. Three days later, he and Ken took their seats in the lords.

To the active loyalty inherited from his ancestors and from his cavalier father, Trelawny united as bishop the passive obedience of his order. He accepted the papistry of the king until it became aggressive. While at Dorchester, on his first visitation, he severely reprimanded a preacher who made insinuations in a sermon against the king's good faith. By 1 June 1686 Trelawny had finished his visitation, and laid before the archbishop the results which pointed to gross neglect by the clergy of their duties (Tanner MSS. xxx. 50).

The appearance of the first declaration of indulgence on 4 April 1687 changed Trelawny's views of the king and converted him into a resolute foe (Tanner MSS. xxix. 42). Upon Sunderland's invitation to him to sign an address in favour of the declaration, and to obtain the signatures of his clergy, Trelawny, first letting it be known that he would not sign himself, called his clergy together and debated with them. They refused to sign to a man. Reporting his action to the archbishop, he asserted: ‘I have given God thanks for this opportunity … of declaring … that I am firmly of the church of England, and not to be forced from her interest by the terrors of displeasure or death itself.’ He did all he could in 1687 for the French protestant refugees at Bristol, settled 20l. upon their two ministers, and drew up a form of subscription for their benefit (Tanner MSS. xxix. 147 or 149, xxx. 191, xxix. 32). When the king attempted to pack a parliament pledged to support his attack upon the church, the Earl of Bath undertook to manage the Cornish elections, but Trelawny successfully opposed him (Tanner MSS. xxviii. 139, in Strickland's Lives).

On 27 April 1688 James issued his second declaration of indulgence, and on 12 May Sancroft summoned his suffragans to consider it. Trelawny arrived at Lambeth with his friend Ken on the evening of the 17th. On the following morning he assisted in drawing up the bishops' petition against the declaration, and in the evening repaired with the rest to Whitehall. When the king mentioned the word ‘rebellion,’ Trelawny fell on his knees and warmly repudiated the suggestion that he and his brethren could be guilty of such an offence. ‘We will do,’ he concluded, ‘our duty to your majesty to the utmost in everything that does not interfere with our duty to God’ (Oliver, Bishops of Exeter, p. 157 n. 2). After the interview Trelawny went down to his diocese, and was served at Bath on 30 May with a warrant from Sunderland, dated 27 May, to appear with the archbishop and five fellow bishops before the council on 8 June at five in the afternoon to answer a charge of seditious libel. Trelawny obeyed the summons, and on the same evening he, Sancroft, and five other bishops were sent to the Tower (8 June). Four lords—Worcester, Devonshire, Scarsdale, and Lumley—were ready to give bail for Trelawny. Released in a week on their own recognisances, the seven bishops came up on 29 June for trial on the charge of seditious libel. A verdict of ‘not guilty’ was returned at ten o'clock of the morning of the next day. The anniversary of 30 June 1688 was ever afterwards a festival with Trelawny. The Cornishmen meanwhile identified themselves with Trelawny in his struggle with the king, and, according to a local tradition reported by Robert Stephen Hawker [q. v.], they raised a song of which the refrain ran:

    And shall Trelawny die?
    Then twenty thousand Cornishmen will know the reason why.

Hawker's testimony is not quite conclusive. There is some ground for believing that the cry was first raised in 1628, owing to the fears of Cornishmen for the life of Sir John Trelawny, first baronet, at the hands of the House of Commons (cf. Bristol Journal, 25 July 1772). ‘The Song of the Western Men,’ a ballad said to have been suggested by the ancient refrain, was composed by Hawker in 1825, and long passed for an original song dating from 1688. While Bristol was still ablaze with bonfires, in celebration of the bishop's acquittal, the king by quo warranto struck Trelawny's name from the burgess roll of Liskeard (The Epistolary Correspondence &c. of Francis Atterbury, ed. Nichols, 1789–1799; Iago, Bishop Trelawny, 1882).

