Attributed to Mary Beale, 1633–1699
Portrait of Thomas Tenison Archbishop of Canterbury 1636 - 1715
Thomas Tenison Archbishop of Canterbury

"THOMAS CANTUAR" and further inscribed with the Archbishop of Canterbury's Coat of Arms

oil on canvas
42 x 31 cm. (17 x 12.1/4in.)


Tenison, Thomas (1636–1715), archbishop of Canterbury, was born at Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, on 29 September 1636 and baptized there on 2 October, the son of John Tenison (1599–1671), curate of the parish, and Mercy, eldest daughter of Thomas Dowsing of Cottenham.

Education and early career

In 1637 John Tenison became rector of Mundesley, Norfolk, and in 1641 of Topcroft, Norfolk, but, as a royalist, he was ejected from Mundesley during the interregnum, while retaining the latter. A kinsman of Sir Thomas Browne of Norwich, the future archbishop was educated at Norwich School, where at the age of twelve he was reportedly deeply shocked by Charles I's execution, later calling it ‘an execrable murther’ (Tenison, Argument, 25). In April 1653 he entered Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as a Parker scholar. Here he was probably influenced by the Cambridge Platonists, who sought to lift religion from a dispute over theological niceties to a set of universal principles. A particular influence among them was Ralph Cudworth, who refuted Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan. Among Tenison's fellow students were his future episcopal colleagues John Tillotson, Richard Kidder, Robert Grove, Simon Patrick, and James Gardiner. Tenison graduated BA in 1657, but with Anglican prospects so uncertain he, like others, briefly studied physick instead of seeking orders. In 1659, however, the deprived Bishop Brian Duppa of Salisbury secretly ordained him at Richmond upon Thames: Anglican ordinations were still forbidden. Reportedly meticulous rather than brilliant as a student, Tenison proceeded MA in 1660 (incorporated at Oxford in June 1664), became a fellow of Corpus in March 1662, and proceeded BD in 1667 and DD in 1680.

Briefly rector of Bracon Ash (1661–2), near Norwich, Tenison resigned it in favour of his father in 1662, when Francis Wilford, the new dean of Ely and master of Corpus, presented him to the prestigious parish of St Andrew the Great, Cambridge (1662–7). Here he made an impact on both town and university. In particular he won considerable reputation during the plague for being the only college fellow to remain in residence, and at great personal risk, but fortified by ‘a preservative powder … administered in wine’ (Masters' History, 191), he constantly cared for his stricken parish throughout the crisis; when he resigned in 1667 his parishioners gave him a handsome commemorative silver tankard.

The year 1667 was significant for Tenison. He married Anne (d. 1714), daughter of Richard Love (d. 1661), the former dean of Ely and master of Corpus Christi. He also became rector of Holywell with Needingworth, Huntingdonshire, a parish in the gift of the earl of Manchester, whose chaplain he had been for some years. Methodical as ever, Tenison drew up a terrier of land belonging to the church and established a charity for the poor. Meanwhile he became chaplain to the king, but, more important, he was also making his name as a writer. In 1670 he published The Creed of Mr Hobbes examin'd, dedicated to Manchester. Reportedly a more succinct critique of Thomas Hobbes than Cudworth's, it was a popular work, perhaps partly instrumental in Oxford University's condemnation of Leviathan in 1683. He followed this with A Discourse on Idolatry (1677), the first of many contentious pamphlets attacking Rome, and Baconia (1678), an academic work praising Bacon's work and placing him ahead of Copernicus, Galileo, and Harvey. In 1673 it may have been his kinship with Sir Thomas Browne that led to his becoming upper minister at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, the centre of religious life in the city, a post he held for only eighteen months. After Browne's death Tenison edited his papers, which he published in 1685.

St Martin-in-the-Fields

Tenison's reputation as parish priest in Cambridge and Huntingdonshire and as a controversialist led to further promotion; he was recommended to the lord chancellor, Heneage Finch, first earl of Nottingham, for the living of St Martin-in-the-Fields in October 1680. Here Tenison was joining Nottingham's distinguished London circle of churchmen, including John Tillotson, John Sharp, Edward Stillingfleet, Simon Patrick, and Richard Kidder. St Martin's itself was a large, prestigious parish at the centre of the capital's life. As pastor he was also extremely busy—in a randomly chosen month there were seventy-seven baptisms, 144 burials, and four marriages; communions were at least monthly. The diarist John Evelyn was concerned about his busy life. After applauding his preaching and his ‘most holy conversation’ he feared for his health: ‘the insuperable pains he takes and care of his parish will I fear wear him out’ (Evelyn, 4.307).

