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James, William (1542-1617) (DNB00)


JAMES, WILLIAM (1542–1617), bishop of Durham, was the second son of John James of Little Onn, Staffordshire, by Ellen, daughter of William Bolte of Sandbach, Cheshire, where William was born in 1542. He entered Christ Church, Oxford, as a student about 1559 or 1560, and graduated B.A. on 22 Oct. 1563, M.A. 1565, B.D. 10 March 1571, and D.D. 22 April 1574. In 1571 he was made divinity reader at Magdalen College, and in 1572 was elected master of University College. In 1573 the chaplain and fellows of the Savoy vainly petitioned Burghley to make James their new master, and spoke of his ‘wisdom and policy in restoring and bringing to happy quietness the late wasted, spoiled, and indebted University College’ (Strype, Annals, iv. 581). From 1575 to 1601 James was also rector of Kingham, Oxfordshire (Rymer, xv. 742; Lansd. MSS. v. 983, p. 168), and archdeacon of Coventry from 1577 to 1584, when he was elected dean of Christ Church (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. i. 363). James was vice-chancellor of Oxford in 1581 and 1590, and was one of those appointed to meet Elizabeth on her visit to the university in September 1592. About this time James was chaplain to Dudley, earl of Leicester, and attended him on his deathbed in 1588. Although disappointed in 1595 of the bishopric of Worcester, for which Whitgift recommended him, he obtained the deanery of Durham 5 June 1596, and 7 Sept. 1606 succeeded Toby Matthew in that bishopric. Many of his extant letters in the Record Office, dated between 1596 and his death, recount the seditious state of the country, the constant feuds on the border, his difficulties with recusants, and his repeated collisions with the citizens of Durham. He procured the restitution of Durham House in London, and repaired the chapel of his palace at his own expense. His temporal power is shown by his appointment of several officers by patent in the port of Sunderland, besides incorporating the Company of Clothworkers in the city of Durham, and granting a weekly market and annual fair to Wolsingham. By a royal warrant, dated 13 March 1611, the bishop was commanded to receive the state prisoner, Arabella Stuart, into his charge at Durham (Harl. MSS. v. 7003, ff. 94, 96, 97). He met her at Lambeth Ferry on 15 March, in order to escort her north. But the lady was too ill to move further than Barnet, where she remained in the bishop's care till 2 April, when, after removing her to East Barnet, he went to Durham to prepare for her reception (see his letters to Council, State Papers, James I, Dom. lxii. 27, 39). On his way north he interviewed the king at Royston (ib. lxii. 30; see art. Arabella Stuart for details). Arabella never reached Durham, but so shattered was the bishop's health by the worries connected with his brief guardianship that after six months' illness he was obliged to recruit at Bath, 23 Jan. 1612 (State Papers, ib. lxviii. 271). In 1615 by a royal command the bishop mustered on Gilesgate Moor 8,320 men between sixteen and sixty able to bear arms. On 12 Sept. 1616 he was instituted to the living of Washington, and purchased the manor, which he bequeathed to his heir Francis. On the king's progress to Scotland in May 1617 he was entertained at Durham by the bishop, and it is said that a reproof administered by the king, probably on account of the bishop's contest with the citizens about their borough privileges and parliamentary representation, broke the old man's heart. He died, aged 75, on 12 May 1617, four days after the royal visit, and was buried in the cathedral choir, beneath a brass effigy and inscription (see Willis, Cathedrals, p. 248), which have disappeared. The bishop's unpopularity in Durham was very great, and there were riots after his death. James married three times. His eldest son, William, by his first wife, Katharine Kysbie of Abingdon, was a student of Christ Church, and public orator of Oxford University in 1601, and became prebendary of Durham 6 Oct. 1620. To his youngest and only other surviving son, Francis (by his third wife, Isabel Atkinson of Newcastle), he left the bulk of his property, and made him executor of his will, proved 4 July 1617. James seems to have been too fond of hoarding money, but ‘bating this [was] as kindly and quiet a bishop as ever lived.’ His hospitality was famed at Oxford, and Elizabeth is said to have never forgotten the ‘good entertainment’ he gave her there (Harington, State of the Church of England, 1653, p. 203). Two of James's sermons, one preached at Hampton Court before the queen on 9 Feb. 1578 (London, 1578, 8vo), the other at Paul's Cross on 9 Nov. 1589 (London, 1590, 8vo), were published.

[Lansd. MSS. v. 983, p. 168; Fuller's Worthies, ‘Cheshire,’ p. 175, and Church History, x. 71; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), ii. 203; Wood's Fasti, i. passim; Wood's Antiq. of Oxford (Gutch), vol. ii.; Clark's Register of the University, pt. i. pp. vii, 41, 228, 241, ii. 98, 178, 184, iii. 35; Boase's Register, i. 249; Strype's Annals (Clar. Press), iv. 318, 336; Strype's Whitgift, i. 198, 337, 549; Strype's Grindal, p. 238; Willis's Cathedrals, pp. 254, 416; Surtees's Durham, i. 216, ii. 41, 43, 159; Hutchinson's Durham, i. 479. See constant letters to and from James in Calendars of State Papers, James I, Dom. 1598–1601, 1603–10; Addenda, 1580–1626, &c.]

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