Thomas Wagstaffe

Last updated

Thomas Wagstaffe the Elder (13 February 1645 – 17 October 1712) was a clergyman of the Church of England, after the nonjuring schism a bishop of the breakaway church.

Church of England Anglican state church of England

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

Nonjuring schism split in the Anglican church of the 17th and 18th centuries over whether William III and Mary II could legally be recognised as sovereigns

The Nonjuring schism was a split in the national churches of England, Scotland and Ireland following the deposition and exile of James II & VII in the 1688 Glorious Revolution.


Early life

Wagstaffe was born on 13 February 1645 at Binley in Warwickshire, and was named after his father, who had settled there and married Anne Avery of Itchington; he was related to Sir Joseph Wagstaffe and to William Wagstaffe the physician. He was educated at Charterhouse School. After a short period at Pembroke College, Cambridge in the early 1660s, he moved on in Lent term 1660 to New Inn Hall, Oxford, and graduating B.A. on 15 October 1664, M.A. on 20 June 1667. Two years later he was ordained deacon by John Hacket, Bishop of Lichfield, and in the same year priest by Joseph Henshaw, Bishop of Peterborough, on his institution to the benefice of Martinsthorpe. He became chaplain to Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Baronet (1634–1697), and was made curate of Stowe. [1] [2]

Binley is a suburb in the east of Coventry, England. Binley evolved from a small mining village on the outskirts of Coventry to a large residential area composing private residences and council-owned properties.

Warwickshire County of England

Warwickshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. The county town is Warwick, and the largest town is Nuneaton. The county is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

Bishops Itchington village in the United Kingdom

Bishop's Itchington is a village and civil parish in the Stratford-on-Avon district of Warwickshire, England. It is about 3 miles (5 km) south-southwest of Southam and about 6.5 miles (10 km) southeast of Royal Leamington Spa. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 2,082.

Deprived as nonjuror

In 1684 Wagstaffe was preferred to the chancellorship of Lichfield Cathedral and a prebend, by James II, Bishop Thomas Wood being incapacitated through suspension. In the same year, also at the presentation of the king as patron of the rectory of St. Gabriel Fenchurch, London (with St. Margaret Pattens); he was deprived at the Glorious Revolution of both posts, since he refused to take the new oaths. For some time he made his living by practising as a physician, still wearing clerical dress, and treating William Sancroft and Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely. With Archbishop Sancroft he spent some time before his death at Fressingfield in Suffolk. [1]

Lichfield Cathedral Church in Staffordshire, England

Lichfield Cathedral is situated in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. It is the only medieval English cathedral with three spires. The Diocese of Lichfield covers all of Staffordshire, much of Shropshire and part of the Black Country and West Midlands. The 99th and current Bishop of Lichfield is Michael Ipgrave who was appointed on 10 June 2016.

James II of England King of England, Scotland and Ireland

James II and VII was King of England and Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685 until he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland and Ireland, his reign is now remembered primarily for struggles over religious tolerance. However, it also involved the principles of absolutism and divine right of kings and his deposition ended a century of political and civil strife by confirming the primacy of Parliament over the Crown.

Thomas Wood (bishop of Lichfield and Coventry) bishop, born 1607

Thomas Wood (1607–1692) was an English churchman, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry from 1671 to 1692.