Tenison remained in this key parish for eleven years, years of considerable turbulence, and contributed significantly to London's vibrant ecclesiastical life. For instance, in 1681 ‘devout young men’ of the parish formed a society for a life of regular prayer meetings and strict rules as to behaviour (Spurr, 133). His own parishioners included many leading national figures. Those he attended at their deaths included Edward Turberville, the informer, and in 1687 Nell Gwyn. He was heavily criticized for preaching at the latter's funeral and, at the height of anxieties about the advance of popery under James II, for distributing in her name charity money among poor papists. Most significant of all was the duke of Monmouth, a regular worshipper at St Martin's. During his confinement at the Tower after his rebellion it was to Tenison that he turned for spiritual counsel. In July 1685 Tenison joined bishops Thomas Ken and Francis Turner, and George Hooper, rector of Lambeth, for the duke's last hours before execution. Though reportedly speaking more gently than the others, he failed, as they did, to persuade him to be reconciled to his wife and to admit his guilt as a rebel. He too had to refuse Monmouth the sacrament, and with them attended him on the scaffold. Hostile though he was to popery, Tenison would not countenance open rebellion.

Tenison's incumbency of St Martin's coincided with a phenomenal increase in its population, rising from 19,000 in 1660 to 38,000 ten years later and 69,000 in 1685. Little wonder that he concurred with parliament's further division of the parish in establishing St James-in-the-Fields, now St James's, Piccadilly. (St Anne-in-the-Fields, now St Anne's, Soho, had already been hived off in 1678.) Tenison retained both St Martin's and St James's until his preferment to the bishopric of Lincoln. He also set up a chapel of ease in Swallow Street (now Regent Street), and later moved a wooden former Catholic chapel from Hounslow Heath to Conduit Street for Anglican use; this later became St George's, Hanover Square. A bibliophile himself, he recognized that clergy and tutors for the nobility in his parish needed free access to books; in 1684, at his own expense and advised by John Evelyn and Christopher Wren, he built a library, the first public library in London, in which he deposited many books and manuscripts. With education as another lifelong interest, he was an early pioneer of charity schools, establishing St Martin's free school for the poor in 1683, and another in St James's parish a few years later. With a Renaissance spirit he took personal care in searching out efficient teachers and intelligent, needy pupils whom he encouraged to enter university. Near the end of his life he founded a school for poor girls in Lambeth, in which his wife showed ‘constant and prudent care’ (will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/550, sig. 3), and a charity school in Croydon in 1714.

Roman controversy and revolution

As vicar of St Martin's, Tenison was at the epicentre of the increasingly heated Romanist debates and convulsions of the 1680s. Suited to the role, he entered fully into the constant pamphleteering. He may have remembered the interregnum with horror, but the increasing identification of the monarchy with Romanism, subtle under Charles II, overt under James II, propelled Tenison energetically into the fray. Catholics came to recognize him as a leading opponent; this was so much the case that his colleague, Simon Patrick, had to warn him of the danger he was courting. As early as 1678 he had published A Discourse on Idolatry, anti-papist in substance, though academic in style. Once at St Martin's, however, time for scholarship was shorter, and his later pamphlets were less well researched and increasingly contentious. His sermon at St Sepulchre's, London (1681), entitled ‘Concerning discretion in giving alms’, degenerated into a vituperative attack on Catholic institutions, in particular charities, and caused much animosity. This was followed by A Discourse Concerning a Guide on Matters of Faith (1683), a work on the question of authority, on where a true basis for religious truth could be found; this he republished in 1687. With James II's accession in 1685 the controversy intensified, and St Martin's became more than ever the Anglican bastion. When James tried to silence John Sharp, rector of St Giles-in-the-Fields, in 1686, Tenison threw himself into the struggle, and possibly played a major part in his restoration. In 1687 he published The Difference betwixt Protestant and Socinian Methods, defending Anglicanism against false Catholic claims, and with William Claggett he published a bibliography of the controversy, The Present State of the Controversie between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. In the same year he contributed The Tenth Note, on Holiness in a reply, with other leading churchmen, to Bellarmine's century-old fifteen notes of the true church. Even more significant was his impassioned public debate the following September with Andrew Pulton, master of the Jesuit College at the Savoy. In this high-profile encounter Tenison led the Anglican side. He was now noted as an effective and potent protagonist of the Anglican church, a dangerous role at the time, and again contributed to the increasing flood of pamphlets. Converts too became highly prized: Tenison, for instance, constructed a special liturgy at St Martin's for receiving John Taffe, a former Irish Capuchin, into the Anglican church.

Tenison was a leader of the London agitation following the second declaration of indulgence (27 April 1688). After a gathering of London clergy Archbishop William Sancroft invited him to attend the bishops' meetings at Lambeth on 11 May, and again more crucially on 18 May, when they decided to petition the king. On the following Sunday, 20 May, like many others, Tenison refused to read the declaration. Throughout the crisis until the bishops' acquittal he was the vital link between them and the clergy. Though Tenison was thus a potent force as leader of the London clergy, little is known of his part in the discussions which later led to James's abject capitulation to the Anglican bishops in what has become known as ‘the Anglican Revolution’ (Goldie, 108). Tensions rose. On 30 September, when a Jesuit preacher at the Savoy, probably Pulton, attacked Anglicanism, the crowds publicly dragged him from his pulpit. Tenison, as a leading Anglican apologist, preached his reply at a crowded service at St Martin's.