Burnet states precisely that Trelawny joined Compton in signing the invitation to William (Own Time, Oxford, 1833, iii. 159). Burnet adds that the bishop's brother, Colonel Charles Trelawny, drew him into the plan of invasion (ib. iii. 279). Burnet has been followed by Macaulay and Miss Strickland. But Trelawny steadily denied the allegation (Trelawne MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. p. 52). In a draft letter to the bishop of Worcester, Trelawny wrote: ‘I never put my hand to any letter, knew of or joined in any message … to invite him [i.e. William] … and … we had no other view by our petition than to shew our king … we could not distribute … his … declaration … which … was founded on such a dispensing power as … would quickly set aside all laws … and leave our church on no other establishment than the will and pleasure of a prince who … to extirpate it … seemed in haste’ (Trelawny to the bishop of Worcester, 25 Jan. 1716, Trelawne MSS., transcribed by the present baronet). Trelawny throughout the crisis was a passive well-wisher of the Revolution. Along with Compton of London, he failed to obey James II's summons despatched on 24 Sept. to the archbishops and eight bishops to attend him on the 28th. But James's power was nearly exhausted, and Trelawny threw his influence into the scale of the Prince of Orange. William landed on 5 Nov. Ten days later James sought to conciliate Trelawny by announcing his translation to the see of Exeter, which had previously been refused him (Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 476). It was too late; Trelawny welcomed to Bristol the prince's troops under Shrewsbury, and wrote thence to William, on 5 Dec., to express his satisfaction at having borne some part in the work for the preservation of the protestant religion, the laws and liberties of this kingdom (Dalrymple, Memoirs, ii. 252).

After James II's abdication Trelawny and Compton were the only two bishops in the House of Lords (29 Jan. 1689) in the majority of 51 against 49 by whom Sancroft's plan of a regency was rejected (Burnet, Own Time, iii. 399). Trelawny was one of the eleven bishops who drew up a form of prayers for the day of thanksgiving, 31 Jan., and he and Lloyd of St. Asaph alone of the seven bishops took the oaths to William and Mary. Immediately after William and Mary's coronation, Trelawny's nomination to Exeter was confirmed, 13 April 1689 ({sc|Godwin}}, De Præsulibus; Luttrell, vi. 182; Wood, Athenæ).

Trelawny sat in October on the ecclesiastical commission appointed to prepare a scheme of comprehension for the convocation of November–December. The following summer (1690) he set out for his new diocese, halting at Oxford. Forcing his way into the hall of Exeter College, he deprived, as visitor, the rector, Dr. Bury, for contumacy in nailing up the gates and denying his power, for corruption in selling the office of butler and others of the buttery, and for heresy as author of the ‘Naked Gospel.’ Ten of the fellows he suspended for three months (26 July). An appeal by the rector to the king's bench went against the visitor. Upon the privy council taking up the matter, Trelawny told them plainly that they were no court of judicature, and that he would be determined only by Westminster Hall (Trelawny Papers, ed. Cooper). The judgment of the king's bench was reversed in the lords on 7 Dec. 1694 (Luttrell, iii. 409, 411). Thereby was ‘fixed,’ wrote Atterbury, ‘the power of visitors (not till then acknowledged final) upon the secure foundation of a judgment in parliament.’ By another parliamentary decision, obtained while still bishop of Exeter, in the case against Sampson Hele, Trelawny established a bishop's sole right to judge the qualifications of persons applying for institution to a benefice (Notes and Queries, 1st ser. iv. 481, x. 202).

In the late summer of 1691 he made his first visitation of his diocese; he was at Plymouth in September (Jewitt, Hist. of Plymouth, p. 269). He had already provided for the defence of Exeter against a landing from the French fleet which swept the Channel in that year (Strickland). Subsequently Trelawny declared himself in sympathy with Anne and the Churchills in their open breach with the king in 1691 and 1692, and for the next ten years he held aloof from court. Visiting his diocese with vigour, he retired often to his seat at Trelawne, where he rebuilt and reconsecrated the family chapel on 23 Nov. 1701.

He emerged from his retirement in the same year to give active support to the movement led by Atterbury, whose friend and patron he was, for the revival of convocation and the execution of the Præmunientes clause. When the convocation met (10 Feb. 1701–2) and its proceedings resolved themselves into a struggle of the lower house against the right of the primate to prorogue them, Trelawny, ‘the avowed patron and defender of the synodical rights of the clergy’ (Atterbury), entered his protest, along with Compton and Sprat, against the resolutions of the bishops (Tindal, Continuation of Rapin, iii. 529). From this point until his death Trelawny possessed in Atterbury an unwearied correspondent. Trelawny gave him in January 1701 the archdeaconry of Totnes, and much other preferment. On 6 July 1704 he thanked his patron, to whom all the happiness of his life was due, for having obtained for him from the queen the deanery of Carlisle.

After the accession of Anne, Trelawny, at the queen's desire, preached before her in St. Paul's the thanksgiving sermon for the successes in the Low Countries and at Vigo (Postman, 14 Nov. 1702). But he still resisted the royal wishes whenever he deemed the rights of his episcopal office impugned. When in 1703 George Hooper [q. v.] was translated from St. Asaph to Bath and Wells, the see of their common friend Ken, the queen expressed her willingness to allow Hooper to retain in commendam his chantership of Exeter Cathedral and to assign its value (200l. a year) to Ken. But Trelawny objected and would not yield. In like manner he refused 7,000l. for the reversion of the manor of Cuddenbeck, as he thought it worth 2,000l. more, and would not prejudice his successor (Oliver, Bishops of Exeter, pp. 157–60).

