John Stokesley

John Stokesley (c. 1475 – 8 September 1539) was an English church leader who was Catholic Bishop of London during the reign of Henry VIII.

The Right Reverend

John Stokesley
Bishop of London
ChurchRoman Catholic
DioceseDiocese of London
Term ended1539 (death)
PredecessorCuthbert Tunstall
SuccessorEdmund Bonner
Consecrationc. 1530
by John Longland
Personal details
Bornc. 1475
Collyweston, Northamptonshire
Died(1539-09-08)8 September 1539
DenominationRoman Catholic
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford


Stokesley was born at Collyweston in Northamptonshire, and became a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1495, serving also as a lecturer. In 1498 he was made principal of Magdalen Hall, and in 1505 vice-president of Magdalen College. Soon after 1509 he was appointed a member of the royal council, and chaplain and almoner to Henry VIII; he attended Henry as his chaplain at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. He succeeded his brother Richard as rector of North Luffenham in 1527.

In 1529 and 1530 he went to France and Italy as ambassador to Francis I and to gain opinions from foreign universities in favour of the king's divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

He became Bishop of London and Lord Almoner in 1530, and in September 1533 christened the future Queen Elizabeth. His later years were troubled by disputes with Archbishop Cranmer; Stokesley opposed all changes in the doctrines of the church, remaining hostile to the English Bible and clerical marriage. Stokesley was a staunch opponent of Lutheranism and very active in persecuting heretics.

In May 1538, the King's attorney took out a writ of Praemunire against Stokesley and, as accessories with him, against the Abbess Agnes Jordan and the Confessor-General of Syon Abbey. Stokesley acknowledged his guilt, implored Thomas Cromwell's intercession, and threw himself on the King's mercy. He obtained the King's pardon, for it was not the Bishop but Syon that Cromwell aimed at.


Stokesley was a man of learning, writing in favour of Henry's divorce, and with Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham, a treatise against Henry VIII's kinsman Cardinal Pole.


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Stokesley, John". Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 953.


  • Henry VIII's Conservative Scholar: Bishop John Stokesley and the Divorce, Royal Supremacy, and Doctrinal Reform by Andrew A. Chibi; Published by Peter Lang Pub Inc (Jun 1997), ISBN 978-0-8204-3403-2
Catholic Church titles
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Cuthbert Tunstall
Bishop of London
Succeeded by
Edmund Bonner