After James's departure Tenison, fully backing the new regime, was still at the heart of affairs. Though the revolution ended the controversy's intensity Tenison edited and published, as editor, Popery not Founded on Scripture and a translation of La Placette's Of the Incurable Scepticism of the Church of Rome. In the weeks before the Convention, which eventually offered William and Mary the throne, he was closely in touch with political and church leaders.


With the incoming regime ecclesiastical affairs took a new turn with a revived attempt by Daniel Finch, second earl of Nottingham, secretary of state, and senior moderate clergy to effect a rapprochement between the established church and dissenters. On 14 January 1689 Tenison was one of several moderates, including John Tillotson, Simon Patrick, and William Lloyd, who met at the house of the dean of St Paul's, Edward Stillingfleet, to discuss the possibility of making concessions. A twin package was proposed: a comprehension bill to bring most dissenters, principally presbyterians, back into the church, and a toleration bill to allow the rest to worship elsewhere. Finch introduced these in the Lords in February 1689. When the comprehension bill failed the following May, Tenison joined the commission appointed by William III to review the liturgy, canons, and ecclesiastical courts with comprehension in mind. His earlier work, An Argument for Union (1683), had already identified him as a leading protagonist for comprehension and protestant union, and now in 1689 he published anonymously A Discourse Concerning the Ecclesiastical Commission Opened in the Jerusalem Chamber to promote its cause. Typically conscientious, he attended seventeen of the eighteen sessions, and was on the eventual informal subcommittee, suggesting suitable alterations to the prayer book; meticulous as usual, he set about collecting words in the liturgy that gave most offence. Tenison's eagerness for comprehension, and, in particular, his reported lack of support for episcopal reordination of dissenting ministers, antagonized many.

The commission's debates were on the whole dignified, but convocation, meeting on 21 November to discuss its proposals, was not. All attempts by Tenison and others to persuade members to agree on comprehension were met with hostility, and the proposals came to nothing. Convocation was adjourned in December and later dissolved with parliament without passing any judgment on the commission's proposals. Tenison was acutely disappointed. Though he briefly considered raising the issue again in the mid-1690s he never tried to challenge the verdict. The bid for comprehension had failed. Like others, he, however, accepted occasional conformity as a suitable, though unsatisfactory, compromise, much to the hostility of tories and high-churchmen.

Archdeacon, diocesan bishop, and primate

Already Tenison was highly respected for his work in Cambridge and at St Martin's, and for his leadership of the London clergy in James's reign, so it was not surprising that Gilbert Burnet recommended him, with nine others, to William III for early preferment. Consequently the crown, using its prerogative, appointed him archdeacon of London; Bishop Henry Compton of London instituted him on 26 October 1689. Tenison retained his incumbencies at St Martin's and St James's. Apart from his annual visitations, there is little evidence of his personal activities in his brief spell as archdeacon.

Further preferment followed late in 1691, when William nominated Tenison to the important see of Lincoln; Tillotson, with the bishops of London, Worcester, and Ely assisting, consecrated him in Lambeth Palace chapel on 19 January 1692. Lincoln was a huge diocese of five archdeaconries and fifty deaneries, sadly neglected by his scholarly predecessor, Thomas Barlow. Tenison, with his usual energy and zeal, at once sought to restore order, root out slackness, and keep a firm eye on the clergy. His first visitation between April and June lasted at least five weeks, during which he travelled over 400 miles. His spell at Lincoln was brief. Though further preferment came too soon for him to achieve notable results, he laid solid foundations for his successor, James Gardiner.

In 1693 Tenison was offered the archbishopric of Dublin, but despite pressure from the Irish episcopate he refused, possibly on his wife's advice. Tillotson died on 22 November 1694, recommending Tenison as his successor at Canterbury. Though other names were suggested, principally Edward Stillingfleet and John Hall, others pressed for Tenison ‘as less high in his notions and temper’ (Carpenter, 132), and William appointed him on 6 December. In many ways he was an admirable compromise. Already respected for his previous work he had been helped by the first earl of Nottingham, worked closely with the second over comprehension, and was now adviser to the Sunderland family. Naturally opinions were divided. To some he was recognized as a person of great learning, piety, and moderation, who had already been marked out by Romish priests and Jesuits. Tories, like Thomas Hearne, however, noted that he lacked sense and judgement, and that he would be a tool of the whigs. Formally elected on 15 January 1695 he was enthroned at Canterbury in person on 16 May, the first primate since the Reformation to be thus installed. Meanwhile he had been in constant attendance at the bedside of Queen Mary prior to her death on 28 December 1694. Subsequently he gave spiritual counsel to the bereft king, and probably persuaded him to put aside his mistress Elizabeth Villiers. Tenison preached at Queen Mary's funeral on 5 March 1695.