In 1707 Trelawny was translated to Winchester, one of his last official acts as bishop of Exeter being to furnish a return, pursuant to an order in council dated 4 April 1707, of papists and reputed papists in Devon. His promotion disgusted many, Burnet complained, he being considerable for nothing but his birth and his election interest in Cornwall (Burnet, Own Time, v. 337). He succeeded Peter Mews [q. v.], and was enthroned on 21 June, and on the 23rd invested prelate of the Garter at Windsor. In his charge to the clergy of the diocese of Winchester (privately printed), Trelawny announced his devotion to protestantism and his church, and declared equal hostility to papists and the ‘furious sorts of dissenters’ (cf. Trelawne MSS. 12 Aug. 1708). In Winchester Cathedral Trelawny erected an enormous throne in the taste of his age (Gale, Cathedral Church of Winchester, London, 1715; Cassan, Lives of the Bishops of Winchester, i. 12). Since demolished, parts of it survive at Trelawne. He finished the rebuilding of the palace of Wolvesey begun by Bishop Morley, residing there and in the other two palaces of the see, at Chelsea and at Farnham Castle. One of his last acts was to place a statue of Wolsey over the gateway leading to the hall of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1719 (Wood, History and Antiquities, 1786, pp. 452–3, gives the inscription). He was a governor of the Charterhouse, and Busby trustee of Westminster school. On 1 July 1720 he gave a handsome entertainment at Chelsea to commemorate his deliverance from the Tower (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 370); and there the next year, 19 July 1721, he died. He was buried in Pelynt church on 10 Aug. (Godwin).

Trelawny married, in 1684, Rebecca, daughter and heiress of Thomas Hele of Bascombe, Devonshire. Many letters to ‘Dear Bekkie’ are preserved at Trelawne. She died on 11 Feb. 1710 (Luttrell, vi. 545). Their six sons and six daughters were: John, fourth baronet (d. 1756); Henry, drowned with Sir Clowdisley Shovell; Charles, prebendary of Winchester; Edward [q. v.], governor of Jamaica; Hele (d. 1740), rector of Southill and Landreath; Jonathan, died in infancy; Charlotte, Lætitia, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Mary, Anne.

Trelawny was through life of a convivial temper, and scandals were spread, notably by Burnet, that at times he drank wine too freely. He had a stiff temper (cf. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 47), and was a stern parent (cf. Nicholls and Taylor, Bristol Past and Present, ii. 75). In the charming ‘Love-letters of Myrtilla and Philander’ is recounted the ten years' courtship of the bishop's fourth daughter, Lætitia, by her first cousin, Captain Harry Trelawny (d. 1762), afterwards fifth baronet, whom she ultimately married; the bishop denounced his daughter's suitor as ‘one pretending boldly and wickedly, too, to rob me of my daughter so dear to me … to be treated with the deepest and justest resentments’ (cf. Trelawny Correspondence, Letters between Myrtilla and Philander, 1706–1736, privately printed, London, 1884).

The best known portrait of Trelawny, by Kneller, in the hall of Christ Church, represents him seated and wearing the robes of the Garter. Another portrait by Kneller is at Trelawne, where there is also a portrait of the bishop's wife by the same artist. In both portraits he is depicted with a strong, ruddy, clean-shaven face, and firm mouth. He was included with the rest of the seven bishops in the engraved group by D. Loggan.

Trelawny's extant writings—in the style of a ‘spiritual dragoon’—consist of a few sermons and many letters, for the most part unedited, at Trelawne. His sermon in 1702 was printed by the queen's command. His charge to the clergy of the diocese of Winchester was printed privately, with his sermon, in 1877. In Bishop Gibson's edition of Camden's ‘Britannia’ (1695) the additions for Cornwall and Devon were chiefly due to Trelawny.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibliotheca Cornub. 1878 vol. ii., 1882 vol. iii.; Boase's Collectanea Cornub. 1890; Trelawny Papers (Camden Soc.); Ellis Correspondence, 1686–8 (1829); Life by Elizabeth Strickland in Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Seven Bishops (1866); Oliver's Bishops of Exeter; Cassan's Bishops of Winchester; Plumptre's Life of Ken, 1890; Atterbury Correspondence, ed. Nichols, 1789–99; Trelawne MSS. in Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. pp. 50–2.]

J. A. T.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.268
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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