Whitgift, John (DNB00)
WHITGIFT, JOHN (1530?–1604), archbishop of Canterbury, was eldest son of Henry Whitgift, a well-to-do merchant of Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire, and Anne [Dynewell] his wife. According to Francis Thynne he was born at Great Grimsby in 1533, but he himself declared that in 1590 he reached the age of sixty. In childhood he attracted the favour of his uncle, Robert Whitgift, abbot of the Augustinian monastery at Wellow. The abbot was a liberal-minded ecclesiastic, and no blind opponent of the Reformation. Noticing his nephew's literary promise, he undertook the direction of his education. By his advice the boy was sent to St. Anthony's school in London, which had already numbered many distinguished men among its scholars. He lodged in St. Paul's Churchyard with his aunt, the wife of Michael Shaller, one of the cathedral vergers. She was a bigoted Romanist. Whitgift was out of sympathy with her views, and she finally drove him from the house. In due time he proceeded to Queens' College, Cambridge, but soon migrated to Pembroke Hall, where he matriculated as a pensioner in May 1550. At Pembroke Hall his predilection for the reformed religion was rapidly confirmed. Nicholas Ridley [q. v.] was the master, and his first tutor was the convinced protestant John Bradford (1510?–1555) [q. v.], who afterwards suffered martyrdom. He was appointed a bible-clerk, and graduated B.A. in 1553–4 and M.A. in 1557. Meanwhile his attainments were rewarded by his election on 31 May 1555 to a fellowship at Peterhouse. Andrew Perne [q. v.], the master, showed much liking for him, and although Perne's own religious views were pliant, he respected Whitgift's adherence to the principles of the Reformation. During the visitation of the university by Cardinal Pole's delegates in 1557, Perne screened him from persecution. Throughout Mary's reign Whitgift pursued his studies while engaged in college tuition.
It was not until the position of the protestant reformation was assured in England by the accession of Queen Elizabeth that Whitgift definitely entered the service of the church. He did not take holy orders until 1560. His first sermon was preached soon afterwards at Great St. Mary's, the university church, on the text ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ’ (Rom. i. 16). His delivery was admirable, and his reputation as a preacher was made. In the same year Dr. Richard Coxe, bishop of Ely, invited him to become his chaplain, and also collated him to the rectory of Teversham, Cambridgeshire. In 1563 he proceeded B.D., and was appointed Lady Margaret professor of divinity in the university. His first lecture dealt with the identity of the pope and Antichrist. Calvinistic views were in the ascendant in the university, and Whitgift throughout his career adhered to the doctrinal theories of Calvin; but he never approved the Calvinist principles of church government. In matters of ritual, however, he seemed for a time inclined to accept the views of the Calvinists. At first he shared the doubts of his future foe, Thomas Cartwright, the leader of the Calvinists in the university, as to the surplice. On 26 Nov. 1565 he signed the petition to Sir William Cecil, chancellor of the university, entreating him to withdraw his recent edict enjoining the use of surplices in college chapels. But these objections reflected a passing phase of Whitgift's opinions, and he was soon as convinced an advocate of Anglican ritual as of the episcopal form of church government.
