Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Curwen, Hugh

CURWEN or COREN, HUGH, D.C.L. (d. 1568), successively archbishop of Dublin and bishop of Oxford, was a native of High Knipe in the parish of Bampton, Westmoreland (Atkinson, Worthies of Westmoreland, i. 81, ii. 149). He took the degree of bachelor of civil law in the university of Cambridge in 1510 (Cooper, Athenæ Cantab. i. 280, 556). On 20 Nov. 1514 he was presented to the vicarage of Buckden, Huntingdonshire, by Dr. Oliver Coren, prebendary of Buckden in the church of Lincoln, who was probably a relative. He afterwards went to Oxford, and, according to Wood, became a student there ‘in one of the inns or hostles frequented by civilians and canonists, or in Brasen-nose Coll. (or both successively) about 1521,’ and took one degree in arts (Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 803). The accuracy of the latter statement is doubtful. He became chaplain to Henry VIII, and was created doctor of civil law at Oxford 5 July 1532 (Wood, Fasti, i. 93; Boase, Reg. of Univ. of Oxford, p. 151). In a sermon which he preached before the king in Lent 1533 he declaimed against heretical opinions concerning the real presence in the sacrament of the altar, pointedly alluding to John Frith, who was then confined in the Tower. This led to Frith's examination and condemnation for heresy. On Sunday, 8 May in the same year, Curwen preached before the king a sermon defending his marriage with Anne Boleyn, and denouncing Friar Peyto, who on the previous Sunday had preached against the marriage (Strype, Parker, p. 255 folio). He became prebendary of Hunderton in the church of Hereford 29 Jan. 1537–8, and the see of Hereford being shortly afterwards vacant by the death of Dr. Edward Fox he was appointed by Archbishop Cranmer keeper of the spiritualities, and empowered to visit that church and diocese, as he accordingly did, giving the clergy certain injunctions, providing among other things for the free use of the holy scriptures in the vernacular (Strype, Cranmer, 70). On 1 Sept. 1538 he was admitted to the living of Great Mongeham, Kent, and probably he is identical with the Hugh Curryn who was prebendary of the college of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and who at its dissolution had a pension allotted to him of 10l. a year. In the week before Easter 1540 he was sent to Calais with the Earl of Sussex, Lord Saint John, Sir John Gage, Sir John Baker, and others. They were commissioned by the king to inquire as to matters of religion, and Curwen on their arrival preached a notable sermon on charity. The result of the commission was the persecution of many for religious opinions, and the removal of Lord Lisle from the office of lord deputy of Calais.

On 1 June 1541 he was installed dean of Hereford, and in April 1551 was collated to the prebend of Bartonsham in his own cathedral. He acted as one of the keepers of the spiritualities of the church and diocese of Hereford during the vacancy occasioned by the death of Bishop Skip in 1551. Queen Mary wrote letters directing his appointment to the archbishopric of Dublin 18 Feb. 1554–5, and he was elected accordingly. It appears from the Consistorial Act, dated 21 June 1555, which makes Curwen the successor of John Allen, that George Browne [q. v.], who had been made archbishop of Dublin by Henry VIII in 1535, was ignored in the papal records (Brady, Episcopal Succession, i. 327). The pallium was granted by the pope 23 Aug. 1555, and Curwen was consecrated on 8 Sept. 1555 in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, according to the form of the Roman pontifical, together with William Glynne, bishop of Bangor, and James Turberville, bishop of Exeter (Machyn, Diary, p. 94; Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, p. 81). By letters patent, dated at Greenwich on 13 Sept. the same year, Curwen was appointed lord chancellor of Ireland, in which country he arrived on 20 Oct. The next day he received restitution of the temporalities of his see, and on the 24th took his oath as lord chancellor before the lord deputy and council. Immediately after his elevation to the archbishopric of Dublin he resigned the deanery of Hereford, which, however, he resumed a month afterwards, and retained till 1558. He held a provincial synod in 1556, wherein many constitutions were enacted respecting the ceremonies of divine worship. He and Sir Henry Sidney were lords justices of Ireland from 5 Dec. 1557 till 6 Feb. following, during which period the Earl of Sussex, lord deputy, was absent from that realm.

