Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Goldwell, Thomas
GOLDWELL, THOMAS (d. 1585), bishop of St. Asaph, was a member of a family living long before his time at the manor of Goldwell in the parish of Great Chart in Kent (Hasted, Kent, iii. 246), where he was probably born (Fuller, Worthies, i. 495, ed. Nichols). His father's name seems to have been William Goldwell. His mother was still alive in 1532. He had a brother named John, who in 1559 lived at Goldwell (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 132). He had another brother named Stephen, also alive in the same year (ib.) He must be distinguished from his namesake, probably his kinsman, Thomas Goldwell, who became a D.D. in 1507, and was the last prior of Canterbury. James Goldwell [q. v.], bishop of Norwich between 1472 and 1499, was his great-grand-uncle.
Goldwell was educated at Oxford, where he proceeded B.A. in 1528, M.A. in 1531, and B.D. in 1534 (Boase, Register of the University of Oxford, i. 149, Oxford Historical Soc.). So late as 1555 he had attained no higher degree. He was a member of All Souls' College, of which his kinsman, Bishop Goldwell of Norwich, had been a benefactor (Wood, Colleges and Halls, p. 262, ed. Gutch). According to Wood, he was ‘more eminent in mathematics and astronomy than in divinity.’ This is probably an inference from Harrison's libel that ‘Goldwell was more conversant in the black art than skilful in the scriptures’ (Description of England, bk. ii. ch. ii., New Shakspere Soc.). In 1531 a Thomas Goldwell was admitted to the living of Cheriton, near Folkestone, in the diocese of Canterbury. This is probably the same person, but in 1532 Thomas seems to have been studying at Padua when William Goldwell urged him to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury a Greek letter of thanks (Gairdner, Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, iv. 512).
Goldwell never seems to have accepted Henry VIII's religious changes, and he early attached himself to Reginald Pole, whose chaplain he became, and with whom he remained in exile as long as the papal power was unrecognised in England. In 1535 Nicholas Hobbes had succeeded him as vicar of Cheriton (Valor Ecclesiasticus, ii. 146), and in 1539 he was attainted with Pole. Accompanying Pole to Rome, he was in 1538 appointed ‘camerarius’ of the English hospital of the Holy Trinity in the Via di Monserrato in that city, under Pole as ‘custos.’ Before 1541 he had himself become ‘custos,’ while Pole was now called ‘protector.’ But in November 1547 Goldwell entered as a novice the Theatine house of St. Paul at Naples. He was specially allowed to return to Rome to attend Pole as his servant during the conclave which lasted from 29 Nov. 1549 to 7 Feb. 1550, and which resulted in the election of Julius III. He then returned to Naples, and in October 1550 made his solemn profession as a member of the Theatine order of regular priests. When, after Mary's accession, Pole was appointed papal legate to England, Goldwell was allowed to accompany him. In September 1553 he joined his master at Maguzzano on the lake of Garda. When Pole was detained by political complications, he sent Goldwell on from Brussels to London to urge on the queen to greater haste (Collier, Church Hist. vi. 63, 8vo ed., summarises his instructions from Cotton. MS. Titus B. 11). At the end of November 1553 Goldwell reached Calais (Cal. State Papers, For. 1553–1558, p. 34). In the spring of 1555 he was selected as bishop of St. Asaph, and, having on 12 May received the custody of his temporalities (Fœdera, xv. 422), was sent, when still bishop elect or designate, on 2 July by Pole to Rome to give information upon English affairs to Paul IV. Pole warmly commended Goldwell as an old Theatine to the Theatine pope (Pole, Epp. v. 14–15). Goldwell came back from Rome at the end of the year (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1555–6, pp. 288, 293), and on 7 Jan. 1556 received full restitution of his temporalities (Fœdera, xv. 427). His consecration was probably effected during his sojourn at Rome, where he was formally reappointed to his bishopric by papal provision (ib.). On 22 March 1556 Goldwell was one of the consecrators of his patron Pole. He had already served as an examiner of the heretic John Philpot (Foxe, Acts and Monuments, vii. 620, ed. Townsend). He is chiefly remembered at St. Asaph for reviving the habit of pilgrimage to St. Winifred's Well at Holywell in Flintshire, and as confirming the injunctions of his predecessor, Bishop Llewelyn ab Ynyr (1296) as to the constitution of the cathedral chapter (Willis, Survey, vol. ii. App. 134–6). In 1556 Goldwell issued a series of injunctions to his clergy, which prohibited married priests from celebrating mass, and forbade the schools which had begun to be held in churches for the benefit of the poor (Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 145). It was now proposed to make Goldwell ambassador at Rome, and to translate him to Oxford. On 31 Oct. letters of credence to the pope were made out, and on 5 Nov. 1558 he received the custody of the temporalities of his new see (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 111; Fœdera, xv. 492), while on 5 Nov. Thomas Wood, already nominated to St. Asaph, was entrusted with the custody of the scanty temporalities of Goldwell's former bishopric (Le Neve, i. 74). The death of the queen prevented either scheme from being carried out. At the time of Mary's death (17 Nov.) Goldwell was attending the deathbed of Cardinal Pole, to whom he administered extreme unction. He gave an account of the archbishop's last days to Beccatelli (Calendar State Papers, Venetian, 1557–8, p. 1556; cf. Beccatelli, Life of Cardinal Pole, translated by Pye, p. 130).