Reform and discipline of the church

Tenison became primate at the end of fifty years of political and ecclesiastical turmoil. He immediately set out to improve the reputation of the clergy, which in an age of cynicism and immorality was low. In 1695 he revived the archbishop's court, summoned Thomas Watson, bishop of St David's, to answer charges of simony, and deprived him of his see. His predecessor, Tillotson, and Queen Mary had already planned in 1694 the issue of eighteen royal injunctions for the strict enforcement of the canons of 1604, which their deaths late that year had prevented. Tenison continued the policy and persuaded King William to issue the injunctions, which he amplified with his own Rules and Orders. He aimed to establish a well-educated, competent, and loyal clergy, and to keep pluralities within the bounds of the law. To achieve the first he reinforced ordination procedures, laid down by canons 34 and 35, to ensure that candidates were men of integrity and of sufficient educational standard. He himself was reportedly tough examining his own Canterbury ordinands and in interrogating future incumbents before institution. He also tackled the problem of pluralities and non-residence, then a major church abuse. In the Canterbury diocese he insisted on strict adherence to canon law, but he was equally exacting elsewhere. He used his special primatial authority for issuing dispensations, and with the help of his chaplain, Edmund Gibson, he meticulously investigated each petition for plurality. Apart from demanding a certificate of consent from relevant diocesan bishops he often made his own additional enquiries. On one occasion in January 1712 he was in conflict with the queen herself. When she legitimately used the royal prerogative to issue a dispensation for plurality Tenison protested. In a long, respectful, but vehement letter of criticism he dubbed her ‘the nursing mother’ of the church and himself its ‘watchman or shepherd’ (Carpenter, 164). Significantly, the archbishop had his way.

The Canterbury diocese and All Souls College, Oxford

Like earlier primates Tenison was eager to make Canterbury a model for other dioceses. Immediately after installation he carried out his primary visitation during which he confirmed almost 4000 candidates. This was unusual, for few archbishops visited and confirmed in the Canterbury diocese. Some, like Sancroft, sent other prelates to deputize every few years, but others, such as Gilbert Sheldon and John Tillotson, failed to do even this. One incumbent, Thomas Brett, tory though he was, was appreciative. Tenison, he wrote, ‘has done more than any other of his predecessors for these hundred years’ (Brett, 245). Not only did he visit and confirm ‘very frequently’, he made sure the ceremonies were not ‘in a hurry or huddle’ (ibid., 244) as elsewhere, but administered with decorum in small groups at a time with questions and answers made audible. ‘Nothing could be more solemn, decent and regular’ (ibid., 245). Similarly he broke with tradition by personally conferring priests' and deacons' orders five times in twenty years. This was rare then for archbishops, who normally conferred only episcopal orders. In his last years, when confined to Lambeth through ill health, he continued to show concern for the Canterbury clergy's welfare. In 1706 he gave the cathedral a handsome throne carved by Grinling Gibbons.

As archbishop Tenison was also visitor of All Souls College, Oxford, a role he took seriously. In 1698 he ended a long-running dispute over the election as warden of Leopold Finch (son of the second earl of Winchilsea and a kinsman of Nottingham's) by declaring the wardenship vacant and personally reappointing Finch to the post. Four years later he was at odds with Finch's reforming tory successor, Bernard Gardiner, over the warden's right of veto in fellows' elections, especially in cases of non-residence. Tenison again acted decisively. Through his vicar-general he carried out, in 1710, a rare formal visitation of the college—performed by only archbishops Cranmer and Whitgift before—and annulled the warden's right of veto.

Reformation of manners

As archbishop Tenison eventually gave energetic support to the movement which sprang up in the 1690s to combat the flood of vice seen as engulfing society. He knew Restoration London only too well. Unlike some bishops, however, he had initial misgivings over supporting the growing number of interdenominational societies for the reformation of manners, principally because they gave the lead in combating sin to civil magistrates rather than to the clergy. His circular letter to the bishops in April 1699, following the king's proclamation on the subject, emphasized the duty of the clergy to catechize parishioners thoroughly and thus imbue them with the faith. Only thus would true moral reformation take place, and other methods would be rendered unnecessary.

Tenison campaigned in other ways for moral reform. He hoped to tighten the lax procedures concerning marriage. In the 1690s he was partly responsible for drafting two acts designed to help eradicate clandestine marriages by insisting on marriage only by banns or licence. Both by letter and by injunction he requested the bishops' support, especially in preventing the common abuse whereby officials issued blank marriage licences. The press and stage were also in his sights. In 1698 he unsuccessfully introduced a bill to outlaw blasphemous and scandalous publications, and he hoped for strict government surveillance of the theatre; though unsuccessful in this he and Dean Thomas Sherlock of St Paul's managed to get one playhouse closed. As late as 1711 the queen herself was still appalled by the ‘looseness and corruption of manners’ and ‘the neglect of wholesome discipline’ (Brown, 338), and in August 1711 she wrote to Tenison requesting the bishops' support.

