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Cartwright, Thomas (1634-1689) (DNB00)


CARTWRIGHT, THOMAS (1634–1689), bishop of Chester, was born at Northampton Sept. 1634. His father, Thomas, had been a schoolmaster at Brentwood in Essex. His grandfather was Thomas Cartwright [q. v.], the famous puritan of the days of Elizabeth. Having been educated at the school at Northampton, Cartwright was sent to Oxford, then under the domination of the parliament, and entered at Magdalen Hall. As at that period all who refused to take the covenant were summarily expelled in favour of the puritans, Cartwright obtained one of the vacant places, and was made tabarder of Queen's College. Here he was placed under the tuition of Thomas Tully, a well-known puritan divine. Nevertheless on reaching the age for orders it was from an episcopal source that he sought them, and was ordained priest by Skinner, bishop of Oxford, then living in retirement at Launton. For a time he acted as chaplain to the college, but before being admitted fellow he left Oxford, having been presented to the vicarage of Walthamstow. Here (according to Wood) he was a ‘very forward and confident preacher for the cause then in being.’ In 1659 he was chaplain to Alderman John Robinson, sheriff of London, and preacher at St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street. At the Restoration he professed an ardent loyalty, and quickly obtained the vicarage of Barking (11 Aug. 1660), and was made domestic chaplain to Henry, duke of Gloucester. He obtained the degree of D.D. from Oxford, though not of full standing; he was made prebendary of St. Paul's (20 April 1665), and vicar of St. Thomas's. His stream of preferment continued. He became prebendary of Wells, chaplain-in-ordinary, prebendary of Durham (1672), dean of Ripon (1675–6). During this period Cartwright managed to secure the firm friendship of James, duke of York, and is said by Macaulay to have been, of all the Anglican divines, the one who ‘had the largest share of his good graces.’ Consequently in Dec. 1686, during James's reign, he was nominated to the see of Chester, in succession to Bishop Pearson. His appointment caused much scandal. Burnet says that his moral character was very bad, and his opinions openly in favour of setting the king above law. An attempt was made to prevent Sancroft from consecrating him; but Cartwright was consecrated by the archbishop at Lambeth (17 Oct. 1686), together with Lloyd and Parker. At his consecration the archbishop tripped and fell during the administration of the holy communion, which was held to be of evil omen. Cartwright was allowed to hold the benefice of Wigan in commendam with his see. He also retained that of Barking. We learn from Cartwright's ‘Diary’ (published by the Camden Society in 1843) that he was in close and constant communication with the Romanist Bishop Labourne and with Fathers Ellis and Petre, and that he was deeply involved in the plot for establishing the Romish religion. In October 1686 Cartwright went to his diocese, where he exercised great hospitality, especially to the Romanist families, and entertained Lord Tyrconnell on his way to Ireland. In April 1687 he returned to London, arriving four days after the publication of the famous ‘Declaration for Liberty of Conscience’ in the ‘Gazette.’ He strongly upheld the king's policy, and used every endeavour to obtain addresses thanking the king for the promise contained in the declaration of protecting the church of England. He was able to influence a few of the bishops to do this. He also obtained a congratulatory address from the mayor and council of Wigan.

During the summer Cartwright was again in his diocese, and received and entertained King James at Chester during his progress. A chapel was fitted up for the royal devotions at the shire hall, and the king touched great numbers of persons for the king's evil. In October Cartwright's services were called into active employment in support of the king's policy. James by an illegal exercise of his supremacy had established the court of high commission for ecclesiastical causes which had been specially forbidden by two acts of parliament (17 Car. I, c. 11; 13 Car. II, c. 12). Sancroft had been named a commissioner, but had refused to act, and (on 17 Oct. 1687) Cartwright was put in his place. The famous quarrel between the king and Magdalen College, Oxford (the fellows of which had refused to elect as president the king's nominee, but had elected one of their own body, Dr. John Hough [q. v.]), was then in full progress. Cartwright, together with Chief Justice Wright and Baron Jenner, was sent on a special commission to Oxford to bring the fellows to order. The commissioners reached Oxford on 20 Oct., and next day Cartwright summoned the fellows before him and made them a set speech, telling them that they had sinned against their own souls by their disobedience to so beneficent a monarch, and bidding them at once submit to his will. Dr. Hough was then called and told that his election was void, and ordered to quit his lodgings. He appealed formally to the courts of law. Parker, bishop of Oxford, the king's nominee, was then installed by proxy, and the fellows were ordered to accept him. As almost the whole of them refused to do this, the commissioners were obliged to visit Oxford a second time (15 Nov.) Cartwright again made a speech asserting that the king was ‘supreme ordinary,’ and that his power overrode all laws and statutes. The fellows, however, were still contumacious, and all, with the exception of three, were expelled. On 10 Dec. they were pronounced by the commissioners sitting at Whitehall to be incapable of all preferment. Cartwright was probably one of those who advised King James to order the clergy to read the declaration for liberty of conscience in their churches, an order which led to such momentous consequences. When the order was published and the bishops were consulting as to their line of action, we find from Lord Clarendon's ‘Diary’ that they suspected Cartwright, and would not speak before him. He was so ignorant of their intentions that he appears to have told King James, when the bishops came with their remonstrance, that they only wished to protest against having duties thrown upon them which properly belonged to their chancellors. In consequence of this they were readily received by the king. When the clergy generally refused to read the declaration, the Bishop of Chester by vigorous exertions obtained an address from about thirty clergy in his diocese censuring the conduct of the seven bishops, and expressing their loyal acquiescence in the king's policy. Cartwright and the ecclesiastical commissioners also made an attempt to censure the clergy who had refused to obey, and (13 July) made an order calling for returns of those who had read and those who had refused to read the declaration. No returns being forthcoming, they repeated their order (16 Aug.), but the storm of popular indignation soon swept them away, one of the king's first acts of concession being to abolish the illegal court. Cartwright was present when the king summoned the bishops to declare that they had not invited the Prince of Orange. After the flight of the king the unpopularity of the Bishop of Chester was so great that he did not dare to remain in England. Some time in December (1688) he followed his master to Saint-Germains, where he was allowed to read the English liturgy to the few protestants who had rallied round the deposed monarch. On the death of Seth Ward, bishop of Salisbury, James nominated Cartwright to this see, a promotion which, it need not be said, never took effect. Cartwright accompanied James to Ireland, landing there on 12 March 1689. On Palm Sunday, 24 March, he went to Dublin with James, and on Easter day was present at the services in Christ Church Cathedral. Soon after his arrival in Dublin Cartwright was attacked by dysentery, of which he died on 15 April 1689. The greatest efforts were made on his deathbed to convert him to the Romish faith, but without success. Cartwright, though such a strong supporter of the Romanists, seems never to have been shaken in his own views. He was buried at Christ Church, Dublin, with great state and magnificence, his funeral being attended by nearly the whole city. Cartwright married a lady of the name of Wight, by whom he had a numerous family. His eldest son, John, was in holy orders, and obtained many pieces of preferment by the influence of his father. Five other sons, Richard, Gervas, Charles, Thomas, Henry, and two daughters, Alicia and Sarah, are mentioned in his ‘Diary.’

[Diary of Thomas Cartwright, Bishop of Chester, ed. Hunter, Camden Soc. 1843; King's Visitatorial Power over the Universities asserted, Nat. Johnstone, London, 1688, 4to; An Impartial Relation of the Illegal Proceedings against St. Mary Magd. Coll. in Oxon., London, 1689, 4to; Henry Earl of Clarendon's Correspondence with Diary, ed. Singer, Oxford, 1828; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), iv. 252, 874.]

G. G. P.