Nicholas Ridley

c.1500-1555. Reformer and bishop of London. Born near Haltwhistle in Northumberland, he went to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1518. In 1524 he became a fellow of Pembroke and in 1527 went to the Sorbonne and Louvain, where he may have witnessed some of the Reformation controversies. He came back to Pembroke in 1530 where he spent much of his time reading the Scriptures and learning them by heart. In 1537 he was appointed chaplain to Cranmer* and the following year vicar of Herne, Kent, in Cranmer's diocese. In 1540 he became a chaplain to the king, and master of Pembroke. In 1547 he was consecrated bishop of Rochester and in 1550 was translated to London.

Ridley's long involvement in academic life was to stand him in good stead for the brief period of his episcopate. He seems to have been won round toward reformed views of the Eucharist through the study of De Corpore et Sanguini Domini, the work of a ninth- century monk, Ratramnus* or Bertram, who was refuting transubstantiation.* He had previously thought transubstantiation to be a primitive doctrine. From 1545 Ridley was convinced of the error of transubstantiation, and the following year he persuaded Cranmer, who in his turn persuaded Latimer.* His influence was recognized by Brooks, who said at his trial, “Latimer leaneth to Cranmer, Cranmer to Ridley, and Ridley to the singularity of his own wit.” Ridley helped compile the Book of Common Prayer* of 1549 and its revision in 1552, in which his eucharistic theology was given clearer liturgical expression. He was prominent in carrying through reforms in both his dioceses and when in London took the lead in the removal of stone altars and the substitution of wooden Communion tables. He was active in preaching on social questions and promoted the foundation of schools and hospitals.

He was to have returned to his native see of Durham, but on the death of Edward VI* he supported the attempt to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne, and when that failed he was deprived and imprisoned. In 1554 he was taken with Cranmer and Latimer to Oxford, where they had to engage in various disputations. He stood firm by his views and, after burning of the Reformers had begun in 1555, Ridley and Latimer were sentenced to die at the stake. As the fires were lit Latimer cried out, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out!”

N. Ridley, Works (1843); The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe (ed. J. Pratt, 1870); A Brief Declaration of the Lord's Supper (ed. H.C.G. Moule, 1895); J.G. Ridley, Nicholas Ridley (1957).