Matthew Sutcliffe

Matthew Sutcliffe (1550? – 1629) was an English clergyman, academic and lawyer. He became Dean of Exeter, and wrote extensively on religious matters as a controversialist. He served as chaplain to His Majesty King James I of England. He was the founder of Chelsea College, a royal centre for the writing of theological literature that was closed at the behest of Charles I. (After Sutcliffe's death the college sank into insignificance, and Charles I in 1636 refused to revive the moribund institution.)[1] He also played a part in the early settlement of New England as an investor.



Born about 1550, he was the second son of John Sutcliffe of Mayroyd in the parish of Halifax, Yorkshire, by his wife, Margaret Owlsworth of Ashley in the same county. Admitted to Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1565,[2] he was admitted a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge on 30 April 1568, proceeded B.A. in 1571, and was elected a minor fellow of his college on 27 September 1572. He commenced M.A. in 1574, and became a major fellow on 3 April in that year. In 1579 he was appointed lector mathematicus in the college, and in the next year, at Midsummer, the payment of his last stipend as fellow of Trinity is recorded. He graduated LL.D. in 1581.[3]

On 1 May 1582 he was admitted a member of the college of advocates at Doctors' Commons; and on 30 January 1587 he was installed archdeacon of Taunton. On 27 October 1588 he became Dean of Exeter, a position he held for more than forty years. As he was also vicar of West Alvington, Devon, the Archbishop of Canterbury granted him letters of dispensation allowing him to hold that vicarage. He was instituted to Harberton vicarage on 9 November 1590, and to the rectory of Lezant on 6 April 1594. as well as to Newton Ferrers on 27 December 1591.[3]

Chelsea College

The major event of Sutcliffe's life was his foundation of a college at Chelsea, to which he was a generous benefactor. Sutcliffe, an Anglican, adhered to a Reformed Protestant theology, and hoped to advance Reformation within the Anglican church. Chelsea backed theologians engaged principally in religious studies and polemical studies against Arminianism and Roman Catholicism. The project was denied long-term success, however; the College nominally survived until the 1650s, but the initial momentum was not sustained under Charles I, who gave the College the cold shoulder where his father had been a generous patron.

American affairs

Sutcliffe was early interested in the settlement of New England, and John Smith of Jamestown mentions, in his Generall Historie (1624), that the dean assisted and encouraged him in his schemes. On 9 March 1607 he became a member of the council for Virginia, and on 3 November 1620 of that for New England. In July 1624 he was one of the commissioners appointed to wind up the affairs of the Virginia Company.[3] Erstwhile Sutcliffe invested in the Plymouth Adventurer's Colony and a failed attempt at settlement in Sagadahoc in present day Maine. His name is mentioned in the 1620 Charter of New England Confederation.

Early strategist

Sutcliffe spent time, possibly as chaplain, with the forces of the Earl of Essex on campaign. In 1593 he published The Practice, Proceedings, and Lawes of Armes, arguably the first comprehensive strategic concept in history, ranging from how to recruit forces and raise taxes for war to the actual strategy of preventive war against Spain.[4] Three years later, Earl of Essex acted on this advice and launched an attack against Spain, resulting in the capture of Cadiz in 1596.

Fall from favour

For a long time Sutcliffe was in high favour at court. He had been appointed one of the royal chaplains in the reign of Elizabeth, and is stated to have retained the office under James I. He fell into disfavour in consequence of his opposition to the Spanish match, at the same time as Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford, and was later vindicated and continued to receive appointments of the highest order until his death.

