Thomas Bilson: Difference between revisions

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{{Use dmy dates|date=July 2017}}
{{Infobox Bishop
| honorific-prefix = {{pre-nominal styles|RRevd|&RHPC}}
| see = [[Diocese of Winchester|Winchester]]
| enthroned = 1597
| ended = 1616
| predecessor = [[William Day (bishop)|William Day]]
| successor = [[James Montague (bishop)|James Montague]]
| other_post = [[Bishop of Worcester]] (1596–1597)
| birth_date = 1547
| birth_place = [[Winchester]], [[England]]
| death_date = 18 June 1616
| death_place =
| buried =
}}{{Portal|Anglicanism}}
'''Thomas Bilson''' (1547 – 18 June 1616) was an Anglican [[Bishop of Worcester]] and [[Bishop of Winchester]]. With [[Miles Smith (bishop)|Miles Smith]], he oversaw the final edit and printing of the ''[[King James Bible]]''. He is buried in Westminster Abbey in plot 232 between the tombs of Richard the Second and Edward the Third. On top of his gravestone there is a small rectangular blank brass plate the original plate was removed in order to preserve it and is on display on the floor against the wall between the tombs of Richard ll and Edward lll and says the following:—
 
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’sWoolf's father, and [[Sir Sidney Lee]]) Thomas Bilson was the eldest son of Herman Bilson, grandson of Arnold Bilson, whose wife is said to have been a daughter of the Duke of Bavaria. Later editions highlight that [[William Twisse]] was a nephew.<ref name="scionofzion">{{cite web|url=http://www.scionofzion.com/kjvtransqual.htm|title=The Qualifications of the King James Translators|publisher=scionofzion.com|accessdate=12 April 2014-04-12}}</ref><ref name="1858KJV">[http://www.wilderness-cry.net/bible_study/translators/tbilson.html Alexander McClure. ''The Translators Revived'' 1858.]</ref><ref name="go-newfocus">{{cite web|url=http://www.go-newfocus.co.uk/pages.php?section=21&subsection=2&artID=18|archive-url=https://web.archive.org/web/20071109042237/http://www.go-newfocus.co.uk/pages.php?section=21&subsection=2&artID=18 |archive-date=2007-11-09 |dead-url=yes|title=New Focus &#124; That the purpose of God according to election might stand|accessdate=2014-04-12 April 2014}}</ref> Bilson was educated at the twin foundations of William de Wykeham, [[Winchester College]] and [[New College, Oxford]].<ref>''Concise Dictionary of National Biography''</ref> He began to distinguish himself as a poet until, on receiving ordination, he gave himself wholly to theological studies. He was soon made Prebendary of Winchester, and headmaster of the College there until 1579 and Warden from 1581 to 1596.<ref name="british-history">{{cite web|url=http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42044|title=Winchester - St Mary's College &#124; A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5 (pp. 14-1914–19)|publisher=british-history.ac.uk|accessdate=2014-04-12 April 2014}}</ref> His pupils there included [[John Owen (epigrammatist)|John Owen]], and [[Thomas James]], whom he influenced in the direction of [[patristics]].<ref>Mordechai Feingold, ''History of Universities, Volume XXII/1'' (2007), p. 23.</ref> In 1596, he was made [[Bishop of Worcester]], where he found [[Warwick]] uncomfortably full of [[Recusancy|recusant]] Roman Catholics.<ref>[[Patrick Collinson]], ''The Elizabethan Puritan Movement'' (1982), p. 441.</ref><ref>Anthony Boden, Denis Stevens, ''Thomas Tomkins: The Last Elizabethan'' (2005), p. 73.</ref> For appointment in 1597 to the wealthy [[Diocese of Winchester|see of Winchester]], he paid a £400 annuity to [[Elizabeth I of England|Elizabeth I]].<ref>[[Hugh Trevor-Roper]], ''William Laud'' (2000 edition) p. 11.</ref>
 
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'Sir Robert De Lesseps’Lesseps' depicted in the film ''‘Shakespeare'Shakespeare in Love’Love'''. The 700&nbsp;acre Bishoprick ‘see’'see' and jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester included an area known as ‘The'The Liberty of Clink’Clink' Southwark, Bankside which in addition to having a prison (‘The'The Clink’Clink') also provided the site of many of the major theatres of the day, namely:
 
