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| ordination =
| consecration =
| other_post = [[Bishop of Worcester]] (
| birth_date = 1547
| birth_place = [[Winchester]], [[England]]
| buried =
'''Thomas Bilson''' (1547
MEORIAE SACRVM / HIC IACET THOMAS BILSON WINTONIENSIS NVPER EPISCOPVS / ET SERENISSIMO PRINCIPI IACOBO MAGNAE BRITTANIAE REGI /POTENTISSIMO A SANCTIORIBVS CONSILIJS QVI QVVM DEO ET / ECCLESIAE AD ANNOS VNDE VIGINTI FIDELITER IN EPISCO / PATV DESERVISSET MORTALITATE SUB CERTA SPE RESVRRECTI: /ONIS EXVIT DECIMO OCTAVO DIE MENSIS IVNIJ ANO DOMINI /M.DC XVI. AETATIS SVAE LXIX.
===Years under the Tudors (1547–1603)===
According to the original 'Dictionary of the National Biography' (founded in 1882 by George Smith and edited by both Sir Leslie Stephen who was Virginia Woolf’s father,
As the Bishop of Winchester, Thomas Bilson would have resided at Winchester Palace, where today in Clink Street, Southwark, London SE1 — there is only one remaining wall of the palace — with a magnificent rose window measuring thirteen feet across. However, back in the sixteenth century, Winchester Palace was a splendorous site and would have looked very similar to the waterfront house of ‘Sir Robert De Lesseps’ depicted in the film ''‘Shakespeare in Love’''.
— ‘The Rose’ built in 1587 in Rose Lane where Philip Henslowe was the lessee;
— ‘The Swan’ built in 1596 by Francis Langley in Paris Garden;
— ‘The Globe’ re-built in 1598 by James Burbage and William Shakespeare; (a year after Thomas Bilson became the Bishop of Winchester) and — ‘The Hope’ built in 1613 by Philip Henslowe in Bear Garden.
Southwark on the south bank of the river Thames in London was very much a cash generator in those days.
Thomas engaged in most of the polemical contests of his day, as a stiff partisan of the [[Church of England]]. In 1585, he published his ''The True Difference Betweene Christian Subjection and Unchristian Rebellion''. This work took aim at the [[Jesuits]] and replied to Cardinal [[William Allen (cardinal)|William Allen]]'s ''Defence of the English Catholics'' (Ingoldstadt, 1584).<ref name = SH>http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc02.html?term=Bilson,%20Thomas</ref> It was also a theoretical work on the "Christian commonwealth" and it enjoyed publishing success. Some historians have stated that the immediate purpose of ''True Difference'' was as much to justify Dutch Protestants resisting [[Philip II of Spain]], as to counter the Jesuits' attacks on Elizabeth I.<ref>Hugh Dunthorne, ''The Netherlands' as Britain school of Revolution'', p. 141, in ''Royal and Republican Sovereignty in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Memory of Ragnhild Hatton'' (1997).</ref> [[Glenn Burgess]] considers that in ''True Difference'' Bilson shows a sense of the diversity of "legitimate" political systems.<ref>Glenn Burgess, ''The Politics of the Ancient Constitution: An Introduction to English Political Thought, 1603–1642'' (1993), pp. 104-5.</ref> He conceded nothing to popular sovereignty, but said that there were occasions when a king might forfeit his powers.<ref>Michael Brydon, ''The Evolving Reputation of Richard Hooker: An Examination of Responses,
A theological argument over the [[Harrowing of Hell]] led to several attacks on Bilson personally in what is now called the [[Arminianism in the Church of England#Descensus controversy|Descensus controversy]]. Bilson's literal views on the descent of Christ into Hell were orthodox for "conformist" Anglicans of the time, while the Puritan wing of the church preferred a metaphorical or spiritual reading.<ref>Bruce Gordon, Peter Marshall, ''The Place of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe'' (2000), pp. 118-9.