Bird, John (d.1558) (DNB00)

BIRD, JOHN, D.D. (d. 1558), bishop of Chester, is said by Wood to have been probably descended from the ancient Cheshire family of his name. He became a Carmelite friar, and appears to have studied in the houses of that order in both the universities of England. He proceeded B.D. at Oxford in 1510, and commenced D.D. there in 1513. Bishop Godwin states that he was D.D. at Cambridge, but this may be doubted. ‘In 1516 he was, at a general chapter held at Lynn, elected the provincial of his order. Hle governed for the usual period of three years, when he was succeeded by Robert. Lesbury, who held the office till 1522, when Dr. Bird was again elected thereto at a general chapter held at York. When the papal power began to decline in this country, he became a strenuous supporter of, and preacher for, the king's supremacy. His character was that of a temporiser, and he was engaged in state intrigles. He was one of the divines sent in 1531 to confer and argue with Thomas Bilney, the reformer, in prison; and in 1535 he, with Bishop Fox, the royal almoner, and Thomas Bedyl [q. v.], a clerk of the council, were sent by Henry VIII to his divorced queen, Katharine of Arragon, to endeavour to persuade her to forbear the name of queen, ‘which nevertheless she would not do’ (Strype, Ecclesiastical Memories, i. 61).

On 24 June 1537 he was consecrated at Lambeth suffragnn to the bishop of Llandalf, with the title of bishop of Penrith. In the beginning of the year 1539 we find him and Wotton on an embassy in Germany; and Cromwell, writing to him in or about April, desired him to get ‘the picture of the 1udy,’ meaning Anne of Cleves, whom the king was induced to marry on seeing her portrait. In July of the same year he was elected bishop of Bangor. He was present at the convocation of 1540, and subscribed the decree in favour of the divorce from Anne of Cleves, though he had probably been to a great extent instrumental in bringing about her marriage. By letters patent, dated Walden, 4 Aug. 1541. he was translated to the newly created bishopric of Chester, being also then, or soon afterwards, invested with archidiaconal powers over the whole diocese. An account by him of the sale and appropriation of church ornaments, plate, and jewels within his diocese is preserved in the Public Record Office (State Papers,. Dom. Edward VI, vol. iii. art. 4). On 16 March 1553-4, when Queen Mary had succeeded to the throne, he was deprived of his bishopric by a royal commission on account of his being married (Strype, Ecclesiatical Memorials, iii. 99). At this time he owed the crown l,087l. 18s. 0¾d. A ‘Foxian MS.,’ quoted by Strype, states that he at once repudiated his wife, whom he had, as he alleged, married against his will, and ‘for bearing with the time;’ and in fact he showed such signs of repentance, that. soon afterwards Bonner, bishop of London, appointed him his suffragan, and on 6 Nov. 1554 presented him to the vicarage of Great Dunmow in Essex. The manuscript just cited says: ‘This Dr. Byrd was well stricken in years, having but one eye; and thou the, to flatter with the time, had renounced his wife, being made of a young Protestant an old Catholic; yet as Catholick as he was, such devotion he bare to his man's wife that he had them both dwelling with him in his own vicarage, she being both young, fair, and newly married, that either the voice of the parish lied or else he loved her more than enough.’ He died in an obscure condition about the close of 1558, and was buried in Chester Cathedral according to Wood, but ut Dunmow according to Le Neve. Bale, in his ‘Exposition on the ll/evelations,’ makes him one of the ten horns.

His works, none of which appear to have been printed, are: 1. ‘De fide justificante,' 2. ‘Contra missam papisticam ex doctoribus.’ 3. ‘Homeliæ eruditæ per annum.’ 4. ‘Lectures on St. Paul.’ 5. ‘Contra transubstantiationem.’ 6. ‘Epicedium in quendam Edmundum Berye obdormientem in Calisia.’ 7. ‘Conciones coram Henrico VIII contra papæ suprematum.'

[Godwin, De Præsulibus Angliæ, ed. Richardson, 776; Bale's Scriptorum Brytannie Cat. (1559), 724; Wood’s Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 238, ii. 773; Tanner`s Bibl. Brit. 102; Newcourt's Repertorium Ecelesiasticum, ii. 225; Strype's Eccl. Memorials, ii. 466, 486, iii. 99, 138. 139, 2015; Strype's Grindal, sos; Strype's Cranmer, 61, 62, 63, 309, 362, App. 257; Bradford's Writings, ed. Townsend, ii. 1; Grindal's Remains, introd. i.; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Anglia. ed. Hardy; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 190, 551; Calendars of State Papers; Machyn's Diary, 58, 78, 341; Ormerod's Cheshire, i. 75, 126, 145.]

T. C.