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John Buckeridge, Bishop of Rochester (1562-1631)
Born: 1562 at Draycot Cerne, Wiltshire
Bishop of Rochester
Bishop of Ely
Died: 23rd May 1631 at Bromley, Kent

John was the son of William Buckeridge, of Basildon, Berkshire, and his wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas Kibblewhite, also of Basildon, Berkshire, and granddaughter of John Kibblewhite, uncle of Sir Thomas White, the founder of Merchant Taylors' School and of St. John's College, Oxford. He was born at Draycot Cerne, near Chippenham in Wiltshire, in 1562, and was admitted at Merchant Taylors' School in 1573, and elected thence as a foundation fellow of St. John's, Oxford, in 1578. Here he took the degree of B.A. in 1583, M.A. in 1586 and B.D. & D.D. by accumulation in 1597, ultimately succeeding to the presidentship of the college in 1605. While Buckeridge was still a fellow, William Laud was entered at St. John's. Buckeridge became his tutor and instilled into his pupil high-church and anti-Calvinistic doctrine, opposed to the then prevalent theological bias of the university. Buckeridge was an Anglican of the school of Andrewes, equally opposed to Romanism and Puritanism, calm but unflinching in the maintenance of his views of religious truth and ecclesiastical polity. "It proved," writes Heylyn, "no ordinary happiness to the scholar to be principled under such a tutor, who knew as well as any other of his time how to employ the two-edged sword of Holy Scripture..brandishing it on the one side against Papists and on the other against the Puritans and Non-Conformists".

Buckeridge's real merits became known to Archbishop Whitgift and, about 1596, he appointed him as one of his chaplains. In this capacity, he was one of those who attended the Archbishop in his last sickness of February 1604 and heard his reiterated dying words, "Pro ecclesia Dei, pro ecclesia, Dei". Upon leaving the university, Buckeridge became Rector of North Fambridge in Essex and was appointed chaplain to Robert Devereux, the unfortunate Earl of Essex, who made a petition in his behalf to the then Lord Keeper, Puckering, for small pieces of preferment in his gift. He was afterwards presented to the living of North Kilworth in Leicestershire, in which, in 1608, Laud succeeded him, though not immediately. Through Whitgift, Buckeridge was introduced to King James I and he speedily rose high in the Royal favour. He was regarded by the King as one of the first pulpit divines of his day. He was now on the high road to preferment. After a long period of domination, Puritanism lost its influence.

In Queen Elizabeth's reign, Buckeridge had received a canonry at Rochester, in which capacity his name occurs in 1587. He was now appointed as a Royal chaplain. In March 1604, he became Archdeacon of Northampton; the next month, he was installed as Prebendary of Colwell in Hereford Cathedral; and, in the November of the same year, he was nominated, by the King, to succeed Lancelot Andrewes, on his consecration to the See of Chichester, in the well-endowed vicarage of St. Giles, Cripplegate, which he held in commendam after his elevation to the episcopate. The next year, Buckeridge was elected president of St. John's College, to which office he was admitted on 30th January 1606. In April 1606, he was appointed a Canon of Windsor and therefore resigned his stall at Rochester. In September 1606, he was selected by James I, together with Bishops Andrewes and Barlow and Dr. King, afterwards Bishop of London, to preach one of the sermons at Hampton Court designed to convince the learned presbyterians, Andrew and James Melville, of the scriptural authority of the episcopal form of church government, and of the Royal supremacy. To Buckeridge the latter of the two subjects was assigned, which, according to Archbishop Spotiswood, he "handled both learnedly and soundly, to the satisfaction of all hearers," with the exception of the presbyterians, who were "much nettled at being equalled to the papists in matter of rebellion against their lawful sovereigns."

On the translation of Neile from Rochester to Lichfield, Buckeridge was selected by King James to succeed him. He was consecrated at Lambeth Palace on 9th June 1611 by Archbishop Abbot. Andrewes and his predecessor, Neile, were among the assisting prelates. The headship of Buckeridge's college was thus vacated and quickly filled by his former pupil, William Laud, mainly upon his recommendation. He had previously introduced Laud to the notice of Bishop Neile, who had appointed him his chaplain and thus paved the way for his future preferment. In September 1613, Buckeridge was one of the prelates concerned in the infamous Essex divorce case and pronounced, with Andrewes, Bilson and Neile, for the nullity of the marriage, against Archbishop Abbot, Bishop King of London and the soundest civilians.

In the fierce controversy aroused by the two books of Dr. Richard Montague, Buckeridge stood by the side of Laud, by then the Bishop of St. Davids, in his defence. Laud employed his influence with the Duke of Buckingham to secure his favour for Montague; and, on 2nd August 1625, the day that the house was pronouncing a formal censure on his views, he declared, with Buckeridge and Bishop Howson of Oxford, in a joint letter to the Duke, that, in their opinion, Montague's statements were in no way contrary to the doctrines of the Church of England. In February 1626, when Buckingham had been induced to consent that a two days' conference should be held at York House on the incriminated books, Buckeridge, aided by Dean White of Carlisle and Cosin, supported Montague's orthodoxy against the attacks of Bishop Morton of Lichfield and Dr. Preston, the puritan Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Buckeridge's defence was able and temperate. He denied that the Council of Trent had erred in any directly fundamental article of faith. A second conference was held a few days later, at which Montague defended his theses in person against Bishop Morton and Dr. Preston. On the presentation of the 'Petition of Right' in 1628, Buckeridge advised that it should be delivered to the judges, that they might give their opinion whether anything in it encroached on the Royal prerogative. If their reply was favourable, the petition might then be entered on the roll without in any way prejudicing the King's right.

On 26th November 1628, Buckeridge preached the funeral sermon of Bishop Andrewes, his honoured friend for above thirty years, at St. Saviour's, Southwark (now the Cathedral), in which he repudiated the doctrine of the Real presence in any proper sense. In 1629, in conjunction with Laud, then Bishop of London, he published, by the King's special command, Andrewes' 'Ninety-One Sermons' to which his funeral sermon was appended. In April 1628, Buckeridge, "by the power and favour" of Laud, had been appointed to succeed Nicholas Felton as Bishop of Ely, one of a crowd of unpopular episcopal nominations which marked that fatal year. His election was confirmed on 15th July. Buckeridge died on 23rd May 1631, "leaving behind him the character of a very pious, learned and worthy bishop." He was buried in the parish church of Bromley, Kent, where the palace of the Bishops of Rochester was then situated.

Two portraits of Buckeridge as bishop are preserved in St. John's College, Oxford, one in the hall, and a second, of smaller size, representing him as an older man, in the president's lodgings. He bequeathed 500 towards improving the stipends of the fellows and scholars of St. John's College, to the chapel of which he gave the altar furniture, hangings and plate of his Episcopal Chapel at Ely. He also left a bequest to the poor of the parish of Bromley, the proceeds of which are still received. In addition to the funeral sermon on Bishop Andrewes, Buckeridge published 'A Sermon preached at Hampton Court before the King's Majestie on Tuesday the 23rd of September, anno 1606'; 'De Potestate Papee in rebus temporalibus sive in regibus deponendis usurpata adv. Robertum Cardinalem Bellarminum libri duo' and 'A Sermon preached before Her Majestie at Whitehall, Mar. 22, 1617,' touching on prostration and kneeling in the worship of God. In this, writes Heylyn, "he asserted the piety and antiquity of this religious posture with such solid reasons and such clear authorities that he came off without the least opposition by that party."

Edited from Leslie Stephen's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1885)
 

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