On 10 June 1566 he was licensed to be one of the university preachers. On 5 July following the university marked their esteem for his lectures as Lady Margaret professor by raising his salary from twenty marks to 20l. Academic preferment flowed steadily towards him. On 6 April 1567 he left Peterhouse on his election to the mastership of Pembroke Hall. At the same time he was created D.D. But he remained at Pembroke Hall barely three months. On 4 July he was admitted master of Trinity College, and shortly afterwards he exchanged his Margaret professorship for the superior dignity of regius professor of divinity. He held that office for two years—till October 1569. Within the same period, on 5 Dec. 1568, he was collated to the third prebendal stall at Ely, and his name reached the court. He was summoned to preach before the queen. She was deeply impressed by his sermon, punningly declared him to be her ‘White-gift,’ and gave order that he should be sworn one of the royal chaplains. But his chief energies were absorbed by his academic duties. He suggested a revision of the statutes of the university, with a view to increasing the powers of the heads of houses. To them was to be practically entrusted the choice of vice-chancellor and of the ‘caput,’ a body which was to exercise supreme authority. The ‘caput’ was to be elected annually, and to consist of the chancellor and a doctor of each of the three faculties, with a non-regent and a regent master of arts (Mullinger, pp. 222 seq.). The statutes passed the great seal in the form that Whitgift designed on 25 Sept. 1570. The internal affairs of his college also exercised his constant attention. The Calvinistic leader Cartwright was a fellow of Trinity; Whitgift was by nature a disciplinarian, and, while sympathising with the leading doctrines of Calvinism, made up his mind to extend no toleration to Genevan principles of church government. Cartwright had of late powerfully denounced episcopacy, which Whitgift regarded as the only practicable form of church government, and had divided the college and the university into two hostile camps. Whitgift believed that peace could best be restored by the removal of Cartwright. In November 1570 he was elected vice-chancellor. Taking advantage of the new university statutes, he induced his fellow-members of the ‘caput’ in December 1570 to deprive Cartwright of the Lady Margaret professorship of divinity, which he had held for a year. This decisive step he followed up in September 1571 by decreeing Cartwright's expulsion from his fellowship at Trinity, which he had held for more than nine years. Whitgift's pretext was that Cartwright had not taken priest's orders within the statutory period. Such displays of resolution, while they increased his reputation with one section of the university, roused a storm of protest on the part of another. Whitgift retorted by threatening to resign the mastership and withdraw from the university. Six heads of houses on 28 Sept. appealed to Burghley to show Whitgift some special mark of favour. They declared that Whitgift's disciplinary measures were wise and beneficial, and that the university owed to him ‘the repressing of insolence and the maintaining of learning and well-doing.’ For the time his enemies acknowledged their defeat.
Meanwhile he was preparing for withdrawal if the need arose. On 19 June 1571 he was elected dean of Lincoln, and was installed in the cathedral on 2 Aug. On 31 Oct. Archbishop Parker granted him a faculty authorising him to hold with the deanery the mastership of Trinity College, the canonry at Ely, the rectory at Teversham, and any other benefice he chose. He had no scruples about taking full advantage of so valuable a dispensation. On 31 May 1572 he was collated to the prebend of Nassington in the church of Lincoln, and, although he resigned the rectory of Teversham about August 1572, he at once accepted the rectory of Laceby, Lincolnshire (Notes and Queries, 8th ser. i. 433). The clergy of the Lincoln diocese, with which he was thus associated in many capacities, returned him as their proctor to convocation, and towards the end of 1572 Archbishop Parker nominated him to preach the Latin sermon. On 14 May 1572 he was chosen prolocutor of the lower house.
Whitgift took wide views of the service he owed the church both inside and outside the university. He seized every opportunity that offered of championing its organisation against attack. In 1572 two violent tracts (each entitled ‘An Admonition to the Parliament’) recommended the reconstitution of the church on presbyterian lines. The first ‘Admonition’ was by two London clergymen, John Field and Thomas Wilcox [q. v.], and the second was by Whitgift's former opponent Cartwright. Whitgift at once answered the first ‘Admonition’ (not the second) in a pamphlet which was entitled ‘An Answere to a certen Libel intituled An Admonition to the Parliament. By John Whitgifte, D. of Diuinitie’ (London, 1572, by Henrie Bynneman for Humfrey Toy; black letter). Whitgift's tract had a wide circulation, and reappeared next year ‘newly augmented by the authour.’ He wrote with force of his conviction that the episcopal form of church government was an essential guarantee of law and order in the state. Cartwright readily crossed swords with the master of his college, to whom he owed his expulsion, and his ‘Replye’ to Whitgift's ‘Answere’ overflowed with venom. Whitgift returned to the charge in his ‘Defense of the Answere to the Admonition’ (London, 1574, fol.). ‘I do charge all men before God and his angels,’ he solemnly warned ‘the godly reader’ at the conclusion of his preface, ‘as they will answer at the day of judgment, that under the pretext of zeal they seek not to spoil the church; under the colour of perfection they work not confusion; under the cloak of simplicity they cover not pride, ambition, vainglory, arrogancy; under the outward show of godliness they nourish not contempt of magistrates, popularity, anabaptistry, and sundry other pernicious and pestilent errors.’ Cartwright again answered Whitgift in both a ‘Second Replie’ (1575) and ‘The Rest of the Second Replie’ (1577), but Whitgift deemed it wise to abstain from further direct altercation with his obstinate enemy.