Patronage and politics

On becoming primate Tenison strove to continue the moderate consensus achieved thus far by Nottingham and Tillotson, ‘a dogged rearguard action to prevent the church … from becoming the battlefield of political faction’, as it, in fact, did under Queen Anne (Bennett, ‘William III’, 105). Tenison himself tried to project impartial churchmanship, even taking care to use Caroline ceremonies and devotions in his chapel at Lambeth. After Queen Mary's death William III set up a commission of the two archbishops and four other prelates to recommend preferments. With his presence essential for a quorum and holding the casting vote Tenison's authority was paramount. Despite his earlier London friendship with John Sharp, now archbishop of York, differences in personality and Tenison's suspicion of him as a high-churchman created friction between the two men: decisions were often made in Lambeth without Sharp's participation. By 1698, with William's political situation deteriorating, the preferments commission hardly met, and Tenison soon found himself in the eye of a political storm. Whigs and tories both entered the fray. Whigs, for instance, pressed the archbishop for the preferment of William Talbot to Worcester, only to find that he went to the poor see of Oxford. Tory ecclesiastics, led by three discontented prelates, Henry Compton, Jonathan Trelawny, and Thomas Sprat, and the mercurial Francis Atterbury, pressed for a sitting convocation, still in abeyance since 1689. This Tillotson and Tenison had consistently advised William to avoid, but now the old policy of moderation was in ruins. Late in 1700 William bowed to pressure and allowed convocation to sit and debate.

Now Tenison was at the centre of conflict, exposed to every shaft of tory venom. Predictably the lower house, energized by Atterbury and led by its prolocutor for 1701, George Hooper, was in no mood for courtesies. Apart from discussion of the book Christianity not Mysterious by the deist John Toland, much heated debate centred on the lower house's claim to independence, especially its right to continue sitting and debating beyond the primate's formal notice of prorogation. From the first Hooper consistently ignored Tenison's order to adjourn, and the house often continued sitting, eventually adjourning itself. On one occasion, when Tenison summoned Hooper to appear in the upper house, Tenison, ironically, adopted high-church tones in lecturing him on episcopal authority over lower clergy. They took little notice. Frequent angry verbal altercations followed between the two men until convocation's final session in June. Parliament was soon prorogued and then dissolved, and with it convocation. Tenison had remained firm against a hostile and bitter lower house, but not without being appalled by the vehemence of tory attacks, even being branded in 1702 as a servile party hack bullying his fellow ministers of the gospel for whig ends.

With William III's death Tenison's fortunes and influence diminished noticeably, for Queen Anne already distrusted whigs. In seeking ecclesiastical advice Anne turned not to Tenison, but to the moderate tories Nottingham and Sharp. Though Tenison perforce crowned her, it was Sharp who she insisted preach at the coronation. Nevertheless Tenison remained politically active until beset by illness. At least until September 1710 Anne invited him, when fit enough, to join ministers at weekly meetings of the formal cabinet council. Until mid-1709, when his health declined further, he was frequently in the Lords; in 1703 and 1704, for instance, he led ten prelates vigorously into opposition against the occasional conformity bills of 1703 and 1704, which, largely owing to him, were rejected. Later he spoke fervently in favour of the Anglo-Scottish union.

As to patronage, however, Tenison was marginalized; only in 1705, with Lord Treasurer Godolphin's support, did he manage to get his protégé William Wake appointed to Lincoln. Until then all appointments went to high-churchmen, such as Hooper and William Beveridge. Even during the whig ascendancy after 1708, and despite personal approaches to the queen, his influence was negligible; even whig ministers in their temporary supremacy could not deliver the appointments that Tenison wanted, with the one exception of Charles Trimnell to Norwich (1709). Indeed in 1708 Anne appointed two tories, Sir William Dawes and Offspring Blackall, secretly in her closet, without either prelates or whig ministers knowing. Tenison broke with tradition the following February by absenting himself from their consecration at Lambeth, supposedly on grounds of ill health.

Throughout both reigns Tenison was a passionate supporter of the new regime and a continuing protestant succession. He attended both Mary and William at their deaths, and crowned Anne. His sermon at Mary's funeral provoked the bitter criticism of the non-juror Thomas Ken for failing to persuade her to confess her shortcomings in supplanting her father. Tenison maintained a dignified silence. When Anne's only surviving child died in 1700 Tenison strongly supported the passage of the Act of Settlement (1701), thus ensuring the Hanoverian succession. From then onwards, as perhaps its leading protagonist, he frequently corresponded with Electress Sophia of Hanover, even sending her a chaplain and Anglican prayer books. His support for a protestant succession was but part of his passionate vendetta against Catholicism. Under William III he had already been involved in government surveillance of suspicious messages from abroad, and, unusually for a bishop, he had voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick in 1696. In 1706, using royal authority, he requested bishops to list all advowsons and schools in Catholic hands. Tenison maintained his vigorous anti-papist pursuit into his last years.

Meanwhile, running battles in convocation continued. Autocratic again and now sick and impatient, when a new convocation met in 1708 he instantly prorogued it without even allowing prayers. In the tory years that followed (1710–14) the tables turned. The firebrand Atterbury won election as prolocutor in 1711, and secured the exclusion of the archbishop from automatic presidency of convocation. For Tenison, already marginalized, this was another calculated slight. Perhaps he lacked sufficient leadership, imagination, and even sense of humour to make the lower house amenable, but with convocation as a focus of the reign's running political and ecclesiastical battle, the gulf was unbridgeable.

