John Longland 1473-1547 Henry VIII's Confessor Dean of Salisbury 1514 - 1521 Bishop of Lincoln 1521 - 1547
LONGLAND, JOHN (1473–1547), bishop of Lincoln, was born in 1473 at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. His mother is described as Isabell Staveley of Burcester in the same county. Entering as a demy of Magdalen College, Oxford, and graduating in due course in arts, he became a fellow, and in 1505 was made principal of Magdalen Hall. He had previously (15 April 1500) been ordained priest, and presented (29 Jan. 1504) to the rectory of Woodham Ferrers, near Great Baddow in Essex. He resigned this preferment in 1517, Dr. Metcalfe being appointed (13 July) as his successor. In 1511 he was made doctor of divinity, having a reputation, as we are told, for hard study and devotion. In 1514 he became dean of Salisbury, and prebendary of North Kelsey, Lincoln, towards the latter end of the same year. His next preferment was to a canonry at Windsor (11 April 1519), and, growing ‘in great favour with the king for his excellent way of preaching,’ he was made confessor to Henry VIII, and in 1521 lord almoner. On 5 May in the same year he was consecrated bishop of Lincoln.
In the administration of his see he was active and vigilant, strenuously asserting the rights and privileges of the church. Many letters from him to Cromwell and others are extant, in which he defends his title to presentations and the like (Gairdner, Letters and Papers, ix. 349, 453–4, 471, &c.) In February 1527 he gave a monition from Cromwell to the clergy of his diocese, requiring them to preach in person, or provide sermons to be preached by others, four times a year (Kennett, Collections, iv. 64 vers.) As a repressor of what he considered heresy he was undoubtedly severe. In October 1531 he granted a commission to John London [q. v.], John Higden, and others to search booksellers' stalls at Oxford for heretical books (ib. xlv. 93). While sternly repressing new doctrines, he was a staunch supporter of the royal supremacy, and, though he afterwards bitterly repented it, of the king's divorce.
At the beginning of Michaelmas term 1532 he was made chancellor of the university of Oxford, an office which he retained till his death. He is reported to have been a good friend to the university, upholding its privileges and lending help to poor scholars. At Oxford he was instrumental in obtaining decisions in favour of the king's divorce, but was pelted with stones there, along with Dr. Bell and Dr. Fox (Lyte, Hist. of Oxford, p. 474, quoting Cal. State Papers, Spanish, iv. 475). The same unpopularity attended him in the north. Marshall lamented to Cromwell that ‘poor people be indicted for small matters of pretended heresy, as by the Bishop of Lincoln in his diocese’ (Gairdner, Letters and Papers, xi. 325); while, on the other hand, we read of seven convicts at a time escaping in 1536 from his prison at Banbury (ib. x. 1266).
The northern rebels in the autumn of this year, in their articles addressed to the king, ‘are grieved that there are bishops of the king's late promotion who have subverted the faith of Christ. … (They) think the beginning of all this trouble was the Bishop of Lincoln’ (ib. xi. 705). As an upholder of the royal supremacy he had issued strict injunctions to his clergy the year before (19 June 1535) to maintain and teach the king's supremacy, and to expunge from their public offices all mention of the name or authority of the pope of Rome (Reg. Longl. p. 192, quoted by Kennett). The same principles appear in his two vigorous and racy ‘Sermondes,’ preached in English before the court on the Good Friday of 1536 and 1538 respectively. Both were printed in the year of their delivery—the later one by Thomas Petyt, and a copy of it is at Lambeth. Longland's treatment of heretics, as for instance of Clark, who died in prison (cf. Brewer, Letters and Papers, iv. 1783), was a stain upon his character.
But it is unjust to describe him on this account as a ‘wicked old man,’ ‘in whom the spirit of humanity had been long exorcised by the spirit of an ecclesiastic’ (Froude, Hist. of England, ii. 68). He was the friend of Richard Kedermyster [q. v.], to whom he dedicated his ‘Quinque Sermones,’ preached in 1517, and printed by Pynson in that year (copies are at Lambeth and in the British Museum). But the highest testimony in his favour is that of Sir Thomas More, who, when defending the ‘Novum Instrumentum’ of Erasmus, says that Longland, dean of Salisbury, ‘a second Colet’ (‘alter, ut ejus laudes uno verbo complectar, Coletus’), whether his preaching or the purity of his life were regarded, ceased not to declare that he had gained more light on the New Testament from Erasmus's writings than from almost all the other commentaries he possessed (Epistolæ aliquot Eruditorum, 1520, leaf M. iiii.)
He also established an almshouse in his native town of Henley. His death took place on 7 May 1547. In his will he directed that his heart should be buried in front of the high altar at Lincoln, his bowels at Woburn, where he died, and the rest of his body in the collegiate church of Eton (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 21). The epitaph on his brass ‘in Eaton Coll. chappell about the middle’ is preserved in Henry Wharton's collections (Lambeth MSS. No. 585, p. 371). A ‘fair tomb of marble’ was erected for him in his cathedral at Lincoln, on the frieze above which was the punning legend alluding to his name: ‘Longa terra mansura ejus; Dominus dedit.’ The reference is to the Vulgate, Job xi. 9. The works Longland printed, besides those already mentioned, were ‘Tres Conciones,’ published with a reissue of the ‘Quinque Sermones’ by Pynson about 1527 (copies are at Lambeth and the British Museum). The first ‘Concio’ is dated 1519; another is the one delivered at Oxford on the laying of the foundation-stone of King's College (Christ Church) in 1525. Longland also published ‘Expositiones Concionales’ on the Penitential Psalms, and a ‘Concio’ preached 27 Nov. 1527 (London, by Pynson, 1531)