In 1573 Whitgift was for a second time elected vice-chancellor of Cambridge University. On 26 March 1574 he preached about church government before the queen at Greenwich, and his sermon was printed and published. In 1576 he was a commissioner for the visitation of St. John's College, and in the same year entreated the chancellor of the university to take effective steps to prevent the sale of fellowships and scholarships (28 March 1576; Strype, Life, bk. i. cap. xiii; Mullinger, p. 269). But Whitgift's activities were now to find a wider field for exercise than was offered by academic functions. On 17 March 1574–5 Archbishop Parker suggested his appointment to the see of Norwich, but the recommendation was neglected. Parker's second suggestion of a like kind was successful. On 24 March 1576–7 Whitgift was nominated to the bishopric of Worcester; he was enthroned by proxy on 5 May 1577, and had restitution of the temporalities on the 10th. Next month he resigned the mastership of Trinity, which had prospered conspicuously, as his successor Dr. Still eloquently acknowledged, during his ten years' vigorous rule. His pupils included many men who were to win distinction in after life—among them Francis Bacon and Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex; but the latter only formally entered the college a month before Whitgift left it. Whitgift stoutly protested against the claims of Westminster school to a practical monopoly of scholarships at Trinity, after the manner in which the endowments of King's College were monopolised by Eton, and those of New College, Oxford, by Winchester. Whitgift secured a modification of the Westminster monopoly, but that only proved temporary. Macaulay in his ‘Essay on Bacon’ misrepresented the effect, though not the spirit, of Whitgift's action, and erroneously assigned the distinguished part that Trinity College has played in the educational history of the country to Whitgift's opposition to the Westminster monopoly (Mullinger, pp. 272–7). After preaching farewell sermons at Great St. Mary's and in Trinity College chapel, the new bishop was escorted to his home at Worcester by a cavalcade of university friends.
Whitgift discharged his episcopal functions with characteristic zeal. Every Sunday he preached either in his cathedral or in a parish church of his diocese. He cultivated the society of the gentry, and employed his influence to allay disputes among them. The story is told that two of his neighbours, Sir John Russell and Sir Henry Berkeley, between whom there long existed a deadly feud, on one occasion arrived in Worcester each at the head of an armed band of friends and followers. Whitgift ordered the leaders to be arrested by his guard and to be brought to his palace. There he discussed with them their points of disagreement for two hours, with the result that they left his presence as friends. His judicial temperament caused him to be nominated a royal commissioner to visit the cathedrals of Lichfield and Hereford. In both chapters serious quarrels were rife, and Whitgift succeeded in terminating them.
The queen proved her respect for him not merely by foregoing her first-fruits, but by resigning to him, so long as he remained at Worcester, the right, hitherto exercised by the crown, of filling the prebends in his cathedral church (4 Aug. 1581). But marks of royal favour did not imperil his independence or his sense of the duty he owed the church. The queen's favourite, the Earl of Leicester, showed little respect for church property, and he and his friends were in the habit of diverting to themselves the incomes of vacant sees. Leicester had shown sympathy with Cartwright, and had no liking for Whitgift. Whitgift now solemnly protested against this misappropriation of ecclesiastical revenues, and in an elaborate and dignified speech which he pronounced before the queen solemnly warned her that her future salvation depended on the security she gave the inherited estates of the church (WALTON, Life of Hooker). The queen acknowledged the justice of the rebuke. But it was not solely ecclesiastical work that occupied him while he was bishop of Worcester. Soon after his elevation he was appointed vice-president of the marches of Wales in the absence in Ireland of the president, Sir Henry Sidney. He held the office for two years and a half, and performed multifarious administrative duties with beneficial energy and thoroughness.