During this tory spell the phalanx of whig prelates maintained a defiant front against the ministry, benevolently but firmly disciplined by Tenison, though himself too sick to attend. All new episcopal appointments went to the tories, but Tenison need not have worried over the succession. The extremism of the Occasional Conformity Act (1711) and Schism Act(1714), placing further restrictions on nonconformists, mostly whig in their politics, ensured that most new prelates joined the Hanover tories, thus ensuring with the whigs the Hanoverian succession.

Theological conflict

Remembering Cromwellian dissensions Tenison, as archbishop, was eager to keep theological peace while religious and political passions raged so fiercely. He dealt autocratically with any hint of heterodoxy; private thinking must not become public. Socinianism had recently revived in the writings of Stephen Nye and Thomas Firmin. In 1695 he drew up ‘Directions … for the preserving unity in the church and the purity of the Christian faith concerning the Holy Trinity’, which he persuaded the king to issue under royal seal; judges again were to assist. Later still in 1711 he noted that a new Dutch translation of the Book of Common Prayer had been printed by a Dutch Socinian and lacked a trinitarian ascription. He ordered its total suppression and a new edition to be printed.

With William Whiston, the eccentric Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, Tenison was equally autocratic. Whiston was banished from the university in 1710 and deprived of his chair for his anti-trinitarian essay ‘De trinitate’ in his Sermons and Essays (1709), the book being condemned by convocation. He appealed to Tenison, who promptly laid it before convocation, this time formally, which infuriated Whiston, honest and well intentioned as he was. Whiston again appealed to Tenison after being refused communion in London; the archbishop again dealt with this curtly and formally without quiet sympathy, which might have yielded better results. In 1710, however, in a dispute over the possible rebaptism of dissenters, Tenison refused to condemn lay conduct of the rite. Though in this he followed traditional church teaching, his attitude incurred the hostility of high-church bishops and clergy of the lower house.

Tenison had little time for the nonjurors, who refused to swear allegiance to William and Mary. He failed to understand them. A youthful Stuart supporter in Cromwellian times, he, however, had no difficulty at all in owing allegiance to William and Mary rather than James II. Later experience had made him firmly whig. For him having a protestant sovereign was the church's only security. His lengthy correspondence with the nonjuror Robert Nelson over a possible rapprochement came to nothing. While Jacobitism was still a potent force, he was too convinced a whig and too cautious a prelate to risk negotiations with so small a group.

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and the church overseas

Tenison was the first archbishop to take sustained personal interest in the church's mission overseas, and positively encouraged Thomas Bray in founding the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (1701). Once called ‘the prime instrument for energetic Imperial Anglicanism’ (Schlenther, 131), the society initially aimed to win American colonists of dissenting stock back to the church, and only then to convert native Americans. Tenison himself presided over its first meeting at Lambeth Palace and, annually re-elected as president, he chaired many of its later meetings at St Martin-in-the-Fields. He was often directly involved in its activities. When four Iroquois native American sachems (princes) went to London in April 1710, he showed particular interest, presiding over a special committee concerning them. Two years later he wrote warmly to them addressing them as ‘My Lords’, and provided money out of his own purse for the mission that followed (Tenison to sachems, 29 May 1712, BL, Stowe MS 119, fol. 73).

Though it was the bishop of London who officially licensed missionaries Tenison, even as late as 1710, insisted on vetting their credentials himself and meeting them before departure. He encouraged missionaries to send him reports and messages from as far afield as America, St Helena, and Tenerife. Always an educational enthusiast he was elected vice-chancellor of William and Mary College, Virginia, and later bequeathed books to a proposed college in Barbados.

Tenison was much concerned with the lack of episcopal oversight in the American colonies. Earlier attempts to supply bishops by William Laud and at the Restoration had failed. In 1705 Tenison brought the matter to the queen's attention. Possible candidates were named, a bishop's house bought in New Jersey, and a draft bill (1712) presented to parliament, but progress was too slow. Anne's death brought the scheme to a halt, and no more was done for decades. Tenison, however, bequeathed £1000 for two protestant bishoprics. Certainly his work for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was substantial; a contemporary spoke of his practical wisdom as president, putting ‘a stop to many indirect motions and steps made to put us out of the way’ (Kennett, 123).

Nor was Tenison's overseas concern confined to Anglicans. In March 1698 he welcomed Tsar Peter of Russia with his priests to hold discussions and to witness an ordination; in 1701 he entertained a Greek patriarch at Lambeth. King Frederick I of Prussia's request for advice about introducing the Anglican liturgy and episcopacy into his kingdom, however, met with a lukewarm response.

Ireland and Scotland

The Irish church interested Tenison. In November 1690 he served on William III's commission to eradicate its considerable abuses, and in 1693 he was pressed to accept the archbishopric of Dublin, which he refused. Later the Irish episcopate asked him, once installed at Lambeth, to keep informal oversight over their church, which he did, especially during William's reign. Though Tenison left no obvious impression on the Irish church, his close contact with it was beneficial. He was instrumental in having conscientious men appointed to bishoprics, and his frequent contact by letter with most Irish prelates, especially Narcissus Marsh, archbishop of Dublin, did much to raise morale at a difficult time. Simultaneously he kept English government officials in Ireland sympathetic to the church's needs, while his influence at Whitehall helped curb the illegal activities of Irish presbyterians, then increasing in strength with the influx of French Huguenots and Scottish immigrants.