</ref> He maintained that Christ went to hell, not to suffer, but to wrest the keys of hell out of the Devil’s hands. For this doctrine he was severely handled by [[Henry Jacob]] and also by other [[Puritan]]s. [[Hugh Broughton]], a noted Hebraist, was excluded from the translators of the King James Bible, and became a vehement early critic. The origin of Broughton's published attack on Bilson as a scholar and theologian, from 1604,<ref>''Declaration of general corruption, of religion, Scripture, and all learninge: wrought by D. Bilson''.</ref> is thought to lie in a sermon Bilson gave in 1597, which Broughton, at first and wrongly, thought supported his own view that hell and paradise coincided in place. From another direction the Roman Catholic controversialist [[Richard Broughton (priest)|Richard Broughton]] also attacked Anglican conformists through Bilson's views, writing in 1607.<ref>Willem Nijenhuis, ''Adrianus Saravia (c. 1532
Bilson's most famous work was entitled ''The Perpetual Government of Christ's Church'' and was published in 1593. It was a systematic attack on [[Presbyterian polity]] and an able defence of [[Episcopal polity]].<ref>http://anglicanhistory.org/scotland/jdowden/paddock/02.html</ref> Following on from [[John Bridges (bishop)|John Bridges]],<ref>Robert Zaller, ''The Discourse of Legitimacy in Early Modern England'' (20070, p. 342.</ref><ref>http://www.fromdeathtolife.org/chistory/england3.html</ref> the work is still regarded as one of the strongest books ever written in behalf of episcopacy.<ref name="1858KJV" />
===Courtier to James I (1603–1616)===
[[Image:KJV-King-James-Version-Bible-first-edition-title-page-1611.jpg|200px|thumb|right|175px|The title page to the 1611 first edition of the ''Authorized Version Bible''.]]
Bilson gave the sermon at the coronation on 25 July 1603 of James VI of Scotland as [[James I of England]]. While the wording conceded something to the [[divine right of kings]], it also included a caveat about lawful resistance to a monarch. This theme was from Bilson's 1585 book, and already sounded somewhat obsolescent.<ref>Peter E. McCullough, ''Sermons at Court: Politics and Religion in Elizabethan and Jacobean Preaching'' (1998), pp. 104.</ref>
At the [[Hampton Court Conference]] of 1604, he and [[Richard Bancroft]] implored King James to change nothing in the [[Church of England]].<ref>W. B. Patterson, ''King James VI and I and the Reunion of Christendom'' (1997), p. 104.</ref> He had in fact advised James in 1603 not to hold the Conference, and to leave religious matters to the professionals.<ref>Alan Stewart, ''The Cradle King: A Life of James VI & I'' (2003), p. 191.</ref> The advice might have prevailed, had it not been for [[Patrick Galloway]], Moderator of the Scottish Assembly.<ref>Collinson, p. 451.</ref> Later, in charge of the ''Authorized Version'', he composed the [[front matter]] with Miles Smith, his share being the dedication.<ref>[[Alister McGrath]], ''In The Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible'' (2001), p. 188, p. 210.</ref>
He bought the manor of [[West Mapledurham]], Oxfordshire, in 1605.<ref>http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41935</ref> Later, in 1613, he acquired the site of [[Durford Abbey]], [[Rogate]], Sussex.<ref>http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41688</ref>
He was ''ex officio'' Visitor of [[St John's College, Oxford]], and so was called to intervene when in 1611 the election as President of [[William Laud]] was disputed, with a background tension of [[Calvinist]] versus [[Arminian]]. The other candidate was [[John Rawlinson (clergyman)|John Rawlinson]]. Bilson, taken to be on the Calvinist side, found that the election of the high-church Laud had failed to follow the college statutes.<ref>Trevor-Roper, p. 43.</ref> He in the end ruled in favour of Laud, but only after some intrigue: Bilson had difficulty in having his jurisdiction recognised by the group of Laud's activists, led unscrupulously by [[William Juxon]]. Laud's party had complained, to the King, who eventually decided the matter himself, leaving the ''status quo'', and instructed Bilson.<ref>Thomas A. Mason, ''Serving God and Mammon: William Juxon,
