Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sharp, Leonel

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SHARP or SHARPE, LEONEL (1559–1631), royal chaplain, second son of Robert Sharpe, a merchant, of London, and of Julian, eldest daughter of Sir Richard Mallorie, lord mayor, was born in 1559 (Harl. Soc. Publ. vi. 259). He entered Eton College in 1576, and proceeded as fellow to King's College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1581, M.A. in 1584, and received from the university the degree of D.D. before 1603. In 1588 he was present at Tilbury camp in the capacity of chaplain to the Earl of Essex, and was chosen, as he states, to repeat Elizabeth's celebrated oration to the whole army assembled there (Letter to Buckingham in Cabala sive Scrinia Sacra, p. 259). In 1589 and in 1596 he accompanied Essex in his expeditions to Cadiz and Portugal, and his share in these exploits fostered his strong anti-papal and anti-Spanish tendencies (ib. p. 259; Birch, Mem, of Elizabeth, ii. 17). In 1590 Sharp became rector of Malpas in Cheshire, and in 1597 of Tiverton and Stoke-in-Teignhead in Devonshire. When Essex was executed for treason, Sharp was banished to his Devonshire parishes. In May 1601, in a letter to Cecil, he professed the strongest personal affection for Essex, but asserted that when he became aware of his patron's disloyalty he had not hesitated for a moment to espouse the queen's cause (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1601-3, p. 27). He was soon after appointed a royal chaplain. True to his policy of ingratiating himself with those in authority, Sharp celebrated the commencement of James I's reign by a laudatory sermon on Solomon and the queen of Sheba, at St. Mary's. He also succeeded in obtaining the patronage of the Earl of Northampton, whom the new reign brought into prominence. In 1605 he became archdeacon of Berkshire and rector of North Moreton in that county. He was also about this time appointed chaplain to Henry, prince of Wales, in which capacity he addressed a congratulatory epistle to him on his escape from the gunpowder plot (Birch, Life of Prince Henry, pp. 62, 415).

But his career at court soon terminated after Prince Henry's death in 1612. Already, in 1606, he had been summoned to clear himself to the council of the suspicion of endeavouring to stir up strife between the English and the Scottish factions at court (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Add. 1580-1625, p. 482). In 1614 John Hoskins (1566-1638) [q. v.] speaking in parliament concerning Scottish favourites, made an allusion to the Sicilian Vespers. On being called to account he pleaded that he did not understand the nature of his threat, but that it had been suggested to him by Sharp. Both Hoskins and Sharp, together with Sir Charles Cornwallis, who was also implicated, were committed to the Tower on 22 June. Sharp's health suffered from confinement, but he was not released till 15 June of the following year (ib. 1611-1618, pp. 237, 289, 344).

Sharp made several attempts to regain favour by means of obsequious sermons. He also wrote several letters to the king and to various ministers, in which he advocated the adoption of Elizabeth's domestic policy, and magnified the part which he had formerly played in state affairs (ib. 1628-9, pp. 96, 541; Cabala, pp. 285-7). In 1618,

accordaccording to Chamberlain, he penned the defence of Sir Lewis Stukeley [q. v.] against the charge of betraying Sir Walter Ralegh (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-18, p. 600). In the same year the university of Oxford conferred on him the honorary degree of D.D. In his later years he resided at Boughton Malherb in Kent, one of his parishes. There he died on 1 Jan. 1630-1, and was buried in the church, a marble monument marking his grave. About 1597 he married Ann, daughter of John Chichester of Hall in Devonshire.

He was the author of:

  1. 'Dialogus inter Angliam et Scotiam,' Cambridge, 1603, 8vo.
  2. 'Oratio Funebris in honorem Henrici Wall. Prin.,' 1612, London, 4to, with verses by his brothers Edward, Andrew, and William, prefixed; translated into English by Edward Sharp, 1616, 4to.
  3. 'Novum Fidei Symbolum,' 1612, London, 4to.
  4. 'Speculum Papae,' 1612, London, 4to.

The last two were jointly translated into English under the title 'A Looking-glass for the Pope,' 1623, 4to.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon, ed. Bliss, iv. 625; Foster's 'Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Harwood's Alumni Eton. p. 187; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 385; Lansdowne MS. 984, f. 92; Gardiner's Hist. of Engl. ii. 250; Birch's Court and Times of James I, i. 326; Reliquiae Wottonianæ, p. 34; Hasted's Kent, ii. 437; Gent. Mag. 1820, ii. 16; Le Neve's Fasti, ii. 636; Hazlitt's Handbook, p. 552.]

E. I. C.