Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/White, Thomas (1628-1698)

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947310Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61 — White, Thomas (1628-1698)1900Bertha Porter

WHITE, THOMAS (1628–1698), bishop of Peterborough, was the son of Peter White of Aldington in Kent, and was born there in 1628. His father died soon after his birth, and his mother went to reside with her near kinsfolk the Brockmans of Beachborough near Folkestone. There seems little doubt that he attended the grammar school at Newark-on-Trent for some time, but John Johnson (1662–1725) [q. v.] of Cranbrook claims him as a scholar of the King's School, Canterbury, and he was admitted at Cambridge as from the grammar school of Wye, after three years' study there. He was admitted a sizar of St. John's College, Cambridge, on 29 Oct. 1642, and took the degree of B.A. in 1646. During the Protectorate he held the post of lecturer at St. Andrew's, Holborn.

On 6 July 1660 he petitioned the king for the vicarage of Newark-on-Trent, which he obtained and resigned in June 1666, when he was made rector of Allhallows the Great, London. This living he held till 5 July 1679, when he received the rectory of Bottesford in Leicestershire. On 4 June 1683 he was created D.D. of the university of Oxford, and in July following was made chaplain to the Lady (afterwards queen) Anne, daughter of James, duke of York, on her marriage with George, prince of Denmark. He was installed archdeacon of Nottingham on 13 Aug. 1683. On 3 Sept. 1685 he was elected bishop of Peterborough, was consecrated on 25 Oct. and enthroned by proxy on 9 Nov. He resigned the rectory of Bottesford in the same year. The following year he with Nathaniel Crew, third baron Crew [q. v.], bishop of Durham, and Thomas Sprat [q. v.], bishop of Rochester, was appointed to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the diocese of London during the suspension of Henry Compton (1632–1713) [q. v.] When in April 1688 James II issued the order for all ministers to read his second ‘Declaration of Indulgence’ on 4 May following, White was one of the six bishops who with Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, petitioned against it. He was examined with his fellow petitioners in the privy council on 8 June, and committed to the Tower the same day; was with them brought by writ of habeas corpus to the court of king's bench on 15 June, was tried on Friday the 29th, and acquitted the following morning [see Lloyd, William, 1627–1717; and Ken, Thomas]. With other bishops he attended on the king to give counsel on 24 Sept., on 3 Oct., and again on 6 Nov., when he says ‘we parted under some displeasure.’ On that occasion he made a personal protestation that he had not invited the prince of Orange to invade, nor did he know any that had done so, in which he appears to have been perfectly sincere. After the departure of the king he was anxious for a regency in order that all public matters might proceed in his majesty's name. He was one of the eight bishops who absented themselves at the calling of the Convention parliament in 1689, refused the oaths to William and Mary, was suspended on 1 Aug. 1689, and deprived of his see on 1 Feb. 1690.

The remainder of his life was spent in retirement. On 23 Feb. 1695 he took part in the consecration of Thomas Wagstaffe [q. v.], and he accompanied Sir John Fenwick [q. v.] to the scaffold on 28 Jan. 1697. He is said to have written the ‘Contemplations upon Life and Death,’ published under Sir John's name in the same year, which provoked the Jacobites by a paragraph condemning the design of assassinating King William.

White's private character was exemplary. In his youth he had been remarkable for his physical strength and agility. There is a story that on one occasion, when accompanying the bishop of Rochester to Dartford to officiate there, a trooper of the guard insulted the two and impeded their progress. White reproved the man, who retaliated by challenging him to fight it out. A stiff fight ensued, in which White was victorious, and the trooper was compelled to ask the bishop's pardon. The story amused Charles II, who laughingly threatened to impeach White for high treason for assaulting one of his guards. White managed his bishopric with great prudence and care, struggling hard to reform the abuse of pluralities which had crept in (Tanner MSS. xxxi. 289). He died on 30 May 1698, and was buried in St. Gregory's vault in the precincts of St. Paul's, London, between 9 and 10 P.M. on 4 June. An account of the funeral and the friction in connection with it between the nonjurors and the clergy of the cathedral is contained in a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury from J. Mandevile among the manuscripts at Lambeth Palace (MS. 930, No. 22).

In his early years he was considered a good preacher. He wrote ‘A True Relation of the Conversion and Baptism of Isuf the Turk,’ London, 1658. In his will he left 10l. to the poor of the parish in which he should die, 240l. to Newark to be laid out in lands, and 10l. annually to be distributed among twenty poor parishioners above forty years of age who on 14 Dec. in the church porch should distinctly repeat the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, and the Ten Commandments without missing or changing a word. The rest of the money to go to the vicar. A similar sum subject to the like conditions was bequeathed to the poor of Peterborough and of Aldington. He also left money to the poor of Bottesford. He made a present to St. John's College, Cambridge, towards the carrying on of the new buildings, and left an excellent library to the church of Newark.

There are portraits of White in the president's residence at Magdalen College, Oxford, and in the palace at Peterborough, and in a group of the ‘Seven Bishops’ in the National Portrait Gallery, London. The last picture has been engraved by R. Robinson, E. Cooper, Pieter van der Banck, and R. White. There are large folio engravings of the bishop by J. Drapentière and R. White (1688), a quarto by S. Gribelin, and smaller portraits by J. Gole, A. Haelwegh (with Dutch verses), J. Smith (1686), J. Sturt and J. Oliver (mezzotint). Smith (Mezzotint Portraits) mentions a portrait in oval, engraved by W. Vincent. One surrounded by an ornamental circular border is in the print-room of the British Museum. Letters from White to Lord Hatton are among the British Museum manuscripts (Addit. MS. 29584, ff. 62, 64, 68, 70).

[Strickland's Lives of the Seven Bishops, pp. 132–45; Lives of the English Bishops from the Restoration to the Revolution (Nath. Salmon), pp. 323–4; Sidebotham's Memorials of King's School, Canterbury, p. 51; Mayor's Admissions to St. John's College, Cambridge, p. 66; Foster's Alumni; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1, p. 112; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 249; Nichols's Leicestershire, ii. 90; Wood's Fasti, ii. 392; Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy, ii. 536, iii. 152; Gutch's Collectanea Curiosa, i. 335–9, 353, 357, 376, 382, 409, 440–1; D'Oyly's Life of Sancroft, i. 256–7, 334, 338, 360–1, 373; Evelyn's Diary, ii. 273–5, 286–7, 349; Burnet's Hist. of his own Time, 1823; Lee's Life of Kettlewell, p. 431; Brown's Annals of Newark-upon-Trent, pp. 200– 201; Book of Institutions (Record Office), ser. B, iii. f. 448 b; information from C. Dack, esq., kindly communicated by E. J. Gray, esq., of Peterborough.]

B. P.