— ‘The Rose’ built in 1587 in Rose Lane where Philip Henslowe was the lessee;
— ‘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. (Back in the sixteenth century, Southwark was in many ways like a prototype Las Vegas.) In addition to the theatres, Southwark, Bankside was also a ‘red light’ district renowned for its brothels and contained an unconsecrated graveyard for the corpses of women who had worked in them. Far from condemning the brothels, the respective bishops of Winchester, Thomas Bilson included, drew up a set of rules for their regulation and opening hours. In addition to prostitution and pick pockets, the area was also renowned for its gambling dens, skittle alleys and bear/bull baiting, most of which were run by Philip Henslowe (1550–1616) who married a wealthy widow by the name of Agnes Woodward in 1579 and it is thought that with her money Henslowe had managed to acquire interests in numerous brothels, inns, lodging houses and was also involved in dyeing, starch making and wood selling as well as pawnbroking, money lending and theatrical enterprises. With regard to his relationship with actors and playwrights Henslowe wrote in his diary:—“Should these fellowes come out of my debt I should have no rule over them.” Although Philip Henslowe was undoubtedly the main operational manager and entrepreneur behind many of Southwark’s and the ‘see of Winchester’s’ cash generating entertainment enterprises — all taxes from these activities had to be paid to Thomas Bilson the Bishop of Winchester. Indeed, in the London [[Public Record Office]] is an entry relating to William Shakespeare’sShakespeare's unpaid tax, and carrying the annotation ‘Ep'Ep (iscop)o Winton (ensi)' (to the Bishop of Winchester) (*The Public Record Office, Exchequer, Lord Treasurers Remembrancer, Pipe Rolls, E.372/444, m. Dated 6 October 1600.) which has led historians such as Ian Wilson in his 1993 book ‘Shakespeare'Shakespeare the Evidence’Evidence' to surmise that perhaps William Shakespeare was living within the bishopric ‘see’'see' of Thomas Bilson the Bishop of Winchester at this time. However somewhat curiously, William Shakespeare’sShakespeare's name does not appear in the church wardens’wardens' annual lists of those residents registered as having attended compulsory Easter Communion. The church wardens annual lists of residents and the compulsory attendance of Easter Communion in effect the commencement of the new year within the Julian Calendar provided the paranoid bureaucratic authorities fearful of Jesuit and Catholic uprisings with a detailed census as to the political status of its citizens and as a means to assess their military and tax obligations. William Shakespeare’sShakespeare's omission from this list and the reference to Thomas Bilson the Bishop of Winchester implies ‘a'a relationship’relationship' between these two men which has hitherto been unexplained. Indeed, the commonality of both men being to a large extent historical enigmas is curious in itself.
 
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. 104-5104–5.</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, 1600–1714'' (2006), pp. 132-3132–3.</ref> According to James Shapiro,<ref>James Shapiro, ''1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare'' (2005), p. 177.</ref> he "does his best to walk a fine line", in discussing 'political icons', i.e. pictures of the monarch.
 
===Theological controversy===
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. 118-9118–9.</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 – 1613): Dutch Calvinist, First Reformed Defender of the English Episcopal Church Order on the Basis of the Ius Divinum'' (1980), p. 182.</ref><ref>Charles W. A. Prior, ''Defining the Jacobean Church: The Politics of Religious Controversy, 1603–1625'' (2005), pp.49-5049–50 and note.</ref> Much feeling was excited by the controversy, and Queen Elizabeth, in her ire, commanded Bilson, "neither to desert the doctrine, nor let the calling which he bore in the Church of God, be trampled under foot, by such unquiet refusers of truth and authority."<ref name="1858KJV" />
 
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 name="anglicanhistory">{{cite web|url=http://anglicanhistory.org/scotland/jdowden/paddock/02.html|title=Outlines of the History of the Theological Literature of the Church of England (1897)|publisher=anglicanhistory.org|accessdate=2014-04-12 April 2014}}</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 name="fromdeathtolife">{{cite web|url=http://www.fromdeathtolife.org/chistory/england3.html|title=ENGLAND|author=Ray Shelton|publisher=fromdeathtolife.org|accessdate=2014-04-12 April 2014}}</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)===
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 name="british-history2">{{cite web|url=http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41935|title=Parishes - Buriton &#124; A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 3 (pp. 85-9385–93)|publisher=british-history.ac.uk|accessdate=12 April 2014-04-12}}</ref> Later, in 1613, he acquired the site of [[Durford Abbey]], [[Rogate]], Sussex.<ref name="british-history3">{{cite web|url=http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41688|title=Rogate &#124; A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 4 (pp. 21-2721–27)|publisher=british-history.ac.uk|accessdate=12 April 2014-04-12}}</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, 1582–1663, Bishop of London, Lord High Treasurer of England, and Archbishop of Canterbury'' (1985), p. 27.</ref><ref>Kenneth Fincham, ''Early Stuart Polity'' p. 188 in ''The History of the University of Oxford'' (1984).</ref>
===Final years===
[[Image:1stEarlOfSomerset.jpg|thumb|left|125px|The 1st Earl of Somerset.]]
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. 159-160159–160.</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 name="bham">{{cite web|url=http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/diary/1eng.html|title=1eng|publisher=philological.bham.ac.uk|accessdate=2014-04-12 April 2014}}</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" />
 
==Legacy==
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, 1580–1625'' (1996), note p. 189.</ref> [[Henry Parker (pamphleteer)|Henry Parker]] drew on both Bilson and [[Richard Hooker]] in his pamphlet writing around the time of [[English Civil War]].<ref>Michael Mendle, ''Henry Parker and the English Civil War: The Political Thought of the Public's 'Privado' '' (2003), p. 63.</ref>
 
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. 56-856–8.</ref>
 
===Writings===
 
==Further reading==
*William M. Lamont, ''The Rise and Fall of Bishop Bilson'', [[The Journal of British Studies]], Vol. 5, No. 2 (May, 1966), pp.&nbsp;22–32
 
==External links==