Ridley, Nicholas (DNB00)

RIDLEY, NICHOLAS (1500?–1555), bishop of London, was second son of Christopher Ridley of Unthank Hall, near Willimoteswick, Northumberland, a descendant of an ancient border family. His paternal grandfather was also Nicholas Ridley; his mother, Anne, daughter of William Blenkinsop. Bishop Tunstal was a relative. One of his uncles, John Ridley, was father of Lancelot Ridley [q. v.]

Another uncle, Robert Ridley, long studied in Paris, proceeded D.D. at Cambridge in 1518, and is doubtfully said to have been at one time fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge. Robert Ridley was rector of St. Botolph, Bishopsgate, from 1523; held successively three prebends in St. Paul's Cathedral; was rector of St. Edmund the King, London, from 1526, and of Fulham from 1529. He died in 1536. He was a man of learning and an opponent of the Reformation. Unpublished sermons by him, ‘for Sundays and holidays throughout the year,’ are in Cambridge University Library, MS. Dd. V. 27 (Cooper, Athenæ Cantabr. i. 57, 520).

After being educated at Newcastle-on-Tyne, Nicholas entered Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, about 1518, and distinguished himself by his proficiency in Greek. All the expenses of his education were defrayed by his uncle Robert. He graduated B.A. as fourth wrangler in 1521–2 (cf. Moule, p. 302). He declined in April 1524 an offer of a Skirlaw fellowship at University College, Oxford, and was soon afterwards elected fellow of Pembroke Hall. On proceeding M.A. in 1526, he pursued his studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, and at a later date attended lectures at the university of Louvain. By 1530 he had settled again at Cambridge, and was appointed junior treasurer of his college. His growing reputation as a scholar led to his being chosen to represent the university in 1533 in a disputation with two Oxford graduates, George Throckmorton and John Ashwell, on the questions whether the civil law were worthier than medicine, and whether a woman condemned to be hanged, whose life was twice preserved after being suspended from the gallows through the breaking of the rope, ought to be hanged a third time. Next year, in 1534, Ridley acted as proctor of the university, and paid many visits to London in order to protest against the threatened withdrawal of academic privileges. He helped to procure from the university an opinion condemnatory of the spiritual power of the pope; and his abilities were further recognised by his appointment to the office of chaplain to the university.

Till the death of his uncle Robert in 1536 he does not appear to have distinctly accepted the reformed faith; but he had read Bertram's book of the sacrament, and had discussed the questions at issue with Cranmer and Peter Martyr. In 1537, when he proceeded B.D., Archbishop Cranmer made him one of his chaplains, and on 13 April 1538 instituted him to the vicarage of Herne, Kent. Cranmer, who formed a high opinion of his learning and judgment, was largely influenced by him in the formation of his final religious opinions. But Ridley only gradually rejected the crucial doctrines of the old faith. Although he preached in 1539 against the Six Articles, he accepted at the time the doctrine of the corporeal presence, treated auricular confession as permissible, though unnecessary to salvation, and, by declining to marry, showed himself favourable to the principle of clerical celibacy.

In the last years of Henry VIII's reign preferment was bestowed on Ridley with some liberality. In 1540, when he took the degree of D.D., he was elected master of Pembroke Hall. He became one of the king's chaplains and canon of Canterbury in 1541, and canon of Westminster in 1545. About 1543 attempts were made, it is said, by Bishop Gardiner to convict him of nonconformist practices. His doubts about auricular confession, his alleged condemnation of some church ceremonies as beggarly, and his direction that the Te Deum should be sung in English at Herne church were among accusations that he appears to have refuted to the satisfaction of commissioners sent to examine him by the king. But there is little doubt that his alienation from ancient catholic dogma and practice was steadily growing, and just before Henry VIII's death he finally renounced the dogma of transubstantiation. His conclusions on the subject were at once adopted by Cranmer.

The reign of Edward VI gave Ridley his opportunity. When visitors were deputed to propagate the doctrines of the reformation in the dioceses of York, Durham, Carlisle, and Chester, he was sent with them as their preacher. At the same date his college presented him to the vicarage of Soham, Cambridgeshire. But a higher honour was in store for him. On 4 Sept. 1547 he was nominated bishop of Rochester, with permission to hold in commendam, till Christmas 1552, his two vicarages and his two canonries.

