Cuthbert Tunstall Prince-Bishop of Durham Church Church of England Diocese Diocese of Durham Elected 1530 & 1554 Reign ended 1552 & 1559 (twice deprived) Predecessor Cardinal Thomas Wolsey Successor James Pilkington Other posts Bishop of London
Orders Consecration 1522 Personal details Born 1474
Died 18 November 1559 Nationality English Denomination Catholic Parents Thomas Tunstall Alma mater University of Oxford
Cuthbert Tunstall (or Tonstall; 1474 – 18 November 1559) was an English Scholastic, church leader, diplomat, administrator and royal adviser. He served as Prince-Bishop of Durham during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.
Childhood and early career
Cuthbert Tunstall was born at Hackforth, Yorkshire in 1474, an illegitimate son of Thomas Tunstall of Thurland Castle, Lancashire. His legitimate half-brother, Brian Tunstall, was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Cuthbert studied mathematics, theology, and law at Oxford, Cambridge, and Padua, where he graduated Doctor of Laws. He was proficient in Greek and Hebrew.
William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury made Tunstall his chancellor on 25 August 1511, and shortly afterward appointed him rector of Harrow on the Hill. He eventually became a canon of Lincoln (1514) and archdeacon of Chester (1515). Soon thereafter he was employed on diplomatic business by King Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey. In 1515, Tunstall was sent to then-Flanders, Belgium with Sir Thomas More. was at Brussels that he would meet Erasmus as well, becoming the intimate friend of both scholars. In 1519 he was sent to Cologne; a visit to Worms (1520–21) gave him a sense of the significance held by the Lutheran movement and its literature.
Tunstall was made Master of the Rolls in 1516, and Dean of Salisbury in 1521. In 1522, he became Bishop of London by papal provision, and on 25 May 1523 he was made Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal. In 1525, he negotiated with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V after the Battle of Pavia, and helped to arrange the Peace of Cambrai in 1529.
Bishop of Durham under Henry VIII and Edward VI
On 22 February 1530 — again by papal provision — Tunstall succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Bishop of Durham. This role involved the assumption of quasi-regal power and authority within the territory of the diocese. In 1537 he was also made President of the new Council of the North. Although he was often engaged in time-consuming negotiations with the Scots, he took part in other public business, and attended parliament, where in 1539 he participated in the discussion on the Bill of Six Articles.
In the question of Henry's divorce, Tunstall acted as one of Queen Catherine's counselors. Unlike Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, during the troubled years that followed Tunstall adopted a policy of passive obedience and acquiescence in many matters regarding which he likely had little support. While Tunstall adhered firmly to Roman Catholic doctrine and practices, after some hesitation he accepted Henry as head of the Church, and publicly defended this position – thus accepting a schism with Rome.
Tunstall disliked the religious policy pursued by the advisers of King Edward VI, and voted against the first Act of Uniformity in 1549. However, he continued to discharge his public duties without interruption, and hoped that the Earl of Warwick might be induced to reverse the anti-Catholic policy of the Duke of Somerset. This hope failed, and after Somerset's fall, Tunstall was summoned to London in May of 1551, and confined to his house there. During this captivity he composed a treatise on the Eucharist, which was published at Paris in 1554. At the end of 1551 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and a bill for his deprivation was introduced into the House of Commons. When this failed, he was tried by a commission on 4–5 October 1552, and deprived of his bishopric.
Bishop of Durham under Mary I and Elizabeth I
On the ascension of Mary I to the throne in 1553, Tunstall was granted liberty. His bishopric, which had been dissolved by Act of Parliament in March 1553, was re-established by a further Act in April 1554. Tunstall, now an octogenarian, again assumed his office as Bishop of Durham. He maintained his earlier conciliatory approach, indulging in no systematic persecution of Protestants. Through Mary's reign he ruled his diocese in peace.
When Elizabeth I ascended to the throne, Tunstall refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, and would not participate in the consecration of the Protestant Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury. He was arrested, deprived of his diocese in September 1559, and held prisoner at Lambeth Palace, where he died within a few weeks, aged 85. He was one of eleven Catholic bishops to die in custody during Elizabeth's reign.
The Anglican historian Albert F. Pollard wrote:
"Tunstall's long career of eighty-five years, for thirty-seven of which he was a bishop, is one of the most consistent and honourable in the sixteenth century. The extent of the religious revolution under Edward VI caused him to reverse his views on the royal supremacy and he refused to change them again under Elizabeth."
- De arte supputandi libri quattuor (1522)
- Confutatio cavillationum quibus SS. Eucharistiae Sacramentum ab impiis Caphernaitis impeti solet (Paris, 1552)
- De veritate corporis et sanguinis domini nostri Jesu Christi in eucharistia (Paris, 1554)
- Compendium in decem libros ethicorum Aristotelis (Paris, 1554)
- Certaine godly and devout prayers made in Latin by C. Tunstall and translated into Englishe by Thomas Paynelle, Clerke (London, 1558).
- Tunstall's correspondence as president of the Council of the North is in the British Library.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Cuthbert Tunstall". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Cuthbert_Tunstall.
- This article incorporates text from the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia article "Cuthbert Tunstall" by Edwin Burton, a publication now in the public domain.
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Cuthbert Tunstall", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Tunstall.html .
Catholic Church titles Preceded by
Bishop of London
Church of England titles Preceded by
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Prince-Bishop of Durham
Political offices Preceded by
The Lord Marney
Lord Privy Seal
The Earl of Wiltshire
Bishops and Prince-Bishops of Durham High Medieval Bishops
Aldhun • Edmund • Eadred • Æthelric • Æthelwine
High Medieval Prince-Bishops
William Walcher • William de St-Calais • Ranulf Flambard • Geoffrey Rufus • William Cumin • William of St. Barbara • Hugh de Puiset • Philip of Poitou • Richard Poore • John de Gray • Morgan • Richard Marsh • William Scot • Richard Poore • Thomas de Melsonby • Nicholas Farnham • Walter of Kirkham • Robert Stitchill • Robert of Holy Island • Antony Bek
Late Medieval Prince-Bishops Early modern Prince-Bishops
William Senhouse • Christopher Bainbridge • Thomas Ruthall • Thomas Wolsey • Cuthbert Tunstall • James Pilkington • Richard Barnes • Matthew Hutton • Tobias Matthew • William James • Richard Neile • George Montaigne • John Howson • Thomas Morton • John Cosin • Nathaniel Crew • William Talbot • Edward Chandler • Joseph Butler • Richard Trevor • John Egerton • Thomas Thurlow • Shute Barrington • William Van Mildert
Late modern Bishops
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