Francis White (bishop)

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Francis White

Bishop of Ely
Bp Francis White.jpg
Diocese Diocese of Ely
In office1631–1638
Predecessor John Buckeridge
Successor Matthew Wren
Other post(s) Dean of Carlisle (1622–26)
Bishop of Carlisle (1626–29)
Bishop of Norwich (1629–31)
Personal details
DiedFebruary 1638
Ely House, Holborn, London
Buried St Paul's Cathedral
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
Alma mater Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

Francis White (c.1564 1638) was an English bishop and controversialist.



He was son of Peter White (died 19 December 1615), vicar of Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire, was born at Eaton Socon about 1564 (parish register begins in 1566). His father had five sons, all clergymen, among them John White (1570?–1615), chaplain to James I. Francis, after passing through the grammar school at St Neots, Huntingdonshire, was admitted pensioner at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, on 20 March 1579, aged 15. He graduated Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1583, Cambridge Master of Arts (MA Cantab) in 1586, and was ordained priest by John Aylmer, Bishop of London, on 17 May 1588. [1]

His early preferments were the rectory of Broughton Astley, Leicestershire, a lectureship at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and the rectory of St. Peter's, Cornhill, London. In controversy against Catholicism he took a prominent part, and it produced his first publication. [2] He graduated Doctor of Divinity (DD) in 1618. Early in 1622 he was employed by James I as a disputant against John Percy alias Fisher (1569–1641), to stay the Roman Catholic tendencies of Mary, Countess of Buckingham. He held two conferences; the third (24 May 1622) was entrusted to William Laud. White's Replie to Fisher (1624) was dedicated to James I. [3] On 14 September 1622 White was presented to the deanery of Carlisle (installed 15 October). He took part, in conjunction with Daniel Featley, in another discussion with Fisher, opened on 27 June 1623, at the house of Humphrey Lynde, in Sheer Lane, London. [4]

In 1625 White became senior dean of Sion College, London, which existed then only on paper. He was consecrated Bishop of Carlisle on 3 December 1626 at Durham House, London, by Richard Neile, Bishop of Durham; John Buckeridge, Bishop of Rochester; and three other prelates, John Cosin preaching the consecration sermon. His elevation was much canvassed. [5] It was said that he had 'sold his orthodoxe bookes and bought Jesuits'.' Sir Walter Earle referred to the matter in parliament (11 February 1628), quoting the line 'Qui color albus erat, nunc est contrarius albo'. [6] He was made Lord Almoner the same year. [7]

On 22 January 1629 he was elected Bishop of Norwich; and he was elected Bishop of Ely on 15 November 1631. Shortly afterwards he held a conference at Ely House, Holborn, with Theophilus Brabourne on the Sabbath question, and had much to do with Brabourne's subsequent prosecution. His Treatise of the Sabbath-Day (1635; 3rd ed. 1636) was dedicated to Laud and written at the command of Charles I. White treated the question doctrinally; its historical aspect was assigned to Peter Heylyn. He visited Cambridge in 1632, to consecrate the chapel of Peterhouse. His last publication was An Examination and Confutation of . . . A Briefe Answer to a late Treatise of the Sabbath-Day, 1637; this Briefe Answer was a dialogue by Richard Byfield, with title The Lord's Day is the Sabbath Day (1636). He died at Ely House, Holborn, in February 1638, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. His will, dated 4 March 1637, proved 27 February 1638 by his widow Joane White, shows that he survived a son, and left married daughters and several grandchildren; the bulk of his property went to his grandson Francis White.

Among many, White ordained Ralph Wheelock, Clare College graduate, and first schoolmaster of America's first free school in Dedham, Massachusetts, on 6 May 1630.


Francis White had an Arminian theology. In 1626, together with John Cosin they engaged in theological debate with Calvinist John Preston and Thomas Morton. [8]

See also

Notes and references


  1. "White, Francis (WHT578F)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. In answer to White dyed Black, by Thomas Worthington (Catholic Encyclopedia) it was The Orthodox Faith and Way to the Church, 1617; reprinted at the end of the Workes (1624, fol.) of John White, his brother.
  3. It was reprinted by subscription, Dublin, 1824, 2 vols. An account, from the other side, is in Trve Relations of Svndry Conferences, 1626, by 'A. C.'
  4. A report was published in The Fisher catched in his owne Net, 1623; and more fully (by Featley) in The Romish Fisher cavght and held in his owne Net, 1624.
  5. A letter (13 February 1628) in James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh's correspondence states that he 'hath sold all his books to Hills the broker . . . some think he paid for his place.'
  6. Appendix to Sir Francis Seymor his . . . Speech, 1641.
  7. Holmes, John. A Descriptive Catalogue of Books, in the Library of John Holmes, F.S.A. p. 309.
  8. Foster 2013, p. 40.



Church of England titles
Preceded by Dean of Carlisle
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Carlisle
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Norwich
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bishop of Ely
Succeeded by

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