At the end of 1548 he was appointed one of the visitors for the visitation of Cambridge University, whose business it was, besides the work of general reorganisation, to establish protestantism there on a firm basis. The visitors did not arrive till May 1549, when Ridley opened the proceedings by preaching a sermon in the university church. He next presided over three disputations between protestant and catholic champions on the subject of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and on 20 June pronounced a learned judgment in favour of the view of the reformed church. He repeated these opinions in a sermon preached in the university church ten days later. He differed from his fellow-commissioners as to the desirability of merging Clare College in Trinity Hall, and, although he carried his point, he was withdrawn from the commission before its labours terminated by direction of Protector Somerset (Burnet, ii. 274–275). He was afterwards ordered to visit the unhappy anabaptist, Joan Bocher [q. v.] while a prisoner in Lord Rich's house in London, and vainly invited the poor woman to recant. In 1548 he helped to compile the first English prayer-book. In 1549 he was nominated to the commissions for the reform of ecclesiastical law and for the deprivation of Bonner, bishop of London, and Gardiner, bishop of Winchester. On 12 April 1550 he was installed Bonner's successor in the bishopric of London. He showed much good feeling in his attitude to the ejected prelate's mother and sister, whom he permitted to reside at his palace at Fulham and often entertained at his own table. While zealously supporting the reformed doctrines, he insisted on the observance of due order in public worship, and a few months after settling in London sought to convince John Hooper, one of his chaplains who had been nominated to the see of Gloucester, of the folly of refusing to wear the prescribed episcopal vestments. But he ordered all altars in his diocese to be replaced by communion tables, and gave preferment to many men of advanced reforming tendencies. With Bradford, whom he made a prebendary, he lived on terms of close friendship, and he was a patron of John Rogers [q. v.], whom he also appointed to a prebendal stall.

In 1552, after holding an ordination at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, of which he still retained the mastership, he paid, on his way back to London, a visit to the princess Mary at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire. He came without any invitation, and was politely received by the princess, but she peremptorily declined his offer to preach before her. Early in 1553 he appealed to the young king, while preaching before him at Westminster, to make better provision for the destitute London poor. After the sermon Edward VI invited Ridley to give him more detailed advice. At the bishop's suggestion royal letters were sent inviting the co-operation of the lord mayor and corporation, and in the result Christ's Hospital, St. Thomas's Hospital, and Bethlehem Hospital were founded jointly by the king and corporation to alleviate the poverty of London. The greed of Edward VI's courtiers and their raids on church property, which had contributed to the spread of poverty throughout the country, disquieted Ridley, and his remonstrances brought upon him the suspicion of the Duke of Northumberland. But he did not prove resolute enough to withstand the duke's persuasions that he should sign the letters patent which acknowledged the title to the crown of the duke's daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey. At the same time he was promised the rich bishopric of Durham. On Sunday, 9 July 1553, just after the king's death, but before it had been publicly announced, Ridley preached at St. Paul's Cross before the lord mayor and corporation. He declared the princesses Mary and Elizabeth to be illegitimate, and vehemently denounced Mary's religious opinions (Burnet).

When Ridley perceived that Lady Jane's cause was lost, he made his way to Queen Mary's camp at Framlingham and flung himself upon her mercy. She ordered him to be arrested and sent to the Tower of London, where he arrived on 20 July 1553 ‘on a lame and halting horse.’ He was excepted from Queen Mary's amnesty, and Bonner was at once reinstated bishop of London. From the early days of his imprisonment Ridley by word of mouth and by his pen did all in his power to defend the reformed doctrines. In letters to his friends Hooper and Bradford he insisted on the need of resolutely standing by their faith. In the spring of 1554, after Wyatt's insurrection had spurred Queen Mary and her advisers into new activity against protestants, Ridley, with two fellow-prisoners, Hugh Latimer, formerly bishop of Worcester, and Thomas Cranmer, formerly archbishop of Canterbury, were taken to Oxford, so that their opinions might be the more thoroughly sifted in disputation with men of learning. Ridley was committed to the custody of the mayor of Oxford, Edmund Irish, whose house adjoined the Bocardo prison. On 17 April 1554 he was brought into the divinity school at Oxford, and, in the presence of a large, noisy, and actively hostile audience, was invited to defend his faith. His chief opponent was Dr. Richard Smith, canon of Christ Church, who was aided by eleven other divines, including Nicholas Harpsfield, Owen Oglethorpe, president of Magdalen College, Oxford, Dr. William Glyn, president of Queens' College, Cambridge, and Thomas Watson, master of St. John's College, Cambridge, afterwards bishop of Lincoln. Hugh Weston, rector of Lincoln College, acted as moderator, and at the conclusion of the day's debate declared Ridley a heretic. Three days later he was brought before royal commissioners sitting in St. Mary's Church, and, on refusing to recant, was excommunicated.

