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William Whittingham

c.1524-1579. Dean of Durham. After education at Oxford, he went to Orléans, Germany, and Geneva (1550-53), returning to England a convinced Protestant. As Mary Tudor* was now queen, he left after four months for Frankfurt, inviting other English exiles to gather there. He took a leading part in organizing the English congregation, but divisions arose between those content with Edward VI's* second Prayer Book, led by Richard Cox,* and those like John Knox* wanting a more thorough reformation. Knox was expelled in March 1555, and Whittingham in September followed him to Geneva, where he was successively elected elder, deacon, and minister. He was largely responsible for the translation of the Geneva (or “Breeches”) Bible,* and when the other translators returned to England on the death of Mary in 1558, he remained in Geneva until it was printed in 1560. Whittingham also made metrical versions of the Ten Commandments and many psalms.

In 1563 he was made dean of Durham despite Elizabeth's dislike of his Puritanism. He held services twice daily, removed images, and improved the grammar and song schools. Proceedings were begun against him in 1566 for his refusal to wear the surplice, but Whittingham gave way. He incurred the hostility of Edwin Sandys, archbishop of York,* for resisting his attempt to visit the cathedral. Sandys questioned the validity of his ordination and attempted to deprive him, but Whittingham died before a decision was reached. His memorial inscription in Durham Cathedral stated that he married Catherine, sister of John Calvin, but this is erroneous.

See “A Brief Discourse of the Troubles at Frankfurt” in The Works of John Knox (ed. D. Laing, vol. IV, 1855); and contemporary life (ed. M.A. Everett Green) in The Camden Miscellany, VI (1871).