John VEYSEY

(Bishop of Exeter)

Born: ABT 1462

Died: 23 Oct 1554,  Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, England

Father: William VEYSY (Harman) of Sutton Coldfield

Mother: Joan SQUIER (dau. of Henry Squier of Handsworth)


Eldest son of William Veysy, or Harman, of Sutton Coldfield, in the county of Warwick, Esquire, by his wife Joan, daughter of Henry Squier of Handsworth, Staffordshire. Entering Magdalene College, Oxford, in 1482, he soon rose to distinction by his assiduity and talents, and obtained the degree of Doctor of Canon and Civil Law. The Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, John Arundell, an excellent judge of merit, made him his chancellor, and instituted him to the rectory of St. Mary's Church, Chester. On the translation of that prelate to Exeter, his lordship collated him to a canonry in this cathedral on 5 Aug 1503; shortly after, he was made Archdeacon of Barnstaple and Precentor of Exeter. Salisbury also ranked him amongst her prebendaries. On 19 Nov 1509, he was confirmed Dean of Exeter, and nearly at the same time was put in possession of the deaneries of Windsor and of Wolverhampton. By Pope Leo X's provision, bearing date 31 Aug 1519, he was advanced to the see of Exeter, and on 4 Nov King Henry VIII restored to him its temporalities. Two days later the consecration ceremony was performed at Otford by the primate Warham. Veysy must then have passed his fiftieth year. King Henry VIII was so charmed with his accomplished manners and his talents for business that he appointed him president of the Council of the Marches of Wales, and eventually confided to him the tutorship of his daughter the Princess Mary, "a charge which he carefully performed", says Heylyn ('History of Queen Mary,' p. 10).

During the winter of 1519 Bishop Veysey made the visitation of his diocese: we meet him at Bodmin on 24 Feb 1520; a month later he held an ordination in his cathedral; and another also in St. Michael's Chapel at Chudleigh on Easter eve, 7 Apr that year. In the early part of his episcopate, he spent a portion of every year in his diocese, but at a later period his absences were long and frequent, and its management was left to grand vicars and coadjutor Bishops. On 30 Mar 1533, his lordship officiated with the Bishops of Lincoln and St. Asaph at the consecration of the primate Thomas Crammer. It cannot bel denied that our obsequious prelate went all the lengths of King Henry VIII, in the affair of the divorce of Catalina of Aragon, of the supremacy, and the dissolution of monasteries. In truth he was a perfect courtier - a character unsuitable to that of a Christian Bishop: it restrained him from being honest in bad times, and from displaying the disinterested zeal and courage which became his age and elevated station; and he must have felt humiliated when the King, as the fountainhead of all spiritual power, commissioned Thomas Cromwell, on 24 Nov 1535, to exercise it, as His Majesty's vicegerent in this diocese, and indeed in every diocese within the realm.

Hoker, Goodwin, Richard Carew, Westcote, and Heylyn ('History of King Edward VL,' p. 100), with a herd of subsequent writers, vilify the Bishop's memory, charging him with the utter ruin and spoliation of his church. Yet it is but truth to declare, that he alienated no possessions of his see, without the express command and requisition of the sovereign, under the Privy Seal. On 29 Jun 1548, he had to grant the manors of Crediton and Morchard Bishop to Sir Thomas Darcy, afterwards Lord Darcy, but reserved a rent-charge of 40l. per annum; and that annuity continued to be paid to the Bishops of Exeter by the family until 1640.

Probably, if he and his chapter had been restive, and had refused to sacrifice a portion to the royal demands, the whole would have been snatched from them. All the Bishops were compelled to submit to the rapacity of the court and of its harpies. Crammer and Ridley were in high favour; yet the former was required to surrender the better half of the possessions of his archiepiscopal see, and the latter to sacrifice four of his principal manors in a single day. One important regulation took place in consequence of the dissolution of monasteries. Hitherto those establishments served for the archives and depositories of the births, marriages, and deaths of the members of families. To prevent confusion, and to perpetuate the remembrance of events so important to the public interest and benefit, the King's proclamation was issued for every beneficed clergyman to keep a book or register to be provided by his parishioners, to enter the day and year of every wedding, christening, and burying in the parish; that a coffer with two locks and keys were to remain, one of the keys with the incumbent, the other with the churchwarden; that the book was to be produced every Sunday, and, in the presence of the church-wardens, record to be made therein of all the weddings, christenings, and buryings of the preceding week; and for every failure of so doing, a penalty of three shillings and fourpence to be incurred, to be employed for the reparation of the church. The Bishop received this royal order at Clist on 14 Oct 1538, and inserted it in his 'Register,' vol. ii. fol. 77 b.

On 14 Aug 1551, Bishop Veysey was peremptorily enjoined by the privy council to surrender his see into the hands of his juvenile sovereign. He submitted "pre corporis metu", as the patent of the 'First of Queen Mary', p. 2, distinctly states. The income of the see had been rated in 1535 at 1566 14s. 6d. The deprived Bishop was to be allowed a net pension of 485 9s. 3d. Retiring to his native place, he spent his income in works of charity ; he rebuilt the aisles of the parish church of Sutton Coldfield, and added to its ornaments; erected a market-place there, paved the town, re-edified the street, defrayed the cost of two stone bridges, gave a meadow for the benefit of poor widows, founded a grammar-school, the rental of whose endowment is now valued at 470 a year, and he introduced the manufacture of "Devonshire kersies".

King Edward VI dying on 6 Jul 1553, no sooner was his sister Mary settled on the throne, than she restored, on 3 Sep that year, the nonagenarian prelate to his see. On 13 Nov that year we meet him at his palace here, where he remained nearly two months arranging the affairs of the diocese. The Register of his probate of wills commences with 21 Nov 1553. By 28 Jan 1554, he had returned to Sutton Coldfield, where he continued till his death. His Registrar thus concludes his acts: "Vicesimo tertio die Octobris, anno Domini MDLIV, in manerio suo De More Place, infra Parochiam De Sutton Collfyld, in Com. Warwick, Dominus ab hc luce migravit. Cujus anim propitietur Deus, Amen". His tomb is still to be seen in the north aisle of the parish church, and is engraved in Dugdale's 'History of Warwickshire'. During the short interval between his restoration and death, his suffragan, William Collumpton, Bishop of Hippo, the last prior of St. Nicholas, Exeter, and who had been a residentiary canon of the cathedral since the 2nd May, 1534, held several ordinations for him.

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