Cuthbert Tunstall

1474-1559. Bishop of Durham. While studying at Oxford, Cambridge, and Padua, he made friends with William Warham,* Thomas More,* Erasmus,* and other foreign scholars. Warham made him his chancellor in 1511, and Henry VIII* sent him on various political missions, making him bishop of London in 1522 and of Durham in 1530. He at first opposed the royal supremacy, but later preached vigorously in its favor. This support of Tunstall was of crucial importance to Henry VIII because of the wide respect in which he was held. Tunstall remained Catholic in doctrine, however, defending auricular confession and striving to keep the Bishops' Book* of 1537 as Catholic as possible. Under Edward VI* he had second thoughts on royal supremacy, though he enforced the Act of Uniformity* in his diocese after voting against it in Parliament. He also voted against the abolition of chantries in 1547, and the act permitting priests to marry in 1549. In consequence he was imprisoned in his house in 1551, and in 1552 deprived of his bishopric. While in prison he wrote a defense of the Catholic view of the Mass, De veritate corporis et sanguinis domini nostri Jesu Christi in eucharistia (published in Paris in 1554). He was restored by Mary Tudor* in 1554, but took no part in persecution. On the accession of Elizabeth* he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, or to help consecrate Matthew Parker* as archbishop of Canterbury. He was again deprived and kept in custody at Lambeth Palace until his death a few months later.

See register as bishop of Durham (ed. G. Hinde, 1951-52), and C. Sturge, Cuthbert Tunstall: Churchman, Scholar, Statesman, Administrator (1938).