On 6 July 1583 Edmund Grindal, archbishop of Canterbury, died at Croydon. On 14 Aug. Whitgift was nominated to succeed him. He was enthroned at Canterbury on 23 Oct. Unlike his three immediate predecessors—Cranmer, Parker, and Grindal—he took part in the ceremony in person instead of by proxy. His father had left him a private fortune, which enabled him to restore to the primacy something of the feudal magnificence which had characterised it in earlier days. He maintained an army of retainers. He travelled on the occasion of his triennial visitations with a princely retinue. His hospitality was profuse. His stables and armoury were better furnished than those of the richest nobleman. The queen approved such outward indications of dignity in her officers of state, and the friendly feeling which she had long cherished for him increased after he was installed at Lambeth. She playfully called him ‘her little black husband,’ and treated him as her confessor, to whom she was reported to reveal ‘the very secrets of her soul.’ The whole care of the church was, she declared, delegated to him (ib.) She was frequently his guest at Lambeth, and until her death the amity between them knew no interruption.
Whitgift held the primacy for more than twenty years. His predecessor Grindal, owing in part to feebleness of health and in part to personal sympathy with puritanism, had outraged the queen's sense of order by tolerating much diversity of ritual among the clergy. Such procedure in Elizabeth's eyes spelt ruin for the church and country. The queen eagerly promised Whitgift a free hand on the understanding that he would identify himself unmistakably with the cause of uniformity. Whitgift had no hesitation in accepting the condition. From the first he concentrated his abundant energies on regulating and rigorously enforcing discipline throughout the church's bounds. Puritan doctrine was not uncongenial to him, but with puritan practice wherever it conflicted with the Book of Common Prayer or the Act of Uniformity he resolved to have no truce. To Roman catholicism he was directly opposed in regard to both its doctrine and practice, but, like all the statesmen of the day, he regarded Roman catholicism in England chiefly as a political danger, and while supporting with enthusiasm penal legislation of an extreme kind against catholics, he was content to let others initiate schemes for repressing the exercise of the papist religion. The stifling of puritanism, especially in the ranks of the clergy, he regarded as his peculiar function. He not merely devised the practical measures for the purpose, but refused to allow the queen's ministers to modify them, and closed his ears to arguments, however influential the quarter whence they came, in favour of laxity in the administration of a coercive policy.
His first step was to draw up in 1583 a series of stringent articles which, among other things, prohibited all preaching, reading, or catechising in private houses, and forbade any one to execute ecclesiastical functions unless he first subscribed to the royal supremacy, pledged himself to abide in all things by the Book of Common Prayer, and accepted the Thirty-nine Articles. The articles received the queen's sanction, and were put into force during Whitgift's first visitation. All clergymen who hesitated to assent to them were suspended from their duties. On the anniversary of the queen's accession (17 Nov. 1583) the archbishop preached at St. Paul's Cross, and took for his text (1 Cor. vi. 10) ‘Railers shall not inherit the kingdom of God’ (the sermon was published in 1589). At the same time he successfully recommended that the high commission court should be granted greatly augmented powers. By his advice the crown delegated to the court, which was thenceforth to consist of forty-four commissioners, (twelve of them to be bishops), all its powers in the way of discovering and punishing heretics and schismatics. In 1584 Whitgift drew up a list of twenty-four articles, or interrogatories, which were to be administered by the amended court of high commission to any of the clergy whom the court, of its own initiative, thought good to question. The new procedure obliged a suspected minister to answer upon oath (called the oath ex officio) whether he was in the habit of breaking the law, and thus he was forced to become evidence against himself. Burghley doubted the wisdom of such courses, which he explained to Whitgift ‘too much savoured of the Romish inquisition, and [were] rather a device to seek for offenders than to reform any.’ Whitgift replied at length that the procedure was well known to many courts of the realm, but promised not to apply it except when private remonstrances had failed. The clergy and many influential sympathisers protested against Whitgift's procedure with no greater effect. Such ministers of Kent as were suspended from the execution of their ministry addressed a strong remonstrance to the privy council. The ministers of Suffolk followed the example of their Kentish colleagues. Leicester and other members of the council urged the archbishop to show greater moderation. Whitgift peremptorily refused. He asserted that the puritan ministers were very few in number. He knew only ten nonconformist clergy of any account in his own diocese of Kent, where sixty ministers enthusiastically supported his policy at all points. The House of Commons joined in the attack on the ex-officio oath and the new articles of subscription that Whitgift imposed on the clergy, but Whitgift retorted that the complaints came from lawyers whose learning was too limited to warrant any attention being paid to it. He declined to be moved from any of his positions, and in order to crush adverse criticism he caused to be passed in the high commission court on 23 Jan. 1586 an extraordinarily rigorous decree—known as the Star-chamber decree—which seemed to render public criticism impossible. No manuscript was to be set up in type until it had been perused and licensed by the archbishop or the bishop of London. The press of any printer who disobeyed the ordinance was to be at once destroyed; he was prohibited from following his trade thenceforth, and was to suffer six months' imprisonment (Arber, Transcript of Stationers' Company, ii. 810). Elizabeth's faith in the archbishop was confirmed by his rigorous action. He was admitted a member of the privy council on 2 Feb. 1585–6, and regularly attended its meetings thenceforth. The absence of Leicester in the Low Countries during 1586, and his death in 1588, deprived the puritans of a powerful advocate, and the archbishop of a powerful critic. The patriotic fervour excited by the Spanish armada also strengthened Whitgift's hands, and officers of state grew less inclined to question the wisdom of his policy. In 1587, on the death of Sir Thomas Bromley, he was offered the post of lord chancellor, but declined it in favour of Sir Christopher Hatton, whose attitude to puritanism coincided with his own and rendered him a valuable ally. In government circles Whitgift's relentless persistency silenced all active opposition.
The archbishop was not indifferent to the advantage of effective literary support. Early in 1585 he recommended Richard Hooker [q. v.] for appointment to the mastership of the Temple, and next year he silenced Walter Travers [q. v.], the puritan champion, who was afternoon lecturer at the Temple, and had violently denounced Hooker's theological views. Hooker dedicated to Whitgift his ‘Answer’ to charges of heresy which Travers brought against him, and the archbishop evinced the strongest interest in Hooker's great effort in his ‘Ecclesiastical Polity’ to offer a logical justification of the Anglican establishment.
Meanwhile the activity of the archbishop exasperated the puritans, and, in spite of his enslavement of the press, they for a time triumphantly succeeded in defying him in print. John Penry [q. v.] and his friends arranged for the secret publication of a series of scurrilous attacks on the episcopate which appeared at intervals during nearly two years under the pseudonym of ‘Martin Mar-Prelate.’ The fusillade began in 1588 with the issue of Martin Mar-Prelate's ‘Epistle,’ and was sharply maintained until the end of 1589. Throughout, Whitgift was a chief object of the assault. ‘The Epistle’ (1588), the earliest of the tracts, opened with the taunt that Whitgift had never replied to Cartwright's latest contributions to the past controversy. Penry's address to parliament in 1589 was stated on the title-page to be an exposure of ‘the bad & injurious dealing of th' Archb. of Canterb. & other his colleagues of the high commission.’ In the ‘Dialogue of Tyrannical Dealing’ (1589) Whitgift was denounced as more ambitious than Wolsey, prouder than Gardiner, more tyrannical than Bonner. In the ‘Just Censure and Reproof’ (1589) the pomp which characterised Whitgift's progresses through his diocese was boisterously ridiculed: ‘Is seven score horse nothing, thinkest thou, to be in the train of an English priest?’ Elsewhere the archbishop was described as the ‘Beelzebub of Canterbury,’ ‘the Canterbury Caiaphas,’ ‘a monstrous Antichrist,’ and ‘a most bloody tyrant.’ The attack roused all Whitgift's resentment. He accepted Bancroft's proposal that men of letters should be induced to reply to the Mar-Prelate tracts after their own indecent fashion, but he deemed it his personal duty to suppress the controversy at all hazards. He personally directed the search for the offending libellers, and pushed the powers of the high commission court to the extremest limits in order first to obtain evidence against suspected persons, and then to secure their punishment. In his examination of prisoners he showed a brutal insolence which is alien to all modern conceptions of justice or religion. He invariably argued for the severest penalties. Of two of the most active Mar-Prelate pamphleteers, Penry died on the scaffold, and Udal in prison. Nor did he relax his efforts against older offenders. In 1590 Cartwright was committed to prison for refusing to take the ex-officio oath. In all parts of the country ministers met with the same fate. But Whitgift reached the conclusion that more remained to be done. In 1593 he induced the queen to appeal to parliament to pass an act providing that those who refused to attend church, or attended unauthorised religious meetings, should be banished. In the result the church's stoutest opponents left their homes and found in Holland the liberty denied them in their own country. By such means Whitgift was able to boast that he put an end for a season to militant nonconformity.
