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Matthew Parker

1504-1575. Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559. Born in Norwich and educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, he became a fellow of his college and was ordained in 1527. He was probably attracted to the teaching of the Reformers by Thomas Bilney.* In 1535 he became chaplain to Anne Boleyn. He was appointed in 1544 as master of Corpus Christi College. As a reformer he courageously opposed the royal plan to seize the revenues of the chantries and colleges which appeared as a menace to the universities.

With the new freedom under Edward VI* Parker became a close friend of the continental Reformer Martin Bucer* while he worked in Cambridge. Parker was appointed dean of Lincoln Cathedral in 1552. During the reaction under Mary Tudor* he resigned his college post and was deprived of his preferments in 1554. For most of the reign he remained hidden in the house of a friend.

He enjoyed the years of quiet scholarly leisure and resisted Elizabeth I's* appointments as archbishop of Canterbury in 1559. Despite the controversy there is no doubt that he was properly consecrated. The service was performed by four bishops of Edward VI's reign, according to the ordinal attached to the 1552 Book of Common Prayer. Once the settlement of religion had been adopted by Parliament, Elizabeth expected Parker to enforce it. He consecrated and trained all the new bishops. Throughout the 1560s he struggled with the Puritans over vestments. He published the Advertisements of 1566 without royal support. He completed the Elizabethan Settlement* on the authority of the church alone. In 1572 the Admonition* controversy began. In this new phase of the struggle with the Puritans, Parker used J. Whitgift* as his chief agent. Parker was a good administrator, and despite powerful opponents he did much to form the character of the Elizabethan church. It was typical of him that he treated the deprived Marian bishops with tolerance and kindness. His scholarly interests continued to the end of his life, when he bequeathed his valuable collection of manuscripts and books to his college in Cambridge. In 1575 the fruit of his antiquarian researches was published in his De Antiquitate Britannicae Ecclesiae....

See modern Lives by W.M. Kennedy (1908) and V.J.K. Brook (1962); and E.D.W. Perry, Under Four Tudors (1940).