Open main menu


CORNWALLIS, FREDERICK, D.D. (1713–1783), archbishop of Canterbury, seventh son of Charles, fourth lord Cornwallis, was born on 22 Feb. 1713. He was a twin brother of General Edward Cornwallis, and Cole relates that 'both the brothers at Eton school were so alike that it was difficult to know them asunder.' From Eton Frederick proceeded to Christ's College, Cambridge, of which he became a fellow (B.A. 1736, D.D. 1748). Cole says he 'was my schoolfellow and contemporary at the university, where no one was more beloved, or bore a better character than he did all the time of his residence therein: during which time, towards the latter end of it, he had the misfortune to have a stroke of the palsy, which took away the use of his right hand, and obliged him to write with his left, which he did very expeditiously; and I have often had the honour to play at cards with him, when it was wonderful to see how dexterously he would shuffle and play them.' In 1740 he was presented by his brother to the rectory of Chelmondiston, Suffolk, with which he held that of Tittleshall St. Mary, Norfolk; and afterwards he was appointed one of the king's chaplains-in-ordinary. He was appointed a canon of Windsor by patent dated 21 May 1746, and on 14 Jan. 1746-7 he was collated to the prebend of Leighton Ecclesia in the church of Lincoln.

On 19 Feb. 1749-50 he was consecrated bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and on 14 Nov. 1766 he was nominated dean of St. Paul's. Soon after the death of Dr. Secker, he was appointed by the crown to succeed that prelate as archbishop of Canterbury. His election took place on 23 Aug. 1768, and he was enthroned at Canterbury on 6 Oct. following. He died at Lambeth Palace, after a few days' illness, on 19 March 1783, and was buried on the 27th in a vault under the communion-table in Lambeth Church.

He married on 8 Feb. 1759 Caroline, daughter of William Townshend, third son of Charles, second viscount Townshend, but had no issue. She survived till 17 Sept. 1811.

Cornwallis, though inferior in learning to many of his predecessors, was much respected and beloved in his diocese. Hasted, the historian of Kent, writing from Canterbury, says: 'The archbishop gives great satisfaction to everybody here: his affability and courteous behaviour are much taken notice of, as very different from his predecessors.' At Lambeth Palace, from the instant he entered its walls, the invidious distinction of a separate table for the chaplains was abolished, and they always sat at the same board with himself. His hospitality was princely, especially on public days, it being formerly the custom for the archbishops of Canterbury, when resident at Lambeth Palace, to keep a public table one day in every week during the session of parliament. At one period Cornwallis was the object of some censure, because his lady was in the habit of holding routs on Sundays.

He published four single sermons, and contributed verses to the university collections on the marriage of the Prince of Orange (1733) and the marriage of Frederick, prince of Wales (1736). His portrait has been engraved by Fisher, from a painting by Dance.

[Gent. Mag. xlviii. 438, liii. pt. i. pp. 273, 279, 280; Hasted's Kent, iv. 760; Manning and Bray's Surrey, iii. 507; Cooke's Preacher's Assistant, ii. 90; Nichols's Lit. Anecd.; Nichols's Illustr. of Lit.; Brydges's Restituta, iv. 262; Evans's Cat. of Engraved Portraits, Nos. 2573-2574; Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus.; Hollis's Memoirs, i. 429; Cole's Athenæ Cantab. C. ii. 214; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), i. 30, 558, ii. 175, 316, iii. 408; Sketches from Nature, in high preservation (1779), p. 46; Browne's Lambeth Palace, p. 162.]

T. C.