But Mary and her ministers were reluctant to press matters to extremities. The realm had not been formally reconciled to Rome, and the execution of the old penal laws against heresy had not been sanctioned by Mary's parliaments. Further opportunities of conforming to catholicism were therefore offered Ridley. The Spanish friar Soto was sent to argue with him, but Ridley remained obdurate. Late in 1554 Cardinal Pole absolved the kingdom, and next year parliament enacted the penal laws against heretics. On 30 Sept. 1555, in accordance with a new commission from Cardinal Pole, Bishops White, Brookes, and Holyman summoned Ridley to take his trial under the new statutes on the capital charge of heresy. He protested against the legal constitution of the tribunal, but acknowledged the truth of the chief charges which accused him of denying the presence of the natural body of Christ in the Eucharist after consecration, or the existence in the mass of a propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead. He was directed to write out his opinions at length. Next day the court met in St. Mary's Church, and, after examining Ridley's written defence, the judges declared his language blasphemous and unfit to be recited. He was sentenced to the greater excommunication, and on 15 Oct. was formally degraded in the mayor's house by Bishop Brookes and Marshall, vice-chancellor of the university. Immediately after he was handed over to the mayor for punishment. He bore himself to the end with the utmost equanimity. On the eve of his execution he was especially cheerful, bidding the mayor's wife accompany him to his marriage in the morning, and declining the offer of his brother-in-law, George Shipside, to spend the night with him on the ground that he intended to enjoy a sound sleep. On 16 Oct. he and his fellow prisoner, Latimer, were marched to the stake, which was set up ‘on the north side of the town in the ditch over against Balliol College.’ Ridley was carefully dressed in a black gown, furred and faced with foins, ‘such as he was wont to wear being bishop.’ Richard Smith preached a short sermon, which Ridley offered to answer, but the vice-chancellor, Marshall, ordered him either to recant or be silent. Then Ridley, having distributed most of his clothes to the bystanders, was fastened to the stake by a chain of iron. His brother-in-law tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, and, after Ridley had appealed to the queen's commissioner, Lord Williams of Thame, who was keeping order in the crowd, to protect some poor dependents of his, the faggots at his feet were lighted. Latimer bade him be of good cheer. ‘We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as, I trust, shall never be put out.’ Latimer at once succumbed to the fire, but Ridley suffered revolting torments before death released him. A martyrs' memorial was erected at Oxford in 1841, near the scene of the execution.

Foxe describes Ridley as ‘a man right comely and well proportioned in all points, both in complexion and lineaments of the body.’ In bearing he was singularly courteous. He was ‘given to much prayer and contemplation,’ and sought his only relaxation while he was bishop in an occasional game of chess. He was deeply read, especially in patristic learning, and Cranmer acknowledged him his superior in controversy. Bishop Brookes at his latest trial addressed to him the taunt: ‘Latimer leaneth to Cranmer, Cranmer leaneth to Ridley, and Ridley to the singularity of his own wit.’ In his tract on the ‘Lord's Supper’ he defined and justified the doctrine on the subject which the church of England adopted. His reputation as a preacher must be accepted on hearsay, for none of his sermons are extant. Some enthusiastic verses on his courage, by the poet Quarles, contain the lines:

    Rome thundered death, but Ridley's dauntless eye
    Star'd in death's face and scorned death standing by.

Wordsworth commemorated his resolution in a sonnet on the ‘Marian Martyrs.’

Portraits are at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and at Fulham Palace. One, attributed to Holbein, was engraved by I. Miller for Glocester Ridley's biography in 1763. There is an engraved portrait by Simon Pass in Holland's ‘Herωologia;’ other engravings are by R. White, W. Marshall, Houston, and Dean. An avenue in the gardens of Pembroke College, Cambridge, is still known as Ridley's Walk.