Scottish episcopalians after the revolution of 1688 felt beleaguered by, and indeed suffered from, the presbyterian nature of the religious settlement in that country. Tenison took his duty seriously and stoutly supported them by presenting William III with a detailed memorandum of grievances and by writing to Scottish ministers about their poverty. He also took an active part in the commission negotiating for Anglo-Scottish union (1702–5). He regularly attended its meetings, gladly approved the outcome, and led crucial episcopal support for the bill in the Lords. He fended off tory taunts that he, as archbishop, was voting for presbyterian government of the Scottish church. He viewed the matter pragmatically: to him the Church of Scotland was ‘as true a protestant church as the Church of England, though he could not say it was so perfect’ (McCormick, 759–60). Nevertheless, as part of the Union package in February 1707 Tenison introduced a bill for the security of the Church of England to safeguard its doctrine and liturgy, as a parallel to the Kirk Act for Scotland. Largely through his efforts—though he was too ill to attend the debates—the United Kingdom parliament went further in 1712, passing a Toleration Act for Scotland, thus ensuring the Scottish episcopalian church a definite legal basis.

Last years, decline, and death

In later years Tenison's friends affectionately dubbed him Old Totius, a nickname derived from his official title Totius Angliae Primas. Even so, after George I's accession Tenison still felt isolated and impotent, for Charles Townshend needed tory support for his ministry. Tenison disapproved not only of the new royal court, but the church too with its ‘motley bench and motley synod’ (Sykes, William Wake, 2.99). ‘All our Church matters are at sixes and sevens’, he expostulated (ibid., 100). Though John Wynne and Richard Willes, both whigs, were raised to the episcopate, Tenison took no part in choosing them. In fact, in his last years he had little contact with his fellow bishops, except formally through chaplains. His relations with them were now poor, as they adjusted to the new regime.

For years Tenison had suffered from gout. As early as 1704 he had missed some meetings of the cabinet council. Early in 1707, rudely cajoled by Lord Somers, the leading whig, over episcopal appointments and in great pain, he visited the queen, only to be rebuffed. In June that year he complained of being ‘very lame’ and unable to ‘go abroad’ (Sykes, Queen Anne, 441). He last attended a normal session of the Lords in March 1709, and presided over his last consecration of bishops (Philip Bisse and John Robinson) on 19 November 1710; at the five remaining consecrations of his life other bishops presided in his place. Even so, with remarkable resilience he had a firm grip on life. His health was precarious enough in 1711 for tory circles to suggest the apparently imminent succession to Canterbury of the tory John Robinson. At Christmas 1713 the end was again reported near, but, cheating the tories, his tenacious grip on life lasted long enough for him to see the Hanoverians safely installed. Meanwhile his mind was still sharp to the end. Even as late as 1711 to 1714 he was often writing to William Wake over pastoral minutiae in the diocese of Lincoln. He rallied to take centre stage among the fourteen men appointed as regency commissioners in the Lords on 5 August 1714 when George was declared king. Sick though he was he actually crowned the new monarch on 20 October, and ironically it was his antagonist, Atterbury, who bore the crown from the altar for him. In 1715 with other prelates he issued a condemnation of the Jacobite rising. Eventually Old Totius died at Lambeth Palace on 14 December 1715 and was buried simply, as he wished, in the chancel of Lambeth parish church in the following week. Wake was rapidly appointed his successor two days later. Tenison's wife, Anne, had died a year earlier. They had no surviving children.

Assessment and subsequent reputation

Tenison was vilified in his lifetime, by James II as ‘that dull man’ with ‘languid oration’ (Carpenter, 405) and by Jonathan Swift as ‘the dullest good for nothing man I ever knew’ (Forster, 1.180n.). Yet his friend Evelyn wrote that he had not met ‘a man of a more universal and generous spirit, with so much modesty, prudence and piety’ (Evelyn, 5.66). His underlying qualities were already apparent before becoming primate. Meticulous both academically and administratively he was a devoted, courageous, and conscientious pastor in Cambridge, Holywell, and St Martin's. An effective preacher who drew crowds of listeners and a potent and marked controversialist against Catholics in the 1680s, he was an enthusiast for comprehension in 1689. A bibliophile, he opened libraries and founded schools, three of which, in Kennington, Croydon, and Lambeth, still bear his name. He was a dynamic bishop of Lincoln.

Once Tenison became primate these underlying qualities were still apparent, though they were soon to be obscured. Even in his last years he still concerned himself with the details of pastoral care in his own see and in the wider church. He worked to improve the quality of the clergy and the moral standards of the nation. He supported episcopalians in Scotland and Ireland, and cultivated a deep interest in the church's mission overseas, both as first president of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and in promoting the need for bishops in the American colonies. Theologically he would brook no public debate of apparently wayward theological ideas, and remained hostile towards Catholicism.