Although Curwen had displayed remarkable zeal in restoring the Roman catholic religion in Ireland, he did not hesitate to avow himself a protestant on the accession of Queen Elizabeth. Indeed he is the only possessor of an Irish see who is proved to have changed his religion at that period. Strype truly describes him as ‘a complier in all reigns’ (Cranmer, p. 38, folio). On 14 Dec. 1558 Queen Elizabeth confirmed him in the office of lord chancellor of Ireland. He had other grants of that office dated 8 June 1559 and 5 Oct. 1552. He took his place in the parliament held in Ireland in 1559, which passed the Act of Uniformity, the act empowering the crown or lord deputy to collate to archbishoprics and bishoprics, the act restoring the jurisdiction of the crown over the state ecclesiastical, and the act annexing first-fruits and twentieths to the crown. In the same year he was in a commission for mustering the inhabitants of the county of Dublin, and he occurs as detecting an ‘impious fraud,’ said to have been concocted by Father Richard Leigh and others, who contrived that a marble image of our Saviour at Christ Church, Dublin, should appear to sweat blood. The impostors were obliged to stand for three Sundays upon a table before the pulpit, with their hands and legs tied, and with a paper on their breasts stating their crime; they were afterwards imprisoned and ultimately banished the realm (Strype, Parker, p. 45, folio). On the first Sunday they were thus exhibited the archbishop preached before the queen's lieutenant and the council from 2 Thess. ii. 11. He states that his sermon and the disgrace of the impostors converted above a hundred persons in Dublin, who vowed that they would never more hear mass. The image, which the archbishop had himself set up on his first coming to the see, he caused to be taken down 10 Sept. 1559.

The Earl of Sussex, lord deputy, writing to Cecil, 2 Nov. 1560, says the lord chancellor desired to have his revocation into England to the bishopric of Hereford, ‘in remembrance he is the man that of his cote hath surlyest stood to the crowne ether in Ingland or Irland, and therfor it shall be well her maty hath hym in remembrance accord ly to comfort him in his old yeres’ (Shirley, Original Letters on the Church in Ireland, p. 94). It would seem that his character suffered under some heavy moral imputations, for Adam Loftus, archbishop of Armagh, writing to Archbishop Parker 27 Sept. (1561?), expressed a hope that Curwen would be removed, as he was a ‘known enemy,’ and laboured under open crimes, ‘which, although he shamed not to do, I am,’ added Loftus, ‘almost ashamed to speak’ (Strype, Parker, p. 111). In 1563 Queen Elizabeth proposed that he should resign his archbishopric and chancellorship, and receive a pension during life, but this project was not carried into execution (Shirley, p. 124). In 1564 he strenuously opposed the scheme so long entertained of converting St. Patrick's Church into a university (Cottonian MS. Titus B. xiii. 116). On the other hand Hugh Brady, bishop of Meath, thought no one but the devil could oppose such a scheme, and in a letter to Cecil (23 June 1565) he recommended the recall of the archbishop of Dublin, ‘the old unprofitable workman.’ Loftus also urged Curwen's removal, because he would not co-operate in the reform (Shirley, pp. 151, 226). On 3 April 1564 Curwen, writing to the queen and to Cecil, had himself desired to be disburdened of his offices by reason of his sickness, not age, and to be translated to a bishopric in England or to be presented with a pension of equal amount to his archbishopric. It is significant that he ‘fears lest her highness, upon sinister information, had conceived some misliking towards him.’ On 5 Oct. 1566 Loftus wrote from Cambridge to Cecil, begging, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the archbishopric of Dublin for himself, because Curwen did no good in preaching or in making others preach, or in reforming his diocese at all, because he appointed open enemies to livings, and because (though the writer was sorry to say it) he swore terribly in open court, not only once or twice, but frequently (ib. p. 274). In 1567 he gave up the office of lord chancellor, to which Robert Weston was appointed by patent, dated 10 June. He also resigned the archbishopric of Dublin, and was nominated bishop of Oxford, his election to that see being confirmed by the queen on 8 Oct., and he having restitution of the temporalities on 3 Dec. It is remarkable that in the grant of the bishopric no mention is made of his having been archbishop of Dublin (Ware, Bishops of Ireland, ed. Harris, p. 353). This appointment must be regarded as a very scandalous proceeding, for there is good evidence that from his age and infirmities he was altogether unfitted to discharge the duties of the episcopate. There being no house then attached to the see of Oxford, he fixed his residence at Swinbrook, near Burford, Oxford. He did not long survive, and was buried in the church of Burford on 1 Nov. 1568.

He was uncle to Richard Bancroft [q. v.], afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, and placed him at Christ's College, Cambridge.

[Bedford's Blazon of Episcopacy, p. 84; Brenan's Eccl. Hist. of Ireland, 411; Churton's Lives of Smyth and Sutton, 520; Cotton's Fasti Eccl. Hiberniæ, ii. 19, 20; D'Alton's Archbishops of Dublin, 235; Foxe's Acts and Monuments; Godwin, De Præsulibus (Richardson); Havergal's Fasti Herefordenses, 39; Lascelles's Liber Hiberniæ, ii. 3, 14, iv. 111; Le Neve's Fasti (Hardy), i. 477, 495, 509, ii. 504; Mant's Hist. of the Church of Ireland, i. 237, 255, 281; Mason's St. Patrick's, 157, 163; Parker Correspondence, 95, 96, 305; Renehan's Collections on Irish Church Hist. i. 183; Calendar of State Papers (Dom. 1547–80), 298, 307; Strype's Works (gen. index); Thomas's Historical Notes, 1122, 1176; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 803, 830, 893, Fasti, i. 58, 93, 150, 324; Wright's Letters relating to the Suppression of Monasteries, 49.]

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