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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Gardiner, Stephen

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bishop of Winchester, was born at Bury St. Edmund's, Suffolk, is 1483. He was the illegitimate son of Dr. Woodville, bishop of Salisbury, the brother of Elizabeth, queen of Edward IV. He was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and in 1520 took the degree of LL.D. Having thoroughly studied the civil and canon law, he became Wolsey's secretary, and rose to the highest posts under Henry VIII, whom he served diligently in the matter of the divorce. At first he sided with the Reformers, but, being unwilling to be second to Cranmer, he took the Roman Catholic side during Henry's lifetime. Gardiner drew up articles accusing Henry VIII's last queen, Catharine Parr, of heresy; but the queen avoided the storm, and he fell into disgrace. At Henry's death Gardiner experienced a still greater reverse. The young king and his government made great religious changes, to which Gardiner set himself in opposition. The council committed him to the Fleet. "Here he was confined until the act of general amnesty, which passed in the December after the accession of Edward, released him. As soon as he was free he went down to his diocese, and while there he remained unmolested; but on his return to London, on account of a certain sermon which he preached on St. Peter's day, he was seized and committed to the Tower (1548). Various conferences were held with him, and his release was promised him on condition that he would express his contrition for the past, promise obedience for the future, subscribe the new settlement in religion, acknowledge the royal supremacy, and the abrogation of the six articles. With the first of these conditions alone did he absolutely refuse to comply. The terms of liberation were afterwards rendered still more difficult. The number of articles that he was called upon to subscribe was considerably increased. On his refusal to sign them his bishopric was sequestered, and he was soon afterwards deprived. For more than five years he suffered close imprisonment, and it was not until the beginning of the reign of Mary that his liberty was restored (1553). If his fall from power at the conclusion of Henry's reign had been sudden, still more sudden was the rapidity of his reinstatement. A Roman Catholic queen was on the throne, and he who had been ever the foremost of her partisans must necessarily be raised to be one of her first advisers. The chancellorship was conferred upon him. His bishopric was restored, and the conduct of affairs placed in his hands. The management of the queen's marriage-treaty was entrusted to him. He was chosen to officiate at her marriage, as he had also done at her coronation, and became her most confidential adviser. No matters, whatever they might be, could be proceeded in without his privity and concurrence; and he had his full share in the persecutions of this reign. The horrors which were not committed by his actual orders must at least have obtained his sanction, for he had reached a height of power, both civil and ecclesiastical, perhaps unequaled in this kingdom except by his master Wolsey alone. He died November 12, 1555. A list of his writings is given in Tanner's Bibl. Britannico-Hibernica (page 308). The character of Gardiner may be stated in a few words. He was a man of great ability; his general knowledge was more remarkable than his learning as a divine. He was ambitious and revengeful, and wholly unscrupulous. His first object was his own preservation and advancement, and his next the promotion of his party interest. He saw deeply into the characters of those with whom he dealt, dealt with them with remarkable tact, and had an accurate foresight of affairs" (English Cyclopaedia, s.v.). See Burnet, Hist. of English Reformation. passim; Hook, Eccles. Biography, 5:256; Collier, Eccles. History of Great Britain, 6:125.


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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Gardiner, Stephen'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/g/gardiner-stephen.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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