Frederick Cornwallis

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Frederick Cornwallis
Archbishop of Canterbury
Church Church of England
Diocese Canterbury
In office1768–1783
Predecessor Thomas Secker
Successor John Moore
Consecration19 February 1750
by  Thomas Herring
Personal details
Born(1713-03-05)5 March 1713
Died19 March 1783(1783-03-19) (aged 70)
Lambeth, London, England
Buried Church of St Mary-at-Lambeth
Nationality English
Denomination Anglican
Previous post(s) Bishop of Lichfield (1750–1768)
Alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge

Frederick Cornwallis (5 March 1713 – 19 March 1783) was a British clergy member who served as Archbishop of Canterbury after a career in the Church of England. He was born the seventh son of an aristocratic family.


Early life and education

Cornwallis was born in London, England, [1] the seventh son of Charles Cornwallis, 4th Baron Cornwallis. His twin brother, Edward Cornwallis, was born sixth. Charles was educated at Eton College and graduated from Christ's College, Cambridge. [2] He was ordained a priest in 1742 and became a Doctor of Divinity in 1748.


Cornwallis was able to ascend quickly in the Church thanks to his aristocratic connections. In 1746, he was made chaplain to King George II and a canon of Windsor. In 1750, he became a canon at St Paul's Cathedral, and later that year became Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry thanks to the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle, who was Secretary of State. Cornwallis was also Dean of Windsor (1765–1768) and Dean of St Paul's (1766–1768).

On the death of Thomas Secker in 1768, Cornwallis's friendship with the prime minister, the Duke of Grafton, resulted in his translation to Archbishop of Canterbury. As archbishop, his sociability and geniality made him popular. He was a consistent supporter of the administration of Lord North and led efforts in support of Anglican clergy who were dispossessed of their livings in the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution. He was buried at St. Mary's Church, Lambeth.

On the whole, Cornwallis has generally been judged as a competent administrator but an uninspiring leader of the 18th-century church. He is considered a typical product of the time's latitudinarianism, whose lack of zeal paved the way for the differing responses of both the Evangelicals and the Oxford Movement in the early 19th century.


His twin brother, Edward Cornwallis, had a military career by becoming a general in the British Army; twice serving as a military governor of colonies; and founding Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1749.

His nephew was Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, a British general during the American Revolution who surrendered his forces at Yorktown, Virginia, and was later appointed as Governor-General of India.

Discovery of likely coffin

Wall plaque in the deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth to Frederick Cornwallis, who was buried nearby Fred Cornwallis Wall Plaque.jpg
Wall plaque in the deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth to Frederick Cornwallis, who was buried nearby

In 2016, during the refurbishment of the Garden Museum, [3] which is housed at the medieval church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, [4] 30 lead coffins were found under the church floor. One had an archbishop's red and gold mitre on top of it. [5] Two archbishops were identified from nameplates on their coffins. Church records document that three additional archbishops, including Cornwallis, are likely to be buried in the vault. [6]

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  1. profile of Edward Cornwallis
  2. "Cornwallis, Frederick (CNWS731F)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. Museum web-site
  4. British History on-line
  5. Syemour, Lizzie. "Builders Discover Archbishops' Tombs under Church Floor". Times on-line].
  6. News, BBC

Further reading

Church of England titles
Preceded by Bishop of Lichfield
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by