Sutcliffe died in 1629, before 18 July.[3]


Sutcliffe wrote over 20 works, many of them published as 'O. E.' They cover a range of religious issues from the 1590s to 1620s: on the Anglican front concerned with John Udall, Job Throckmorton, Thomas Cartwright, and a defence of the government version of the treason of Edward Squire; and anti-Catholic replies to Cardinal Bellarmine, Robert Parsons, Henry Garnet, George Blackwell, Matthew Kellison and Tobie Mathew.[3]

Nicholas Bernard presented to Emmanuel College, Cambridge Sutcliffe's manuscript works in fourteen volumes.[3]

Sutcliffe's style of rhetoric against Catholicism, along with that of Sir Francis Hastings and Thomas Morton, is judged to depend ultimately on scaremongering about Catholic priests and laypeople. He was more thematic than Hastings, and supplied better arguments based on a "true" and "false" Catholic Church, but still fell back on chop-logic and personal abuse.[5] Nicholas W. S. Cranfield, writing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, notes that Sutcliffe denounced papists as worse than Turks, that he took a harder line than James I against the proposition that the Church of Rome had only recently defaulted in its role as mother church, and that his works "rarely progress beyond xenophobia and violent anti-Catholicism" and "display a neurotic fear of the power of Rome to subvert".[6] Apologists for Sutcliffe, however, point out that his polemics against Romanism was in the spirit of the times, and herald Sutcliffe as an unsung theological worthy among Protestants on par with John Knox.


  1. ^ Hugh Trevor-Roper, Archbishop Laud (1962 edition), p. 67.
  2. ^ Sutcliffe, Matthew in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  3. ^ a b c d e f  "Sutcliffe, Matthew". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  4. ^ Excerpts in Beatrice Heuser, The Strategy Makers: Thoughts on War and Society from Machiavelli to Clausewitz (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood/Praeger, 2010), ISBN 978-0-275-99826-4.
  5. ^ Victor Houliston, Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Persons's Jesuit polemic, 1580-1610 (2007), p. 162 and p. 166.
  6. ^ Sutcliffe, Matthew (1549/50–1629), dean of Exeter by Nicholas W. S. Cranfield, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online, subscription only.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Matthew Kellison — (c. 1560 21 January 1642) was an English Roman Catholic theologian and controversialist, and a reforming president of the English College, Douai. Contents 1 Life 2 Works 3 Notes 4 References …   Wikipedia

  • Matthew Hayden — Personal information Full name Matthew Lawrence Hayden Born 29 October 1971 (1971 10 29) (age 40) K …   Wikipedia

  • Matthew Parr — For the British racing driver, see Matthew Parr (racing driver). Matthew Parr Personal information Full name Matthew Parr Country represented  United Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • Matthew Parr — Mathew Parr Biographie Nationalité   …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Charles Sutcliffe — Charles Edward Sutcliffe (8 July 1864 – 11 January 1939) was a lawyer, football administrator and referee. Contents 1 Football career 2 Personal life 3 Bibliography 4 References …   Wikipedia

  • St Matthew Passion discography — Recordings of the St Matthew Passion are shown as a list of selected notable recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach s St Matthew Passion. As of 2010, 175 recordings are listed on the bach cantatas website. See also St John Passion discography. The… …   Wikipedia

  • Chelsea College (17th century) — Chelsea College was a polemical college founded in London in 1609. This establishment was intended to centralize controversial writing against Catholicism, and was the idea of Matthew Sutcliffe, Dean of Exeter, who was the first Provost. After… …   Wikipedia

  • Dean of Exeter — Anglicanism portal The Dean of Exeter is the head of the Chapter of Cathedral Church of Saint Peter in Exeter, England.[1] The chapter was established by Bishop …   Wikipedia

  • New World Tapestry — The New World Tapestry is the largest stitched embroidery in the world,[1] larger than the Bayeux Tapestry. It depicts English colonisation attempts in Newfoundland, North America, the Guyanas and Bermuda between the years 1583 and 1642, when the …   Wikipedia

  • Nathanael Carpenter — (1589–ca.1628) was an English author, philosopher, and geographer.[1] Life He was son of John Carpenter, rector of Northleigh, Devon, and was born there on February 7, 1589. He matriculated at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, on June 7, 1605; but was… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.