Ridley published in his lifetime only ‘Injunctions given in the Visitation … for an uniformitie in the Diocese of London,’ 1550, and ‘Articles to be enquired into’ at the same visitation. Of the long list of writings supplied by Tanner comparatively few are now known to be extant. After Ridley's death there were published: 1. ‘A Brief Declaration of the Lordes Supper, written by the Singular Learned Man, and most constant Martir of Jesus Christ: Nicholas Rydley, Bishop of London, Prisoner in Oxforde, a little before he suffered Deathe for the True Testimonye of Christ, Roma 8 Anno 1555,’ probably published at Geneva (Brit. Mus.) The preface is believed to be by William Whittingham [q. v.] A Latin translation appeared at Geneva, ‘apud Joannem Crispinum,’ 1556. New editions by Henry Wharton appeared in 1688, and by the Rev. Dr. Moule in 1895. The tract was included in Randolph's ‘Enchiridion Theologicum’ (1752 and 1812). 2. ‘Certain Godly, Learned, and Comfortable Conferences betwene the two Reverend Fathers and Holy Martyrs in Christ, D. Nicolas Rydley, late Bisshoppe of London, and Mr. Hugh Latimer, sometyme Bisshop of Worcester, during the Tyme of their imprisonmentes, anno 1556,’ probably printed at Zurich, 1556, 8vo (Brit. Mus.); edited by John Olde, Geneva, 1556, and reprinted with No. 1 in London in 1574. 3. ‘A Friendly Farewel which Master Doctor Ridley … did write beinge prisoner in Oxeforde unto all his true louers and frendes in God a little before that he suffred,’ London, by John Day, 1559; edited by John Foxe (Brit. Mus.) 4. ‘A Pituous Lamentation of the Miserable Estate of the Church of Christ in England in the time of Queen Mary, wherein is conteyned a learned comparison betwene the comfortable Doctryne of the Gospell, and the Traditions of the Popyshe Religion; with an instruction howe the true Christian oughte to behave himselfe in the tyme of Tryall; wrytten by Nicolas Rydley, late Bishoppe of London,’ London, by William Powell, 1566 (Brit. Mus.)

Foxe printed in his ‘Actes and Monuments’ the following works of Ridley for the first time: ‘A Treatise concerning Images, that they are not to be set up nor Worshipped in Churches;’ ‘A Conference which he had with Secretary Bourne, Feckenham, and others, at the Lieutenant's Table in the Tower, and wrote out with his own hand;’ ‘Ridley's Judgment in the Disputations concerning the Sacrament held at Cambridge in June 1549;’ and the ‘Disputation at Oxford with Dr. Smith and others on 17 April 1554, with the order and manner of his last examination before the Queen's Commissioners on the 30 day of September 1555.’ The last disputation was appended in Italian to M. A. Florio's ‘Historia de la Vita de Signora Giovanna Graia,’ 1607. Albany Langdaile published in 1556 a ‘confutatio’ of Ridley's determination of the disputation at Cambridge in 1549.

Coverdale in his ‘Letters of the Martyrs,’ Foxe, Burnet in his ‘Reformation,’ and Strype preserve some of Ridley's letters. Others are among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum and in the library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Thirty-four of them have been printed, with all the works already enumerated and a few smaller pieces in the ‘Works of Nicholas Ridley, D.D.,’ edited for the Parker Society by Rev. Henry Christmas (Cambridge, 1841). Selections from Ridley's writings are included in Legh Richmond's ‘Fathers of the English Church’ (vol. iv.), 1807, and in Bickersteth's ‘Testimony of the Reformers’ (1836).

[The biography by Glocester Ridley (1763) is a discursive defence of the protestant reformation. A far more businesslike memoir appears in the Rev. Dr. Moule's edition of Ridley's ‘Declaration of the Lord's Supper,’ 1895. The account of Ridley in Foxe's Actes and Monuments is the main original source. See also Ridlon's Ancient Ryedales (Manchester, New Hampshire, 1884), pp. 419–24; Ascham's Letters; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr.; Godwin, De Præsulibus, ed. Richardson, 1743, p. 192; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.; Froude's Hist.; Lingard's Hist.; Burnet's Hist. of Reformation; Strype's Works.]

S. L.