Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jegon, John

JEGON, JOHN (1550–1618), bishop of Norwich, born in 1550, was son of Robert Jegon of Coggeshall in Essex, and Joan White, his wife, both of humble condition in life. On 25 Oct. 1567 he matriculated at Cambridge as a student of Queens' College. The statement that he belonged to St. John's College appears to be without foundation. He graduated B.A. in the Lent term of 1571–2, was elected a fellow of Queens' College in 1572, and filled successively the offices of college tutor, proctor in the university, and vice-president. In 1590 the fellows of Corpus Christi College received royal letters recommending Jegon to the mastership, then vacant by the death of Dr. Copcot (Cal. State Papers, 1581–90, p. 682). The fellows, who were desirous of electing one of their own number (Mr. Dix), complied reluctantly, and in a letter to the chancellor of the university, Lord Burghley, stated that they did so, ‘for that our statute so in part requireth, and your last letters seem to command.’ Jegon, however, who brought with him several of his pupils at Queens' College, soon justified the royal choice. He freed the college from financial difficulties, and raised the standard of instruction (cf. Masters, Hist. of C. C. College, ed. Lamb, p. 146). In 1593 he signed the formal protest against William Barret's sermon attacking Calvinistic doctrine. He filled the office of vice-chancellor during the academic years 1596–7, 1597–8, 1598–9, and 1600–1, and vigorously maintained the rights and privileges of the university against the town. By the townsmen he was much disliked, and in his letters to Burghley he more than once complained of the treatment he received at their hands. On 22 July 1601 he was installed dean of Norwich, and 18 Jan. 1602–3 was elected bishop of that see, being consecrated at Lambeth on 14 May 1603. On his resignation of the mastership of his college, Archbishop Whitgift was anxious that his own chaplain, Dr. Carrier, a senior fellow of the society, should succeed. But Jegon, although professing himself in favour of the archbishop's scheme, contrived to bring about the election of his own brother, Thomas Jegon, also a fellow of the college. Whitgift, in his chagrin, wrote to Sir Robert Cecil, the chancellor, declaring that ‘Jegon hath, in my opinion, greatly abused both you and me.’

In his diocese Jegon was unpopular, partly on account of the rigour with which he sought to enforce conformity, and partly because his liberality was not proportionate to his reputation for wealth. Masters tells us that he was ‘so noted for a monied man, that the king sent to borrow 100l. of him by way of loan.’ In his latter years, his health failing him, he petitioned for leave of absence from parliament, and a proxy was appointed. He died at Aylsham in Norfolk 13 March 1617–18, and was buried in the chancel of the church. His will is in the prerogative office at Canterbury. He left a widow named Lilia, who in 1619 was married to Sir Charles Cornwallis, knt., of Beeston in Norfolk; also two sons, Robert and John, the former of whom built a large house upon the estate at Buxton, and resided there many years. The latter was buried near his father in 1631. Jegon's only daughter, Dorothy, married Robert Goswold of Otley in Suffolk.

Jegon was short in stature and somewhat corpulent, and his countenance, judging from his portrait in the lodge of Corpus Christi College, was far from pleasing in expression. Fuller, while attributing to him ‘the seriousness and gravity becoming a governor,’ says that he was ‘at the same time of a most facetious disposition, so that it was hard to say whether his counsel was more grateful for its soundness, or his company more acceptable for the pleasantness thereof.’

[Strype's Life of Whitgift; Masters's Hist. of Corpus Christi College, ed. Lamb; J. B. Mullinger's Hist. of Univ. of Cambr. vol. ii.; Brydges's Restituta, ii. 241.]

J. B. M.