Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/White, John (1510?-1560)

946851Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61 — White, John (1510?-1560)1900William Holden Hutton

WHITE, JOHN (1510?–1560), bishop of Winchester, was the son of Robert White of Farnham, where he was born in 1510 or 1511 (his brother John became lord mayor of London in 1563: see pedigree in Manning and Bray's History of Surrey, iii. 177; but Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, vii. 212, says this is incorrect). In 1521, at the age of eleven, he was admitted scholar at Winchester, whence he proceeded as fellow to New College, Oxford (Kirby, p. 111). He was admitted full fellow in 1527, graduated B.A. on 13 Dec. 1529, M.A. on 30 Jan. 1534, B.D.(?) before 1554 (see Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 388), and D.D. 1 Oct. 1555. In 1534 he resigned his fellowship, being then master of Winchester College, of which he was made warden in February 1541 (Willis, Mitred Abbies, i. 333). Of his life at Winchester different accounts are given; favourable by Pits (De Rebus Anglicis, 1619, p. 763, partly on report of Christopher Johnson, himself master of Winchester), who describes him as ‘acutus poeta, orator eloquens, theologus solidus, concionator nervosus;’ and unfavourable by Bale (Scriptt. Britann. Illustr. p. 737), who describes him with scandalous suggestiveness, and dubs him ‘saltans asinus.’ He was appointed in March 1540–1 a prebendary of Winchester. Under Edward VI he began to attract attention as an opponent of the protestants. He was examined by the council on 25 March 1551, when he admitted receiving ‘divers books and letters from beyond sea,’ and was committed to the Tower (Hatfield MS. i. 83; Acts P. C. 1550–2, p. 242).

On 14 June following the council, ‘upon knowledge of some better conformytie in matters of religion,’ transferred him to Cranmer's custody ‘till suche tyme as he may reclamye him’ (ib. p. 302; Strype, Cranmer, p. 233). Cranmer was apparently successful, for in the same year White became rector of Cheyton, Surrey, and on 24 May 1552 he was admitted to the prebend of Eccleshall in Lichfield Cathedral (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 601). He entered into controversy with Peter Martyr, and was the first, Fuller says, who treated theological disputes in verse (see list of his works below). John Philpot [q. v.], archdeacon of Winchester, excommunicated him ‘for preaching naughty doctrine’ (Philpot, Works, Parker Soc. p. 82); but White seems to have retained his preferments, and is said to have been instrumental in preserving the college of St. Mary at Winchester, when the adjoining college of St. Elizabeth, the site of which he purchased, was destroyed (see Milner, Winchester, i. 362).

On the accession of Mary he came at once into prominence. He sat on several of the commissions which restored and deprived bishops. He preached at St. Paul's on 25 Nov. 1553 in favour of the restoration of religious processions (Machyn, p. 49). He was elected bishop of Lincoln on 1 March 1554 (Le Neve, Fasti; but see Rymer's Fœdera, xv. 374, for licence), was consecrated in St. Saviour's, Southwark, on 1 April by Bonner, Tunstall, and Gardiner (Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, ed. 1897, p. 104), and received restitution of the temporalities of the see on 2 May 1554. He was ‘provided’ to the see by the pope in a consistory on 6 July (Raynaldus, ann. 1554, § 5). He was granted the next presentation to the archdeaconry of Taunton on 2 Nov. (Hist. MSS. Comm. Wells MSS. p. 239). On the arrival of Philip II he was one of those who received him at the west door of Winchester Cathedral (Cal. State Papers, For. 1553–8, pp. 106–7). He preached at the opening of parliament on 21 Oct. 1555 (ib. Venetian, 1555–6, p. 217). He had already become famous in the pursuit of heretics, and on 30 Sept. 1555 he presided at Ridley's trial. He then twitted the accused with his change of opinion on the doctrine of the eucharist (Parsons, Conversion of England, iii. 209 sqq.; cf. Foxe, Actes and Monuments). He was one of the executors of Gardiner's will, preached at the requiem mass for him on 18 Nov. 1555, and went with the funeral procession (23 Feb. 1556) from St. Saviour's, Southwark, to Winchester. On 22 March 1556 he was one of the consecrators of Reginald Pole. In this year he visited his large diocese by commission of the new archbishop (interesting details in Strype, vi. 389, and see Dixon's History of the Church of England, iv. 597–9). He retained the wardenship of Winchester with the bishopric of Lincoln (cf. Cal. Hatfield MSS. v. 221).

The appointment to Winchester was delayed till Philip's return to England (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1555–6, p. 281), and when White was at last nominated to the see the bulls for his translation were long delayed, and were very costly (ib. For. 1653–8, pp. 227, 228, 242, and Venetian, 1555–6, pp. 393, 477). Pole, it is said, had wished to hold the bishopric in commendam, and White, who desired it especially because of his birth and long association, could only obtain it on his promise to pay 1,000l. a year to the cardinal as long as he lived, and to his executors a year after his death (Matthew Parker, De Antiq. Brit. Eccl. p. 353). The congé d'élire to the dean and chapter was dated 16 July 1556. White had already received custody of the temporalities on 16 May 1556, and they were formally restored to him on 31 May 1557 (Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 436, 437, 441, 466; cf. Machyn, p. 103).

