Staples, Edward (DNB00)

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STAPLES or STAPLE, EDWARD (1490?–1560?), bishop of Meath, born probably about 1490, is said to have been a native of Lincolnshire or Lancashire. He was educated first at Oxford and then at Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1511, and M.A. in 1514. In 1525 he was made canon of Cardinal College, Oxford, and on 9 March 1525-6 he supplicated for incorporation in Oxford University, and for the degrees B.D. and D.D. (Reg. Univ. Oxon. i. 142). About the same time he was appointed chaplain to Henry VIII. On 7 March 1527-8 he was presented to the prebend of Wigginton in the collegiate church of Tamworth, but resigned it in the following July, and was appointed master of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, iv. 4124, 4489, 4594). He resigned the latter post in July 1532 on being instituted to the vicarage of Thaxted, Essex.

Meanwhile, in 1530, at Henry's request, the pope provided Staples to the bishopric of Meath. In that capacity he took a prominent part in the government of Ireland, and in the strife between the various factions of the official class. In 1534 he was compelled to flee to England before the rebellion of Thomas Fitzgerald, tenth earl of Kildare [q. v.] He returned in the following year, when he and Archbishop George Browne (d. 1556) [q. v.] became Henry VIII's principal instruments in introducing the Reformation into Ireland. His relations with Browne, however, were always hostile. Staples was not so advanced as the archbishop, and clung to the mass, though he was 'as zealous as any' for the royal supremacy, and it was partly owing to his urgent advice that Henry assumed the title of king of Ireland. His quarrel with Browne became such a scandal that on 31 July 1537 Henry wrote to Browne threatening to remove him for his lightness of behaviour and pride, and to Staples censuring his neglect of his ecclesiastical duties (Cal. State Papers, Irish, 1509-71, p. 28). Little effect seems to have been produced, and on one occasion in 1538, while preaching before Browne in Kilmainham church, Staples denounced him as a heretic. This sermon was examined by the Irish council, and both Staples and Browne complained to Cromwell, but the quarrel was patched up. In 1544, as a reward for his zeal, Staples was allowed to annex the archdeaconry of Kells.

After Edward VI's accession Staples's Protestant opinions became more pronounced. On 7 April 1547 he was granted the parsonage of Ardbraccan, and soon after was made judge of faculties. About this time he married, and preached a strong sermon against the mass, which rendered him intensely unpopular in his diocese. In June 1552, in a discussion at St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin, he maintained the protestant cause against George Dowdall [q. v.], archbishop of Armagh (Mant, Hist. of the Church of Ireland, i. 207–11). In August 1553 he took part in the proclamation of Queen Mary, but on 29 June 1554 he was deprived on account of his marriage. He remained in his diocese, destitute and disliked, and on 16 Dec. 1558, after Elizabeth's accession, he wrote to Cecil relating his woes and seeking preferment. He was not, however, restored to his see, and, as no subsequent mention of him occurs, he is believed to have died soon after.

[State Papers, Henry VIII, vols. i–iii. passim; Cal. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer and Gairdner; Cal. State Papers, Irish Ser.; Cal. Carew MSS.; Cotton's Fasti Eccl. Hib. iii. 115, 131, v. 221; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Hib.; Wood's Athenae Oxon.; Cooper's Athenae Cantabr. i. 190; Ware's Bishops of Ireland ed. Harris; Mant's Hist. Church of Ireland, i. 127, 149, 198,206, 208, 234–5; Dixon's Hist. Church of England; Cogan's Diocese of Meath, i. 84–104, ii. 258; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, vols. i–ii. passim; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714.]

A. F. P.