Nonjuring consecration

In 1693 the nonjurors exploited the Suffragan Bishops Act of Henry VIII, not in force since the reign of Queen Elizabeth, to continue a succession of their bishops. George Hickes went over to Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France in 1693 with a list of nonjurors, from which James II selected the names of Hickes himself and Wagstaffe as bishops. Nonjurors held that James was king, in law, and William Lloyd, whose suffragans the new bishops were to be, was Bishop of Norwich (Sancroft still being regarded as Archbishop of Canterbury); so it was held that the conditions of the act were duly complied with. Before giving his consent James had the approval of Pope Innocent XII, François de Harlay de Champvallon, and Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet. Wagstaffe therefore was nominated bishop of Ipswich, and Hickes of Thetford, both in the diocese of Norwich. Their consecrations took place on 24 February 1694, at the house of the Rev. Mr. Giffard at Southgate in the parish of Enfield, near London, which apparently was occupied by White, the deprived bishop of Peterborough. A third supposed bishop—Lloyd of Norwich taking the lead—took part in the ceremony, Francis Turner, deprived of Ely. The service was quite private, and the consecrations were for a long time unknown to some of the leading nonjurors. Hearne, who at Oxford was in frequent communication with Hickes and Wagstaffe, knew nothing of these consecrations as late as 1732. The only persons present were, besides the bishops, Lord Clarendon and a notary named Douglas. Wagstaffe joined with the former in attesting Hickes's deed of consecration, Hickes doing a like service for him. There is no record of Wagstaffe performing any episcopal duties. There were no consecrations during his lifetime, nor does it appear that he ordained any of the few admitted to holy orders during that time. [1]

George Hickes (divine) English priest

George Hickes was an English divine and scholar.

Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye Castel and archeology museum near Paris

The Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye is a royal palace in the commune of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, in the département of Yvelines, about 19 km west of Paris, France. Today, it houses the musée d'Archéologie nationale.

William Lloyd was a Welsh nonjuring bishop.

Later life

Wagstaffe passed much of the rest of his days in Warwickshire, but was present when holy communion was given to John Kettlewell on his deathbed in London in 1695. In the following year, after a warrant for his arrest, he appeared with Thomas Ken and three more of the deprived bishops, besides others, before the privy council. He was there to defend his share in a charitable recommendation of the nonjuring clergy and their families. He was released, with the others, on 23 May. [1]

John Kettlewell English priest

John Kettlewell was an English clergyman, nonjuror and devotional writer. He is now known for his arguments against William Sherlock, who had justified the change of monarch of 1688–89 and his own switch of sides in The Case of the Allegiance. According to J. P. Kenyon, Kettlewell's reply made a case "with which conformist Anglicans could only agree, because it was spiritual, while Sherlock's was resolutely aspiritual". He went on to attack defenders of the Glorious Revolution generally as proponents of fallacious contractarian theories.

Thomas Ken Bishop of Bath and Wells

Thomas Ken was an English cleric who was considered the most eminent of the English non-juring bishops, and one of the fathers of modern English hymnody.

The Post Boy of 23–5 October 1712 recorded his death:

"On Friday the 17th instant died the Reverend Dr. Wagstaffe, at his house at Binley, near Coventry. He was a person of extraordinary judgment, exemplary piety, and unusual learning; and had he not had the misfortune to dissent from the established government by not taking the oaths, as he had all the qualities of a great divine, and a governor of the church, so he would have filled deservedly some of the highest stations in it." [1]

He had a good library, which was sold in London by Fletcher Gyles in 1713. [1]


Wagstaffe was the author of a series of religious and political pamphlets. These included his prominent Vindication of King Charles the Martyr (1693). [1]

Eikon Basilike controversy

The authorship of Eikon Basilike , a work of royalist apologetics published in 1649 shortly after the execution of Charles I, flared up as a topic of controversy in the 1690s. In Vindication of King Charles the Martyr, proving that his Majesty was the author of Εἰκὼν Βασιλική, [3] Wagstaffe defended the authorship of Charles I. [1]

There was a claim that a particular prayer in the work had been plagiarised: in the second edition (1697) of his work, Wagstaffe sourced an explanation to Henry Hills, parliamentarian printer. Hills had heard it from Thomas Gill and Francis Bernard, physicians. Wagstaffe accused John Milton and John Bradshaw of deliberate insertion into the work; and stated that Milton had used William Dugard to implement the insertion of the prayer. [4] [5]

A few years later, Wagstaffe returned to the table-turning attack on Milton's integrity, in replying to the Amyntor of John Toland. It became a commonplace of Jacobite propaganda, and was used by Ned Ward. [6]

Other works

Wagstaffe gave an account of Archbishop Sancroft's illness and death, in A Letter out of Suffolk (1694; reprinted in Somers's Tracts, 1751). His Present State of Jacobitism in England (1701?), was in answer to Gilbert Burnet, who had advised the nonjurors to end their troubles by taking the oaths. Wagstaffe contrasted the severity with which the nonjurors were treated with the comparative leniency of Cromwell under the Commonwealth, or Elizabeth, towards Catholics. Burnet replied in The Present State of Jacobitism in England. The Second Part).