He continued to preach constantly in London (ib.), notably before several heretics at St. Saviour's, Southwark, on 23 May 1557, when Gratwick stood up and ‘played the malapert fellow with’ him (White, in Foxe, iii. 688). He tried the same heretic two days later, and is charged by Foxe with great harshness (Gratwick's own declaration is in Foxe, iii. 663).

On 13 Dec. 1558 he preached the funeral sermon of Queen Mary, from the text Ecclesiasticus iv. 2. He spoke warmly of her, but charily of Elizabeth; and a passage in which, referring to the preachers of the day, he said ‘melius est canis vivus leone mortuo,’ was taken, probably unjustly, to refer to the new sovereign. He was at once commanded to ‘keep his house,’ but on 19 Jan. 1558–9 he was called before the council, and, ‘after a good admonicion geven him, was sett at lyberty and discharged’ (Acts P. C. 1558–70, p. 45). On 18 March he voted against the supremacy bill in the House of Lords, and on 31 March 1559 he took part in the conference in the choir of Westminster Abbey between nine Romanists and nine Anglicans (Cal. State Papers, Spanish, 1558–67, pp. 45, 46–8, Dom. 1547–1550, p. 127, and Venetian, 1558–80, pp. 65, 69; see Camden, Annals, p. 27; Parsons, A Review of Ten Public Disputations, 1604, pp. 77 sqq.; Burnet, History of the Reformation, ii. 388, 396). White declared that he was not ready to dispute, as they ‘had not their wrytynge ready to be read there,’ and the conference broke up not without disorder. It was renewed on 3 April, and at the close White, with the bishop of Lincoln [see Watson, Thomas, 1513–1584], was removed to the Tower (Acts P. C. 1558–70, p. 78). On 21 June he was deprived of his bishopric (deprivation formally completed on 26 June, Machyn, p. 201), and was sent back to the Tower after a new attempt had been made to induce him to take the oath of supremacy (Cal. State Papers, Spanish, 1558–67, p. 79, cf. Venetian, 1558–80, p. 104). Before long his health began to fail (Strype, Annals, i. 142–3), and on 7 July he was released to live with his brother, Alderman John White, ‘near Bartholomew Lane.’ He was now dependent on his friends for maintenance (5 Aug. 1559, Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1558–80, p. 117). He was shortly afterwards allowed to retire to the house of his sister, wife of Sir Thomas White, at South Warnborough, Hampshire, where he died on 12 Jan. 1560, ‘of an ague’ (Machyn, Diary). He was buried in Winchester Cathedral on 15 Jan. He had many years before written his own epitaph, but this, though in the cathedral, was not apparently placed over his grave. He ‘gave much to his servants’ (Machyn), and was a benefactor to New College, Oxford (Wood, History and Antiquities, ed. Gutch, p. 185), and to Winchester (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. i. 314).

White is spoken of as a severe and grave man, more of a theologian than a courtier. His enemies accused him of pride and covetousness.

Very few of White's works have survived (Pits, De Rebus Anglicis, p. 763). We have his ‘Diacosio-Martyrion’ (London, 1553), to which is added ‘Epistola Petro Martyri;’ both are concerned with the doctrine of the eucharist. His ‘Carmina in Matrimonium Philippi regis cum Maria regina’ are quoted by many writers (e.g. Foxe, Actes and Monuments, ii. 1642), but no separate copy is known to exist. They were probably published in his ‘Epigrammatium liber i.’ of which Pits says, ‘Vidi aliquando Oxonii exemplar,’ but no copy is now known. His ‘Sermon preached at the Funeral of Queen Mary’ is in British Museum Sloane MS. 1578; and an inaccurate copy is printed in Strype's ‘Memorials’ (App. lxxxiv. p. 277).

[Further details as to degrees will be found in Boase's Registers of University of Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), i. 130. Dates of preferments, &c., in Rymer's Fœdera, vol. xv., Le Neve's Fasti, and Godwin's Catalogues of the Bishops of England. See also Wood's Athenæ Oxon. and Fasti; Cal. State Papers, Dom., For., Spanish, and Venetian; Hist. MSS. Comm. Reps. Hatfield, pt. i. and Wells Cathedral; Gough's Index to Parker Soc. Publ. passim; Acts of the Privy Council, ed. Dasent; Strype's Eccles. Memorials and Cranmer; Camden's Annals; Harrington's Brief View of the Church of England; Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation, vol. ii.; Parsons's Conversion of England; Foxe's Actes and Monuments; Heylyn's Ecclesia Restaurata; Milner's Hist. of Winchester, vol. i.; Parker, De Antiquit. Brit. Eccles.; Andrewes's Tortura Torti, p. 146; Tanner's Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica, p. 761; Warton's Life of Sir T. Pope; Holinshed's Chronicle, vol. iii.; Fuller's Worthies, ed. Nichols, i. 405; Cassan's Bishops of Winchester; Wood's Athenæ Oxon.; Bridgett and Knox's Catholic Hierarchy, 1889; Gee's Elizabethan Clergy, 1898.]

W. H. H.