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JOHN WHITGIFT (c. 1530-1604)

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 609 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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JOHN WHITGIFT (c. 1530-1604), English archbishop, was the eldest son of Henry Whitgift, merchant of Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire, where he was born, according to one account in 1533, but according to a calculation founded on a statement of his own in 1530. At an early age his education was entrusted to his uncle, Robert Whitgift, abbot of the neighbouring monastery of Wellow, by whose advice he was afterwards sent to St Anthony's school, London. In 1549 he matriculated at Queens' College, Cambridge, and in May 1550 he migrated to Pembroke Hall, where he had the martyr John Bradford for a tutor. In May 1555 he became a fellow of Peterhouse. Having taken orders in 156o, he became in the same year chaplain to Richard Cox, bishop of Ely, who collated him to the rectory of Teversham, Cambridgeshire. In 1563 he was appointed Lady Margaret professor of divinity at Cambridge, and his lectures gave such satisfaction to the authorities that on the 5th of July 1566 they considerably augmented his stipend. The following year he was appointed regius professor of divinity, and also became master first of Pembroke Hall and then of Trinity. He had a principal share in compiling the statutes of the university, which passed the great seal on the 25th of September 1570, and in November following he was chosen vice-chancellor. Macaulay's description of Whitgift as " a narrow, mean, tyrannical priest, who gained power by servility and adulation," is tinged with rhetorical exaggeration; but undoubtedly Whitgift's extreme High Church notions led him to treat the Puritans with exceptional intolerance. In a pulpit controversy with Thomas Cartwright, regarding the constitutions and customs of the Church of England, he showed himself Cartwright's inferior in oratorical effectiveness, but the balance was redressed by the exercise of arbitrary authority. Whitgift, with other heads of the university, deprived Cartwright in 1570 of his professorship, and in September 1571 exercised his prerogative as master of Trinity to deprive him of his fellowship. In June of the same year Whitgift was nominated dean of Lincoln. In the following year he published An Answere to a Certain Libel intituled an Admonition to the Parliament, which led to further controversy between the two divines. On the 24th of March 1577, Whitgift was appointed bishop of Worcester, and during the absence of Sir Henry Sidney in Ireland (1577) he acted as vice-president of Wales. In August 1583 he was appointed archbishop of Canterbury, and thus was largely instrumental in giving its special complexion to the church of the Reformation. Although he wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth remonstrating against the alienation of church property, Whitgift always retained her special confidence. In his policy against the Puritans, and in his vigorous enforcement of the subscription test, he thoroughly carried out the queen's policy of religious uniformity. He drew up articles aimed at n End of Article: JOHN WHITGIFT (c. 1530-1604)
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