Richard COX

(Bishop of Ely)

Born: ABT 1500, Whaddon, Buckinghamshire, England

Died: 22 Jul 1581

Father: John COX

Mother: ¿?

Married 1: ¿?


1. Son COX

2. Son COX

3. Joan COX (m. John Parker)

4. Son COX

5. Son COX

Married 2: Jane AUDER (b. 1524 - d. 1613) (dau. of George Auder and Agnes ?) (w. of William Turner)

Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Ely, was born of obscure parentage at Whaddon, Buckinghamshire, in 1499 or 1500. He was educated at the Benedictine priory of St Leonard Snelshall near Whaddon, at Eton, and at King's College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1524. At Wolsey's invitation he became a member of the Cardinal's new foundation at Oxford, was incorporated B.A. in 1525, and created M.A. in 1526. In 1530 he was engaged in persuading the more unruly members of the university to approve of the King's divorce. A premature expression of Lutheran views is said to have caused his departure from Oxford and even his imprisonment, but the records are silent on these sufferings which do not harmonize with his appointment as master of the royal foundation at Eton.

In 1533 he appears as author of an ode on the coronation of Anne Boleyn, in 1535 he graduated B.D. at Cambridge, proceeding D.D. in 1537, and in the same year subscribing the Institution of a Christian Man. In 1540 he was one of the fifteen divines to whom were referred crucial questions on the sacraments and the seat of authority in the Church; his answers (printed in Pocock's Burnet, iii. 443-496) indicate a mind tending away from Catholicism, but susceptible to "the king's doctrine"; and, indeed, Cox was one of the divines by whom Henry said the "King's Book" had been drawn up when he wished to impress upon the Regent Arran that it was not exclusively his own doing. Moreover, he was present at the examination of Robert Barnes, subscribed the divorce of Anne of Cleves, and in that year of reaction became archdeacon and prebendary of Ely and canon of Westminster.

He was employed on other royal business in 1541, was nominated to the projected bishopric of Southwell, and was made King's chaplain in 1542. In 1543 he was employed to ferret out the "Prebendaries' Plot" against Cranmer, and became the Archbishop's chancellor. In Dec he was appointed dean of Oseney (afterwards Christ Church) Oxford, and in Jul was made almoner to Prince Edward, in whose education he took an active part. He was present at Dr Crome's recantation in 1546, denounced it as insincere and insufficient, and severely handled him before the privy council.

After Edward's accession, Cox's opinions took a more Protestant turn, and he became one of the most active agents of the Reformation. He was consulted on the compilation of the Communion office in 1548, and the first and second books of Common Prayer, and sat on the commission for the reform of the canon law. As chancellor of the university of Oxford (1547-1552) he promoted foreign divines such as Peter Martyr, and was a moving spirit of the two commissions which sought with some success to eradicate everything savouring of popery from the books, manuscripts, ornaments and endowments of the university, and earned Cox the sobriquet of its canceller rather than its chancellor.

He received other rewards, a canonry of Windsor (1548), the rectory of Harrow (1547) and the deanery of Westminster (1549). He lost these preferments on Mary's accession, and was for a fortnight in Aug 1553 confined to the Marshalsea. He was not of the stuff of which martyrs are made; he remained in obscurity until after the failure of Wyatt's rebellion, and then in May 1554 escaped in the same ship as the future Archbishop Sandys, to Antwerp. Thence in Mar 1555 he made his way to Frankfort, where he played an important part in the first struggle between Anglicanism and Puritanism. The exiles had, under the influence of Knox and Whittingham, adopted Calvinistic doctrine and a form of service far more Puritanical than the Prayer-Book of 1552. Cox stood up for that service, and the exiles were divided into Knoxians and Coxians. Knox attacked Cox as a pluralist, Cox accused Knox of treason to the Emperor Carlos V. This proved the more dangerous charge: Knox and his followers were expelled, and the Prayer Book of 1552 was restored.

In 1559 Cox returned to England, and was elected Bishop of Norwich, but Queen Elizabeth changed her mind and Cox's destination to Ely, where he remained twenty-one years. He was an honest, but narrow-minded ecclesiastic, who held what views he did hold intolerantly, and was always wanting more power to constrain those who differed from him. While he refused to minister in the Queen's chapel because of the crucifix and lights there, and was a bitter enemy to the Roman Catholics, he had little more patience with the Puritans. He was grasping, or at least tenacious of his rights in money matters, and was often brought into conflict with courtiers who coveted episcopal lands.

Queen Elizabeth herself intervened, when he refused to grant Ely House to her favorite, Sir Christopher Hatton; but the well-known letter beginning "Proud Prelate" and threatening to unfrock him seems to be an impudent forgery which first saw the light in the Annual Register for 1761. It hardly, however, misrepresents the queen's meaning, and Cox was forced to give way. These and other trials led him to resign his see in 1580, and it is significant that it remained vacant for nineteen years. 

His first wife's name is unknown; she was the mother of his five children, of whom Joan married the eldest son of Archbishop Parker. His second wife was Jane Auder, Alder or Awder was the daughter of George Auder (b. 1490 - d. 1560), alderman of Cambridge, and his wife Agnes (d. Apr 1576). On 13 Nov 1540, she married William Turner, botanist, physician, and Dean of Wells (b. 1510- d. 7 Jul 1568). They were wed in secret because Turner was a clergyman who had taken a vow of chastity. It was against the law for such persons to marry. The penalty was death. Soon after the wedding, the newlyweds fled religious persecution in England. They spent time in Ferrara and Bologna, where Turner studied medicine, and then lived in various Rhineland cities. All three of their children, Peter (1542-May 27, 1614), Winifred, and Elizabeth, were born during this exile. Returning to England after the death of Henry VIII, Turner became the personal physician and auxiliary chaplain of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, a position that ended abruptly when Somerset was arrested in 1549. From 1549 until Turner’s appointment as Dean of Wells in Mar 1551, the family lived in considerable poverty. The first part of Turner’s Herball was published before the death of Edward VI forced the family back into exile during Mary Tudor’s reign. Once again they lived in several different cities, including Cologne, Worms, and Weissenburg. Under Elizabeth, Jane and her husband had a home in Crutched Friars, London. Only a few months after Turner’s death, Jane married again and once again her marriage was controversial in religious circles. Her second husband was Richard Cox (c.1500-Jul 22,1581), whose first marriage ABT 1547 had raised eyebrows because his wife publicly resided with him in Christ Church. Cox, who eventually became Bishop of Ely, openly defended the right of priests to marry and remarried quickly when he became a widower. This displeased the Queen. By the end of 1575, there were a number of complaints against both Cox and Jane. Lord North accused them of corruption and one of their tenants called Jane “Jezebel”. These matters appear to have been settled by Cox relinquishing property, in particular to Lord North. In 1579, Cox asked to retire and had negotiated the grant of Doddington Manor for life and an annuity of £200, but the arrangements were never finalized and he died while still serving as bishop. He left goods valued at £1334 to his widow and seven children.

Cox died on the 22 Jul 1581: a monument erected to his memory twenty years later in Ely cathedral was defaced, owing, it was said, to his evil repute. Strype (Whitgift, i. 2) gives Cox's hot temper and marriage as reasons why he was not made Archbishop in 1583 in preference to Whitgift, who had been his chaplain; but Cox had been dead two years in 1583.

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