Owen, Morgan (DNB00)
OWEN, MORGAN (1585?–1645), bishop of Llandaff, was the third son of the Rev. Owen Rees of Y Lasallt, in the parish of Myddfai (Mothvey), Carmarthenshire, where he was born about 1585. He is described as a descendant of the physicians of Myddfai, and an inheritor of much of their landed property in that parish (The Physicians of Myddvai, published for the Welsh MSS. Society, 1861, Introduction, p. xxx). He was educated at the grammar school, Carmarthen (Spurrell, Carmarthen, p. 62), and was for four years servitor to David Williams (who was probably a native of Myddfai, of which parish he subsequently became vicar) at Jesus College, Oxford, where Williams had matriculated 7 Nov. 1600 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) Owen matriculated as a member of the same college on 16 Dec. 1608, and became chaplain of New College, whence he graduated B.A. (as Owen Morgan) 5 July 1613; he proceeded M.A. from Hart Hall, 4 June 1616. He was introduced to the notice of Laud when bishop of St. David's, and was appointed his chaplain, and subsequently, through his influence as chancellor of the university of Oxford, he was made D.D. (at the time of the king's visit to Oxford), 31 Aug. 1636, then being described as of Jesus College. Wood (Athenæ Oxon. iv. 803) describes him as well beneficed in Wales. He was rector of Port Eynon in Glamorganshire 1619, canon of St. David's 1623, deputy-chancellor of Carmarthen (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Ser. 17 April 1624), prebendary of the collegiate church of Brecon 1626, precentor 1637, and rector of Newtown 1640 (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) He was elected bishop of Llandaff 12 March 1639–1640, and installed 30 June 1640 (Cal. of State Papers, Dom. Ser. sub 28 Feb. and 2 April 1640); he held the rectories of Bedwas and Rudry, in commendam.
Being a rich man, and possessed of many lands, he enclosed the south yard of St. Mary's Church at Oxford, and built in 1637, at the expense of 230l., ‘the beautiful porch leading from the high street into the church, with the image of our lady and a babe in her arms at the top of it,’ which gave great offence to the puritans, and was defaced by the parliamentary soldiers. It was assumed that Laud had sanctioned this work as chancellor of the university, and evidence to that effect was brought against Laud at his trial (Prynne, Canterbury's Doom, pp. 71–2, 477–8; Wood, History and Antiquities of Oxford, ed. Gutch, i. 435).
Owen was one of the bishops impeached, 4 Aug. 1641, of high crimes and misdemeanours for promulgating the canons of 1640 (House of Commons' Journals, 23 Feb. 1640, and 4 Aug. 1641), and was imprisoned in the Tower (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 21 Dec. 1648). He was at liberty, however, in December, and was one of the twelve bishops who on 30 Dec. signed a protest against the action of the Long parliament, for which they were on the same day impeached of high treason, and committed to the Tower (see the ‘Protest’ in Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion, iv. 140; Laud, Works, ed. Bliss, iii. 243, 454; Rogers, Protests of the Lords, i. 7–8). They were again and again brought to the bar of the House of Lords to plead, and Owen put in the same plea of not guilty as the others. Phillips, in his ‘Civil War in Wales and the Marches’ (i. 91), on what authority is not known, states, however, that Owen pleaded that he had signed the protest ‘through ignorance and indiscretion, and that he had no designs to overthrow the fundamental laws of the land.’
The bishops were eventually voted by parliament guilty of præmunire, and all their estates forfeited, excepting small sums which were allowed each of them, Owen being voted, on 6 April 1642, 200l. a year (House of Commons' Journals). Thereupon the bishops were released on bail; but, the commons objecting, they were re-arrested and confined for six weeks longer, when, upon giving bonds for 5,000l. they were allowed to depart from the Tower, having ‘spent the time betwixt New Year's Eve and Whitsuntide in those safe walls’ (see Journals of House of Lords between 30 Dec. 1641 and May 1642; also Hall, Hard Measure). Owen then retired to Wales, ‘whither his sufferings likewise followed him, as well for the sake of his Patron as of his order and loyalty’ (Walker, Sufferings of the Clergy, ed. 1714, pt. ii. p. 37). His palace at Mathern, near Chepstow, with all his revenues, was seized by one Green from Cardiff. Thereupon Owen went to live at his birthplace, Y Lasallt, where he was visited by the puritanical vicar, Rees Prichard [q. v.] of Llandovery, whom he is said to have accompanied on a visit to St. David's, 2 Aug. 1643 (Prichard's ‘Memoirs’ in Canwyll y Cymry, ed. Rees, p. 314). He died at Y Lasallt 5 March 1644–1645 (Wood, Athenæ, loc. cit.; inscription on memorial slab in Myddfai Church, see Arch. Cambr. 3rd ser. iv. 419, v. 71). Local tradition says his death was precipitated by the news of Laud's execution (see Prichard, Memoirs, p. 317; Willis, Llandaff, p. 70).
He was buried on the north side of the altar in Myddfai Church. By his will, dated 14 Dec. 1644, and proved 12 Dec. 1645, he bequeathed 20l. a year to the grammar school at Carmarthen out of the rectory of St. Ishmael's, Carmarthenshire (see Table of Pious Benefactors in St. Peter's Church, Carmarthen).
On 21 Dec. 1648, having previously petitioned the committee of the lords and commons in December 1646, Morgan, son of Rees Owen, a brother of and ‘right heir’ to the bishop, compounded for his uncle's sequestered estates. The nephew's claim to the property was resisted by an old servant of the bishop, Owen Price, on the strength of a lease said to have been granted to him about October 1641, when, it was stated, Owen was in the Tower (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 31 Dec. 1648; Cal. of Proceedings of the Committee for Compounding, 1643–1660, pp. 1881–2).
The family surname adopted by the descendants of Morgan ap Rees was Rice, a grandson of his being Morgan Rice, lord of the manor of Tooting Graveney and high sheriff of Surrey in 1776. The bulk of the bishop's property was, however, inherited by another nephew, Morgan Owen, who died in 1667, and was succeeded by his son, Henry Owen, both of whom are commemorated on a slab in Myddfai Church (ut supra; Physicians of Myddfai, loc. cit.)[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. iv. 803; Willis's Survey of Llandaff, p. 70; Laud's Works, ed. Bliss, vol. iii.]