After the crisis Whitgift showed with bold lack of logical consistency that he remained in theory well disposed to those portions of Calvinist doctrine which did not touch ritual or discipline. Cambridge was still a stronghold of Calvinist doctrine, and the Calvinistic leaders of the university begged Whitgift in 1595 to pronounce authoritatively in their favour. He summoned William Whitaker [q. v.], the professor of divinity, and one or two other Cambridge tutors to Lambeth to confer with him in conjunction with the bishops of London and Bangor and the dean of Ely. As a result of the conference Whitgift drew up on 20 Nov. 1595 the so-called Lambeth articles, nine in number, which adopted without qualification the Calvinist views of predestination and election. The archbishop of York (Hutton), who was not present at the conference, wrote to express approval. Whitgift in a letter to the vice-chancellor and heads of colleges at Cambridge, while strongly urging them to allow no other doctrine to be taught publicly, stated that the propositions were not laws or decrees, but mere explanations of the doctrine of the church (24 Nov.) The queen did not appreciate Whitgift's attitude, and for the first time complained of his action. Through Sir Robert Cecil, her secretary, she bade the archbishop ‘suspend’ his pronouncement (5 Dec.) Three days later Whitgift confidentially informed Dr. Neville, master of Trinity, that the articles must not be formally published owing to the queen's dislike of them. He had only intended to let the Cambridge Calvinists know that ‘he did concur with them in judgment and would to the end, and meant not to suffer any man to impugn [those opinions] openly or otherwise.’ There the matter was allowed to drop. For the remaining years of the queen's reign Whitgift mainly confined his attention to administrative reforms. Order was taken to secure a higher standard of learning among the inferior clergy (Wilkins, Concilia, iv. 321; Cardwell, Synodalia, ii. 562), and canons were passed in 1597 to prevent the abuse of non-residence. It is said by his biographer Paule that he sought a reconciliation with Cartwright. But Whitgift still fought hard for the independence of ecclesiastical courts, and, while revising their procedure, he protested in 1600 against the growing practice in the secular courts of law of granting ‘prohibitions’ suspending the ordinances of the court of high commission.
On the occasion of Essex's rebellion in January 1600–1, Whitgift, despite his personal friendship for the earl, who was his old pupil, showed the utmost activity in anticipating an attack on the queen. He sent from Lambeth a small army of forty horsemen and forty footmen to protect the court in case of need. The archbishop's troop of footmen secured Essex's arrest at Essex House, and conducted him to Lambeth before carrying him to the Tower. Whitgift attended Queen Elizabeth during her last illness, and was at her bedside when she died at Richmond on 23 March 1602–3. He acted as chief mourner at her funeral in Westminster Abbey. Meanwhile he was not neglectful of his relations with her successor. He attended the council at which James VI of Scotland was proclaimed king, and at once sent Thomas Neville, dean of Canterbury, to Edinburgh to convey his congratulations. He employed terms of obsequiousness which have exposed him to adverse criticism, but he was merely following the forms in vogue in addressing sovereigns. At the king's invitation he forwarded a report on the state of the church, and received satisfactory assurances that the king would prove his fidelity to the Anglican establishment. In May Whitgift met the king for the first time at Theobalds on his way to London, and on 25 July celebrated his coronation. The puritans hoped for new liberty from the new régime, and Whitgift found himself compelled to adopt the king's suggestion of a conference with the puritan clergy, in order that the points of difference between them might be distinctly stated. The conference was opened at Hampton Court on 16 Jan. 1603–4. The king presided. Whitgift attended as the veteran champion of orthodoxy, but it was left to Richard Bancroft, bishop of London, to take the leading part in the discussions. The archbishop was placed in an embarrassing position by the importunity of John Rainoldes, the leader of the puritan disputants, in urging the formal adoption by the heads of the church of Whitgift's Lambeth articles. James I finally decided the main points in the bishops' favour.
