Edmund GRINDAL

(Archbishop of Canterbury)

Born: ABT 1519

Died: 6 Jul 1583

Buried: Croydon Church

Father: William GRINDAL

Mother: ?


His date of birth is uncertain, but he was the son of William Grindal, a farmer of Hensingham, in the parish of St Bees, Cumberland. Educated at St. Bees School, in Cumberland, in Company with Edwin Sandys. A well-informed antiquary writes: "The fact that both Grindal and Sandys became brilliant ornaments of the Reformed Church, would seem to suggest that their teacher at St. Bees must have been a man of Protestant tendencies". Both these prelates were born in the limits of the extended diocese of Carlisle; obscure, wild, and popish as that district must have been in the sixteenth century, yet two of its sons greatly influenced the character of the reformed Church of England. Grindal was educated at Magdalene and Christ's Colleges and then at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he graduated BA and was elected fellow in 1538. Having obtained his MA in 1541, he was ordained deacon in 1544 and was proctor and Lady Margaret preacher in 1548/9. Probably through the influence of Nicholas Ridley, who had been master of Pembroke Hall, Grindal was selected as one of the Protestant disputants during the visitation of 1549. He had a talent for this work and was often given similar tasks. When Ridley became Bishop of London, he made Grindal one of his chaplains and gave him the precentorship of St Paul's Cathedral. He was soon promoted to be one of King Edward VI's chaplains and prebendary of Westminster, and in Oct 1552 was one of six to whom the Forty-two articles were submitted for examination before being sanctioned by the Privy Council. According to John Knox, Grindal distinguished himself from most of the court preachers in 1553 by denouncing the worldliness of courtiers and foretelling the evils that would follow the King's death.

For this reason, Grindal was not made a Bishop and did not consider himself bound to await the evils which he had foretold. On the accession of Queen Mary, he made his way to Strasbourg. From there he proceeded to Frankfurt, where he tried to settle the disputes between the "Coxians", who regarded the 1552 Book of Common Prayer as the perfection of reform, and the Knoxians, who wanted further simplification. He returned to England in Jan 1559, after Elizabeth had come to the throne, was appointed to the committee to revise the liturgy, and was one of the Protestant representatives at the Westminster conference. In Jul he was also elected Master of Pembroke Hall in succession to the recusant Dr Thomas Young (1514-1580) and Bishop of London in succession to Edmund Bonner.

Grindal had qualms about vestments and other traces of "popery" as well as about the Erastianism of Elizabeth's ecclesiastical government. Firmly Protestant, he did not mind recommending that a priest "might be put to some torment" (Hatfield manuscripts i. 269); and in Oct 1562 he wrote to William Cecil, begging to know "if that second Julian, the king of Navarre, is killed; as he intended to preach at St Paul's Cross, and might take occasion to mention God's judgements on him" (Domestic Cal., 1547?1580, p. 209). Nevertheless, he was reluctant to execute judgments on English Puritans, and failed to give Matthew Parker much assistance in rebuilding the shattered fabric of the English Church.

Grindal lacked that firm faith in the supreme importance of uniformity and autocracy which enabled John Whitgift to persecute nonconformists whose theology was identical to his own. London, which was always a difficult see, involved Bishop Sandys in similar troubles when Grindal had gone to York. As it was, although Parker said that Grindal "was not resolute and severe enough for the government of London", his attempts to enforce the use of the surplice evoked angry protests, especially in 1565, when many nonconformists were suspended; and Grindal of his own accord denounced Thomas Cartwright to the Council in 1570. Other anxieties were brought upon him by the burning of his cathedral in 1561, for although Grindal himself is said to have contributed 1200 towards its rebuilding, the laity and even the clergy of his diocese were not generous.

In 1570 Grindal became Archbishop of York, where Puritans were few and coercion would be required mainly for Roman Catholics. His first letter from Cawood to Cecil told that he had not been well received, that the gentry were not "well-affected to godly religion and among the common people many superstitious practices remained". It is admitted by his Anglican critics that he did the work of enforcing uniformity against the Roman Catholics with good-will and considerable tact. He must have given general satisfaction, for even before Parker's death two persons so different as Burghley and Dean Nowell independently recommended Grindal's appointment as his successor, and Edmund Spenser speaks warmly of him in the Shepherd's Calendar as the "gentle shepherd Algrind". Burghley wished to conciliate the moderate Puritans and advised Grindal to mitigate the severity which had characterized Parker's treatment of the nonconformists.

Grindal indeed attempted a reform of the ecclesiastical courts, but his activity was cut short by a disagreement with the Queen. Elizabeth wanted Grindal to suppress the "prophesyings" or meetings for discussion which had come into vogue among the Puritan clergy, and she even wanted him to discourage preaching. Grindal remonstrated, claiming some voice for the Church, and in Jun 1577 was suspended from his jurisdictional, though not his spiritual, functions for disobedience. He stood firm, and in Jan 1578 Secretary Wilson informed Burghley that the Queen wished to have the Archbishop deprived. She was dissuaded from this extreme course, but Grindal's sequestration was continued in spite of a petition from Convocation in 1581 for his reinstatement. Elizabeth then suggested that he should resign; he declined to do so, and after apologising to the Queen he was reinstated towards the end of 1582. But his infirmities were increasing, and while making preparations for his resignation, he died and was buried in Croydon parish church. He left considerable benefactions to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, the Queen's College, Oxford, and Christ's College, Cambridge; he also endowed a free school at St Bees, and left money for the poor of St Bees, Canterbury, Lambeth and Croydon.

Strype's Life of Grindal is the principal authority; see also Dict. Nat. Biogr. and, besides the authorities there cited, Gough's General Index to Parker Soc. Pobl; Acts of the Privy Council; Cal. of Hatfield manuscripts; Dixon's Hist. of the Church of England; Frere's volume in Stephens' and Hunt's series; Cambridge Mod. Hist. vol. iii.; Gee's Elizabethan Clergy; Birt's Elizabethan Religious Settlement; and Pierce's Introduction to the Marprelate Tracts (1909).

Sources:

The Encyclopedia Britannica. (1911)

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