Knox, Robert Bent (DNB01)
KNOX, ROBERT BENT (1808–1893), archbishop of Armagh, was second son of Hon. Charles Knox (d. 1825), archdeacon of Armagh, by his wife Hannah (d. 1852), daughter of Robert Bent, M.P., and widow of James Fletcher. He was born at Dungannon Park Mansion, the residence of his grandfather Thomas Knox, first viscount Northland (d. 1818), on 25 Sept. 1808. Though baptised Robert Bent, he early dropped the use of his middle name. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, graduating B.A. in 1829, M.A. in 1834, B.D. and D.D. in 1858 ; he was also LL.D. Cambridge in 1888. In 1832 he was ordained deacon and priest by Beresford, bishop of Kilmore. On 7 May 1834 he was collated chancellor of Ardfert,and on 16 Oct. 1841 he was collated to the prebend of St. Munchia, Limerick, by his uncle Edmund Knox (d. 7 May 1849), bishop of Limerick, who made him his domestic chaplain. In March 1849 he was nominated by Lord Clarendon to the see of Down, Connor, and Dromore, vacated by the death (2 Nov. 1848) of Richard Mant [q. v.] He was consecrated on 1 May, and enthroned on 8 May at Lisburn, on 5 May at Dromore. Samuel Wilberforce [q. v.], who was in Ireland in 1861, details in his diary (26 Aug.) some ill-natured gossip about the appointment. James Henthorn Todd [q. v.] described Knox as 'very foolish, without learning, piety, judgment, conduct, sense, appointed by a job, that his uncle should resign Limerick.' The dean of Limerick, Anthony La Touche Kirwan (d. 1868), said of him, 'He used, when made to preach by his uncle, to get me to write his sermon, and could not deliver it. The bishop used to say, "Why do you always blow your nose in the pathetic part ?"' (Life of Wilberforce, 1882, iii. 25).
Knox, as a whig, was not at the outset popular in his diocese. Like his predecessor, he resided at Holywood, co. Down. He made no secret of his opinion that, in the absence of extensive reforms, disestablishment was inevitable, and did his best to prepare for it. At an early period of his episcopate he had entertained the project of a cathedral at Belfast (in addition to the three existing cathedrals of the diocese) ; this luxury he abandoned in favour of a plan for multiplication of churches. The 'Belfast Church Extension Society' was founded by him in 1862 ; as the result of his efforts, forty-eight new or enlarged churches were consecrated in his diocese. Prior to disestablishment, he organised (1862) diocesan conferences, and founded a diocesan board of missions. In the House of Lords in 1867, and before the church commission in 1868, he proposed a reduction of the Irish hierarchy to one archbishop and five bishops. He was not a man of commanding power or of genial warmth, but his simplicity and modesty of manner, the plain good sense of his clear and frank utterances, his ready exertions in all works of charity, and his complete freedom from sectarian bias, won for him the respect and good feeling of every section in the community.
On the death, 26 Dec. 1885, of Primate Marcus Gervais Beresford [q. v. Suppl.] he was chosen by the house of bishops as his successor, and, exchanging his diocese for that of Armagh, was enthroned at Armagh as archbishop on 1 June 1886. As president of the general synod of the Irish church, his characteristic qualities of fairness and moderation came effectively into play. He retained to the last his activity of body, presiding at the Armagh diocesan synod a fortnight before his death. He died at Armagh of heart disease on 23 Oct. 1893, and was buried on 27 Oct. in the old church (a disused ruin) at Holywood. Portraits of him are at Armagh Palace and at the see house of Down, lie married, on 5 Oct. 1842, Catherine Delia, daughter of Thomas Gibbon Fitzgibbon of Ballyseeda, co. Limerick, and by her (who predeceased him) had three sons and three daughters, of whom a son, Lieutenant-general Charles Edmond Knox, and two daughters survive him. Besides a sermon (1847), charges (1850 and 1858), and a brief address, 'Fruits of the Revival,' in Steane's 'Ulster Revival' (1859, 8vo), he published 'Ecclesiastical Index (of Ireland)' (Dublin, 1839, 8vo), a valuable book of reference, with appendix of forms and precedents.[Cotton's Fasti Eccles. Hibern. ; Belfast News Letter, 24 and 30 Oct. 1893; Northern Whig, same dates ; Burke's Peerage, 1899, p. 1214.]