Whitgift was feeling the inconveniences of old age. In February 1604 he caught cold while travelling on his barge from Lambeth to the bishop of London's residence at Fulham to consult with the bishops on church business. A few days later—the first Sunday in Lent—he went to dine at Whitehall, and while at dinner was stricken with paralysis. He was removed to Lambeth. The king paid him a visit a few days later, but his power of speech was gone. He could only ejaculate at intervals the words ‘Pro ecclesia Dei.’ He died—‘like a lamb,’ according to his attendant and biographer, Paule—on 29 Feb. 1603–4. The next day his body was carried to Croydon, and his funeral was solemnised there on 27 March 1604 in great state. A sermon was preached by Gervase Babington, bishop of Worcester. In the south-east corner of the chantry of St. Nicholas in the parish church of Croydon there was set up a monument on which lay his recumbent effigy, with his hands in the act of prayer; the decoration included his armorial bearings as well as those of the sees of Canterbury and Worcester, the deanery of Lincoln, and the colleges of Peterhouse, Pembroke Hall, and Trinity, at Cambridge. The monument was much injured in the fire which nearly destroyed the church on 5 Jan. 1867. Thomas Churchyard [q. v.] issued on Whitgift's death a poem called ‘Churchyards Good Will, sad and heavy Verses in the nature of an Epitaph’ (London, 1604, 4to; reprinted in Park's ‘Heliconia,’ vol. iii.) Another ‘epitaph’ in the form of a pamphlet appeared anonymously in the same year from the pen of John Rhodes, and a eulogistic life by the controller of his household, Sir George Paule [q. v.], was published in 1612.
With his contemporaries Whitgift's character stood very high, in spite of the rancour with which he was pursued by puritan pamphleteers. The poet Thomas Bastard, in his ‘Chrestoleros’ (1598), apostrophised his ‘excelling worth’ and purity (cf. Gamage, Linsie Woolsie, 1621). According to John Stow, who dedicated his ‘Annals’ to him in 1592, he was ‘a man born for the benefit of his country and the good of his church.’ Camden asserts that ‘he devoutly consecrated both his whole life to God and his painful labours to the good of his church.’ Sir Henry Wotton terms him ‘a man of reverend and sacred memory; and of the primitive temper, as when the church did flourish in highest example of virtue.’ Fuller pronounces him ‘one of the worthiest men that ever the English hierarchy did enjoy.’ Izaak Walton asserted that ‘he was noted to be prudent and affable, and gentle by nature.’ Hooker credited him with patience. Despite the pomp which he maintained at Lambeth and on his visitations, he was not personally self-indulgent. When master of Trinity he usually took his meals with the undergraduates in the college hall, and shared ‘their moderate, thrifty diet.’ In his latest years he frequently dined with his poor pensioners at his Croydon hospital, and ate their simple fare. But the animosities which he excited by his rigorous coercion lived long after him, and such features in his character as these were overlooked or denied. Prynne, in his ‘Antipathy of the English Lordly Prelacy’ (1641), condemned him not only for his oppression, but for his lack of spiritual temper, as evidenced by the magnificence of his household and his maintenance of a garrison of retainers. Macaulay, echoing the views of the puritan historians, calls him ‘a narrow-minded, mean, and tyrannical priest, who gained power by servility and adulation, and employed it in persecuting both those who agreed with Calvin about church government and those who differed from Calvin touching the doctrine of reprobation.’
Whitgift's public work can only be fairly judged in relation to his environment. The modern conceptions of toleration and comprehension, by which Macaulay tested his conduct, lay outside his mental horizon. He conceived it to be his bounden duty to enforce the law of the land in ecclesiastical matters sternly and strictly. The times were critical, and he believed the Anglican establishment could not resist the assaults of catholics on the one hand and puritans on the other unless they were repressed summarily and by force. His personal acceptance of the doctrinal theories of some of the revolting clergy went in his mind for nothing when he was engaged in the practical business of governing the church. The passive obedience of the clergy to the bishops in all matters touching discipline and ritual was in his eyes the fundamental principle of episcopacy. Active divergence from discipline or ritual as established by law, of which the bishops were sole authorised interpreters, placed the clergy in the position of traitors or rebels. Much cruelty marked his administration, and he gave puritanism something of the advantage that comes of persecution. The effect of his policy was to narrow the bounds of the church, but within the limits that he assigned it he made the Anglican establishment a stubbornly powerful and homogeneous organisation which proved capable a few years later of maintaining its existence against what seemed to be overwhelming odds.