Goldwell was uncompromisingly hostile to the restoration of protestantism. In December he wrote a letter to Cecil, in which, though expressing his desire to be absent from the parliament, he complained that the writ was not sent to him, as he still considered himself bishop of St. Asaph (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 118). On 15 May 1559 he was summoned with the other bishops before the queen, when Archbishop Heath's ‘incompliant declaration’ showed Elizabeth that she had nothing to hope from their support. Goldwell was also 300l. in debt to the queen for the subsidy. On 26 June he wrote from St. Albans to his brother Stephen, asking him to go down to Wales and sell his goods there. He disappeared so quietly that his alarmed servants went to Stephen Goldwell's house to know what had become of their master (ib. p. 132). In vain Sir Nicholas Bacon ordered that the ports should be watched. He succeeded in gaining the continent in safety. The circumstances of his flight sufficiently refute the rumour that he carried off with him the registers and records of his see.
For the rest of his life Goldwell was one of the most active of the exiled English catholics. He started at once for Rome, but he fell sick on the way, and spent the winter at Louvain. Early in March 1560 he was seen at Antwerp purchasing the necessaries for the voyage. He had to borrow money for his journey (ib. For. 1559–60, p. 439). It was believed that he would be made a cardinal on his arrival, but he refused Italian bishoprics to devote himself to a ‘regular’ life, and to the winning back of England to his church. Perhaps the description of him contained in the mendacious account of his career which Cecil spread on the continent, that he was a ‘very simple and fond man,’ had some grain of truth in it (ib. For. 1561–2, p. 563). But on his arrival in Italy he went back to his old Theatine convent of St. Paul at Naples, and in January 1561 was made its superior. He was about the same time restored to his old office of warden of the English hospital at Rome. But he was sent almost at once to attend the council of Trent (1562). He was the only English bishop present at the council (ib. p. 555), and the marked respect paid to him there annoyed Elizabeth and Cecil very much. He was employed there in correcting the breviary, and urged Elizabeth's excommunication on the council. In the same year (1562) he was in correspondence with Arthur Pole and the other kinsfolk of his old master, who were now conspiring to effect the restoration of catholicism in England, and he shared their attainder (Strype, Annals, i. i. 556). In December 1563 Goldwell was made vicar-general to Carlo Borromeo, the famous archbishop of Milan. Soon after he was sent on an unsuccessful mission to Flanders, whence he found it impossible to cross over to England. He returned, therefore, to Italy, and in 1565 began to reside at the Theatine convent of St. Sylvester on Monte Cavallo. On three occasions, in 1566, 1567, and 1572, he presided over several chapters of the Theatine order. In 1567 he was made vicar of the cardinal archpriest in the Lateran Church. In 1574 he became vicegerent for Cardinal Savelli, the cardinal vicar, an office which involved his acting for the pope as diocesan bishop of Rome. In 1568 Arthur Hall, an English traveller, wrote to Cecil that he found Goldwell at Rome, and that he alone ‘used him courteously,’ while the rest of the catholic exiles from England denounced him as a heretic (Cal. State Papers, For. 1566–8, p. 514). In 1580 he is mentioned as receiving a pension from the king of Spain (ib. Dom. 1547–80, p. 694), and on 13 April of that year is mentioned as having left Rome for Venice (ib. p. 651). He was really gone on the proposed English mission [see Campion, Edmund], sent to win back England to the pope. It was proposed that he should act as bishop in charge of the catholic missionaries in England. But he was too old for such work. He was taken ill at Rheims, where he had arrived in May 1580. On his recovery he was sent for to Rome by Pope Gregory XIII, and left Rheims on 8 Aug. He was again in Rome in April 1581 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 468). In 1582 he acted on the congregation for revising the Roman martyrology. He died on 3 April 1585, and was buried in the Theatine convent. He is reputed to have been eighty-four years old, and must anyhow have been over seventy. Addison on his travels saw a portrait of Goldwell at Ravenna (Travels, p. 79). There is another in the English College at Rome. He was the last survivor of the old English hierarchy of the Roman obedience.[Archdeacon Thomas's Hist. of the Diocese of St. Asaph, pp. 84, 201, 225; Browne Willis's Survey of St. Asaph, ed. Edwards; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ii. 822–3, ed. Bliss; Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iv.; Cal. of State Papers, For. and Dom.; Rymer's Fœdera; Strype's Ecclesiastical Memorials and Annals of the Reformation, 8vo editions; Beccatelli's Life of Pole. A complete biography of Goldwell, by T. F. K. (Dr. Knox, of the London Oratory), entitled Thomas Goldwell, the Last Survivor of the Ancient English Hierarchy, was reprinted separately from the Month of 1876, and in Knox and Bridgett's True Story of the Catholic Hierarchy, 1889. It prints letters of Goldwell from the Record Office, and gives a detailed account of his Italian life, relying chiefly upon Del Tufo's Historia della religione de' cherici regolari (1609); Castaldo's Vita di Paolo IV (1615), and Vita del Beato Giovanni Marinoni (1616); and Silo's Hist. Clericorum Regularium (1650). Knox's account is summarised in Gillow's Bibl. Dict. of English Catholics, ii. 513–22.]