He was appointed a judge in the 1613 [[annulment]] case of [[Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex]] and his wife [[Frances Carr, Countess of Somerset|Frances]] née Howard; with [[John Buckridge]], [[bishop of Rochester]], he was one of two extra judges added by the King to the original 10, who were deadlocked. This caused bitterness on the part of [[George Abbot (Archbishop of Canterbury)|George Abbot]], the [[archbishop of Canterbury]], who was presiding over the nullity commission. Abbot felt that neither man was impartial, and that Bilson bore him an old grudge.<ref>Anne Somerset, ''Unnatural Murder: Poison at the Court of James I'', pp. 159-160.</ref> Bilson played a key role in the outcome, turning away the Earl of Essex's appeal to appear a second time before the commission, and sending away [[Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton]] who was asking on behalf of Essex with a half-truth about the position (which was that the King had intervened against Essex).<ref>Somerset, p. 164.</ref> The outcome of the case was a divorce, and Bilson was then in favour with [[Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset]], a favourite in the court who proceeded to marry Frances. Bilson's son, the lawyer Sir Thomas Bilson (1579–1630), was nicknamed "Sir Nullity Bilson", because his knighthood followed on the outcome of the Essex annulment case.<ref>http://www.the-miscellany.co.uk/jacobean/person?id=226</ref><ref>Somerset, p. 168.</ref>
In August 1615 Bilson was made a member of the [[Privy Council]].<ref>http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/diary/1eng.html</ref> In fact, though this was the high point of Bilson's career as courtier, and secured by Somerset's influence, he had been led to expect more earlier that summer. Somerset had been importunate to the point of pushiness on behalf of Bilson, hoping to secure him a higher office, and had left Bilson in a false position and James very annoyed. This misjudgement was a major step in Somerset's replacement in favour by [[George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham|George Villiers]], said to have happened in physical terms under Bilson's roof at [[Farnham Castle]] that same August.<ref>Alan Stewart, ''The Cradle King: A Life of James VI & I'' (2003), p. 271.</ref><ref>Somerset, p. 286.</ref> Bilson died in 1616 and was buried in [[Westminster Abbey]].<ref name="1858KJV" />
It was said of him, that he "carried prelature in his very aspect." [[Anthony Wood]] proclaimed him so "complete in divinity, so well skilled in languages, so read in the Fathers and Schoolmen, so judicious is making use of his readings, that at length he was found to be no longer a soldier, but a commander in chief in the spiritual warfare, especially when he became a bishop!" Bilson is also remembered for being hawkish against recusant Roman Catholics.<ref>Michael C. Questier, ''Conversion, Politics and Religion in England,
Bilson had argued for resistance to a Roman Catholic prince. A century later, [[Richard Baxter]] drew on Bilson in proposing and justifying the deposition of [[James II of England|James II]].<ref>William M. Lamont, ''Richard Baxter and the Millennium'' (1979), p. 29.</ref> What Bilson had envisaged in 1585 was a "wild" scenario or [[Counterfactual history|counterfactual]], a Roman Catholic monarch of England: its relevance to practical politics came much later.<ref>William Lamont, ''Puritanism and Historical Controversy'' (1996), pp. 56-8.</ref>
His writings took a nuanced and middle way in ecclesiastical polity, and avoided [[Erastian]] views and [[Divine right of kings|divine right]], while requiring passive obedience to authority depending on the context.<ref>Whitney Richard David Jones, ''The Tree of Commonwealth,
*''The True Difference Betweene Christian Subjection and Unchristian Rebellion'' (1585)
*William M. Lamont, ''The Rise and Fall of Bishop Bilson'', The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2 (May, 1966), pp. 22–32