Whitgift was unmarried. Throughout his life he encouraged learning and interested himself in education. At Lambeth, as at Trinity College, Cambridge, he took charge of young men to whose training he devoted much attention. According to his earliest biographer, Sir George Paule, ‘his home, for the lectures and scolastic exercise therein performed, might justly be accounted a little academy, and in some respects superior and more profitable—viz. for martial affairs and the experience that divines and other scholars had, being near, and often at the court and chief seats of justice, from whence they continually had the passages and intelligences both for matters of state and government, in causes ecclesiastical and civil.’
While rector of Teversham Whitgift and Margaret, widow of Bartholomew Fulnetby of that place, founded a bible clerkship at Peterhouse. They also settled 3l. per annum for the relief of poor widows of the parish of Clavering in Essex. He gave to Trinity College a piece of plate and a collection of manuscripts. He also gave a manuscript of the Complutensian bible to Pembroke Hall, and a hundred marks to the city of Canterbury. Under letters patent from Queen Elizabeth, dated 22 Nov. 1595, he founded at Croydon a hospital and a free school dedicated to the Holy Trinity, for a warden, schoolmaster, and twenty poor men and women, or as many more under forty as the revenues would admit. The structure, a brick edifice of quadrangular form, was finished on 29 Sept. 1599, at a cost of 2,716l. 11s. 1d., the revenues at that period being 185l. 4s. 2d. per annum. Whitgift's statutes, from a manuscript at Lambeth, were printed in Ducarel's ‘Croydon,’ 1783, and separately in 1810. The foundation is still maintained, and the endowment is now worth 4,000l. a year. The hospital maintains thirty-nine poor persons, each male inmate receiving 40l. a year and each female 30l. Two schools are now supported out of the benefaction. The original school was removed to new buildings at Croydon in 1871, and in addition there has been opened the ‘Whitgift Middle School.’
The chief tracts and sermons published by Whitgift in his lifetime have been mentioned. A collection of these works, with much that he left in manuscript, was edited for the Parker Society by the Rev. John Ayre, Cambridge, 1851–3 (3 vols. 8vo). These volumes contain his tracts against Cartwright, sermons, letters, and extracts from his determinations and lectures. Many notes by Whitgift remain in manuscript at Lambeth, in the Tanner manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, and in various collections at the Public Record Office and the British Museum.
Portraits of Whitgift are at Lambeth Palace, at Knole, in the Whitgift hospital at Croydon, Durham Castle, the University Library, Cambridge, Trinity College, and Peterhouse, Cambridge, and the picture gallery at Oxford. His portrait has been engraved in the ‘Herωologia,’ and by R. White, George Vertue, Thomas Trotter, and J. Fittler.[The earliest biography was the sympathetic Life ‘written by Sir George Paule, knight, comptroller of his Graces Householde’ (London, printed by Thomas Snodham, 1612; another edit. 1699); reprinted in Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biography, vol. iv. There is a good sketch of the archbishop in Izaak Walton's Life of Hooker. But the fullest account is Strype's Life and Acts of Whitgift, London, 1718, fol., with an engraved portrait by Vertue (1822, 3 vols. 8vo, with an engraved portrait by J. Fittler). See also Hook's Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury, vol. v.; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. vol. ii.; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge; Mullinger's University of Cambridge, 1884; Maskell's Marprelate Controversy; Arber's Introduction to Marprelate Controversy; William Pierce's Historical Introduction to the Marprelate Tracts, 1908; Acts of the Privy Council; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1576–1604; Collier's Eccles. Hist.; Soames's Elizabethan Hist.; Fuller's Church History; Ducarel's Croydon and Lambeth; Hallam's Constitutional Hist.; Garrow's Hist. and Antiq. of Croydon, with a Sketch of the Life of Whitgift, Croydon, 1818.]