Peachell, John (DNB00)

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PEACHELL, JOHN (1630–1690), master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, son of Robert Peachell or Pechell of Fillingham, Lincolnshire, was educated at Gainsborough school, and was admitted as a sizar of Magdalene on 1 Aug. 1645. His subsequent degrees were B.A. 1649, M.A. 1653, S.T.B. 1661, S.T.P. 1680. He was elected fellow on Smith's foundation in 1649, on Spendluffe's in 1651, and a foundation fellow in 1656; and acquired a considerable popularity as a staunch toper and an unswerving royalist. In 1661 Pepys spent a merry evening with him at the Rose tavern in Cambridge; but he objected to be seen walking with Peachell on account of the rubicundity of the latter's nose. This proved no bar to his preferment; in 1663 he was presented by Sir John Cutts to the rectory of Childerley, Cambridgeshire, which he resigned upon obtaining the rectory of Dry Dray ton in the same county in 1681. He was also presented to the vicarage of Stanwix in Cumberland, and from 1667 to 1669 held a prebend at Carlisle (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 398). In 1679, moreover, Peachell became master of his college, and in 1686 vice-chancellor of the university. In the same year was issued from the university press in his name, 'Maestissimae ac laetissimae Academiae Cantabrigiensis affectus decedente Carolo II, succedente Jacobo II' (4to).

In the course of 1686 James II discovered that Dr. Lightfoot, the great rabbinical scholar, had not taken the oaths when he was admitted to his master's degree at Cambridge, and he promptly determined to take advantage of this precedent, and to furnish with royal letters patent a Roman catholic candidate for the degree, in the person of Alban Francis [q. v.], who was, says Burnet, 'an ignorant Benedictine monk.' According to Clarke, the king's idea was to familiarise those of different religions, and make them live in greater peace and unity together. However this might be, on 7 Feb. 1687 a royal letter was sent to Cambridge enjoining the admission of Francis, and on 21 Feb. this letter was laid before congregation. It was there decided that Francis should be admitted only on condition that he took the oaths. He, however, refused to be sworn, remonstrated with the officers of the university, and, finding them resolute, took horse and hastened to relate his grievance at Whitehall. Whereupon Peachell, at the urgent instance of the chief members of the senate, wrote to the Duke of Albemarle, who was then chancellor of the university, and also to the Earl of Sunderland, to beg their intercession with the king. Albemarle soon replied to Peachell that he had done his best for the university, but that in two special interviews he had only succeeded in provoking the displeasure of the king. Shortly afterwards (9 April) a summons was sent down citing the vice-chancellor and deputies of the senate (among whom was elected Mr. Isaac Newton) to appear before the ecclesiastical commissioners. When he appeared in the council-chamber on 21 April, Peachell, who, though an honest, was a very weak man, was thoroughly scared by Jeffreys, who sat at the head of the board. With some pains he got leave to prepare an answer in writing, and for the examination to be postponed for a week. He gave in his answer in writing on 27 April, and was summoned again on 7 May, when he made a lamentable exhibition of ignorance and timidity. Jeffreys began by asking what was the oath he had taken as vice-chancellor. After many evasions the unfortunate man stammered out 'that I should well and faithfully praestare or administrare munus. . . .' When other of the delegates who were more capable of defending their cause attempted to speak, they were rudely silenced. Finally Peachell was deprived both of his mastership and of the vice-chancellorship, and the deputation was contemptuously dismissed by Jeffreys with the words, 'Go your way and sin no more, lest a worse thing happen to you.' During this business Peachell stayed in town at Well Court, Bartholomew's Hospital, whence he addressed to Pepys several letters full of alarm at the situation. Shortly afterwards, however, he returned to Cambridge, and he was restored to his headship by James on 24 Oct. 1688. In the vice-chancellorship he was replaced by Dr. Balderstone, who proved a more resolute champion of the rights of the university. Peachell did not long survive the restitution of his emoluments as master of Magdalene. During a visit to Cambridge in the course of 1690 Sancroft rebuked him for setting an ill example in the university by drunkenness and ill-conduct. Peachell, says Burnet, did penance by four days' abstinence, after which he would have eaten, but could not. He was succeeded as master by Dr. Gabriel Quadring. No monument was erected over his tomb in the college chapel.

[Information from the registrary's office at Cambridge; Cole's Athenae Cantabr. (Addit. MS. 5873, f. 116); Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Anglic iii. 254; Woolrych's Life of Jeffreys; Macaulay's Hist, of England, chap. viii.; Pepys's Diary and Correspondence, ed. Braybrooke, 1849, i. 258, iv. 35, 454, v. 306, 324, 328; Corrie's Brief Hist. Notices of Interference of Crown with Affairs of the Universities; Cooper's Annal's of Cambridge University; Burnet's Own Time, 1838, vol. iii.; Luttrell's Brief Hist. Relation of State Affairs; Cartwright's Diary (Camden Soc.), p. 53; Howell's State Trials, xi. 1338; information kindly given by the hon. and rev. the Master of Magdalene College.]

T. S.