to proceed D.D. In 1584, when Leicester passed some time in Oxford, a very evenly contested theological disputation was enacted before him at St. Mary's, between John and his brother Edmond (Wood, Annals). The latter was a moderate Romanist who had been expelled from his fellowship at Corpus by Elizabeth's commissioners in 1568. Fuller describes a disputation at an earlier date between John and another brother William, and represents Rainolds at the time as a zealous papist and William as earnest a protestant. ‘Providence so ordered it,’ Fuller proceeds, ‘that, by their mutual disputation, John Rainolds turned an eminent Protestant, and William an inveterate Papist.’ But this story seems apocryphal [see Rainolds, William].
In 1586 Rainolds was appointed to a temporary lectureship, founded by Sir Francis Walsingham for the confutation of Romish tenets, at a salary of 20l. a year. According to Wood, ‘he read this lecture in the Divinity School thrice a week in full term, had constantly a great auditory, and was held by those of his party to have done great good.’ In 1592, on the morning of Queen Elizabeth's departure from the university, she sent for the heads of houses and others, and among those present ‘she schooled Dr. John Rainolds for his obstinate preciseness, willing him to follow her laws, and not run before them.’
The fellows of Corpus were desirous that Rainolds should replace the unpopular president of the college, William Cole. But Cole was unwilling to resign, although it was suspected that he would retire if he could exchange the presidency for an ecclesiastical office of importance. In order to promote such an arrangement, Rainolds was made dean of Lincoln on 10 Dec. 1593. In a letter to Barefoot, archdeacon of Lincoln (29 July 1594), he described the dissensions of the Lincoln chapter as more acute even than those at Corpus. Sunday prayers in Lincoln Cathedral were suspended on account of the controversies, and the new dean's position was very difficult. In November or December 1598 Cole, having doubtless been assured of his succession to the Lincoln deanery, resigned the presidency, to which Rainolds was elected on 11 Dec. following. The college now had rest, and flourished greatly under its new president. So contented was Rainolds himself with his position, and so ‘temperate,’ according to Wood, ‘were his affections,’ that he declined a bishopric which was offered to him by Queen Elizabeth.
Rainolds was a skilled disputant and a voluminous and much-read author. His puritan tendencies were doctrinal rather than practical. He was a low-churchman with Calvinistic leanings. His most enduring titles to fame are the prominent position he occupied in the Hampton Court conference and his share in the translation of the Bible. At the conference, which met on 14 Jan. 1603–4, the puritan party was represented by four persons selected by the king. Of these Rainolds was in character, learning, and position the most eminent, and he was expressly called their ‘foreman.’ To him the king was throughout peculiarly gracious. When he took exception to the words in the marriage service, ‘With my body I thee worship,’ the king jokingly said to him, ‘Many a man speaks of Robin Hood who never shot in his bow: if you had a good wife yourself, you would think that all the honour and worship you could do to her were well bestowed.’
The Hampton Court conference led to that translation of the scriptures which is known as the Authorised Version. Rainolds may be said to have initiated the project, and he occupied a leading position among the translators. The company on which he was engaged was that for translating the Prophets. It met in Oxford. Wood (Annals, sub 1604) tells us that ‘the said Translators had recourse, once a week, to Dr. Raynolds his lodgings in Corpus Christi College, and there, as 'tis said, perfected the work, notwithstanding the said Doctor, who had the chief hand in it, was all the while sorely afflicted with the gout.’
Rainolds was dying, not of gout, but of consumption. ‘His exceeding paines in study,’ we are told, ‘had brought his withered body to a very σκελετόν.’ He died on 21 May 1607, when he was not yet fifty-eight. After three orations had been pronounced over his body, he was buried in the college chapel, where a monument was erected to his memory by his pupil and successor, John Spencer. From his will it is plain that his main property consisted of books. These he distributed among various colleges and his private friends, leaving the residue to be disposed of by his executors ‘among scholars of our University, such as for religion, honesty, studiousness, and towardness in learning (want of means and ability to furnish themselves being withal considered) they shall think meetest.’
Rainolds's abilities, high character, and learning were acknowledged by his contemporaries. Crackanthorpe, his pupil, dwells admiringly on his prodigious learning, his sound judgment, his marvellous memory,