Other pamphlets were: [1]

Some works published under the name of Samuel Grascome have also been attributed to Wagstaffe. [7]


Wagstaffe married Martha Broughton, by whom he had four sons and five daughters. His first-born son died in infancy. The second son, Thomas Wagstaffe (1692–1770), was another prominent nonjuror. One of his daughters married Dr. William Wagstaffe: encouraged by Wagstaffe, William Wagstaffe went to London and later secured appointment as physician to St. Bartholomew's Hospital. The wife died not long after the marriage, and he remarried, to a daughter of Charles Bernard. [1]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Wagstaffe, Thomas"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 58. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  2. "Wagstaffe, Thomas (WGSF660T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. London, 1693; another edit. 1697; Wagstaffe published A Defence of the Vindication in 1699
  4. Thomas N. Corns (2012). The Milton Encyclopedia. Yale University Press. p. 268. ISBN   978-0-300-09444-2.
  5. William Bridges Hunter (1983). A Milton Encyclopedia. Bucknell University Press. p. 34. ISBN   978-0-8387-1836-0.
  6. George Frank Sensabaugh (1952). That Grand Whig, Milton. Stanford University Press. p. 199. ISBN   978-0-8047-2339-8.
  7. Brunton, D. A. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/11302.Missing or empty |title= (help)(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)


Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Wagstaffe, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography . 58. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Related Research Articles

Louis de Sabran or Lewis Sabran was a French Jesuit. He was associated with the court of James II of England and engaged in vigorous theological debates with both Anglican and Puritan spokesmen.

Francis Turner (bishop) British bishop

Francis Turner D.D. was Bishop of Ely, one of the seven bishops who petitioned against the Declaration of Indulgence and one of the nine bishops who refused to take the oath of allegiance to William III.

Samuel Bold (1649–1737) was an English clergyman and controversialist, a supporter of the arguments of John Locke for religious toleration.

John Milner (1628–1702) was an English clergyman, known as a nonjuring minister, scholar and opponent of John Locke.

Robert Nelson was an English lay religious writer and nonjuror.

Francis Mason (c.1566–1621) was an English churchman, archdeacon of Norfolk and author of Of the Consecration of the Bishops in the Church of England (1613), a defence of the Church of England and the first serious rebuttal of the Nag's Head Fable put about as denigration of Matthew Parker and Anglican orders.

Joseph Boyse was an English presbyterian minister in Ireland, and controversialist.

Thomas Brett (1667–1743) was an English nonjuring clergyman known as an author.

Roger Laurence (1670–1736) was an English nonjuring priest and controversialist.

Thomas Sharp (priest) English churchman and writer, Archdeacon of Northumberland

Thomas Sharp (1693–1758) was an English churchman, known as a biographer and theological writer, archdeacon of Northumberland from 1723.

James Parkinson (1653–1722) was an English academic and schoolmaster, known as a polemical writer.

Joseph Smith (academic) English academic, 1670–1756

Joseph Smith (1670–1756) was an English churchman and academic, Provost of The Queen's College, Oxford from 1730.

William Payne (1650–1696) was an English academic and cleric of the Church of England, known as a controversialist.

Zachary Taylor (1653–1705) was an English priest, known for his controversial writings. One of his opponents dubbed him the "Lancashire Levite".

Samuel Grascome (1641–1708) was a clergyman of the Church of England, after the nonjuring schism a member of the breakaway church.

Henry Gandy (1649–1734) was an English non-juring bishop.