Though at first, while he tried to keep tempers cool, the future promised well, Tenison quickly fell victim to the hideous religious and political passions that soon flared up. Thereafter, weakened by illness, often in acute pain, and drained of energy by the political and religious kaleidoscope of Anne's reign, he cut a beleaguered, lonely, almost dreary, figure in the confusing, battering world around him. Marginalized by the queen and court, even harassed by whigs for supposed inactivity in promoting their men and cause, he was later ignored by George I's administration. The vigorous activist of the 1680s had become the enfeebled, almost solitary figure of the 1700s. Nevertheless, despite his sickness he remained active in mind, and maintained a vigorous correspondence in pursuit of his objectives. It was as late as 2 December 1715, a few days before his death, that he made the important codicil to his will bequeathing funds for American bishoprics. A generous man with a reportedly strong Fenland country accent, he made numerous legacies at his death. Devoted to the 1688 revolution and the Hanoverian succession, he experienced his participation in George I's coronation as indeed a crowning moment. Old Totius may have been to some ‘a dull and prosaic man’; he was also ‘by any account … a great primate’ (Bennett, Tory Crisis, 20), even if his true greatness was partly obscured.

William Marshall DNB

Artist biography

Beale [née Cradock], Mary (bap. 1633, d. 1699), portrait painter, was born at Barrow rectory, Suffolk, and baptized on 26 March 1633, the elder of two children of the Revd John Cradock (c.1595–1652), the puritan rector of Barrow, and his wife, Dorothy Brunton or Brinton (d. 1643). Evidence suggests that she received a good education from her father who, as an amateur artist, probably also provided her with tuition in painting.

On 8 March 1652 Mary Cradock married Charles Beale (bap. 1631, d. 1705), member of a puritan family at Walton Manor, Buckinghamshire. The couple took up residence at Covent Garden, London, later moving to Hind Court, Fleet Street, when Charles succeeded to his father's post of deputy clerk of the patents office about 1660. By this date Mary Beale had not only given birth to two sons, Bartholomew and Charles [see below], but had already gained some reputation as an artist: she was mentioned together with three other female painters in Sir William Sanderson's Graphice … or, The most Excellent Art of Painting (1658). One of her earliest extant works is the Self Portrait with Husband and Son (c.1663; Geffrye Museum, London). Her early influences seem to have included Robert Walker, the Commonwealth portraitist, and the miniaturist Thomas Flatman.

By 1664 Charles Beale's job had become insecure, and, with the plague threatening, the family departed for Albrook (now Allbrook), Otterbourne, Hampshire. While there, Mary wrote the ‘Essay on friendship’ (BL, Harleian MS 6828, fols. 510–23) in which she propounds the somewhat radical notion (for the period) of equality between men and women, both in friendship and marriage. Her philosophy was put into practice when, upon their return to the city in 1670, it was decided that she would establish herself as a professional artist; accordingly, she set up a studio in their rented house in Pall Mall. Few women were employed as artists in this period, and her career could only have been undertaken with her husband's encouragement. She soon attracted a wide clientele from among the gentry and aristocracy, and from their own distinguished circle of friends, who included fellows of the Royal Society and puritan clergy, notably the future bishops Stillingfleet and Tillotson. Her prices were competitive: £10 for a three-quarter-length and £5 for a half-length portrait. Typical canvases feature warm brown colour tones and a feigned stone cartouche, both of which are apparent in the portrait of Jane, Lady Twisden (1677; Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds). Mary Beale's sons assisted her with the painting of draperies and later she was able to train and employ female studio assistants.

While his ‘Dearest & Most Indefatigable Heart’ (Beale notebook, 7 Aug 1677) was industriously employed, Charles Beale assumed responsibility for organizing the commissions and payments and preparing artists' colours. He recorded these details and much other incidental information in a series of notebooks, which provide an exceptional amount of documentation for an artist of this period; two survive, one for 1677 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the other for 1681 in the National Portrait Gallery. In 1671 Mary Beale's income totalled £118 5s., rising to £429 by 1677; the latter was perhaps her most prosperous year. Additional information about the Beales is provided by their close friend Samuel Woodforde, whose diaries are held in the Bodleian Library. He describes Mary as a sympathetic and hospitable friend, while the attractive, puritan nature of their household is indicated by the family's practice of regularly setting aside 10 per cent of their annual income for the poor, and by Woodforde's comment, following a convivial occasion at their home: ‘We were very cheerful, and I hope, without sin’ (Woodforde, 2 Dec 1664). Mary's pensive but pleasant countenance is depicted in the numerous self-portraits, such as the Self Portrait (with Artist's Palette) (c.1666, NPG).

Of great assistance to Mary Beale's career was the friendship and support of Sir Peter Lely who, as the court painter, already exerted a prevailing influence on her mature style before their acquaintance. By 1672 the notebooks record that he had visited her in her studio and ‘commended [her] extraordinarily’ (Vertue, Note books, 4.168). Later he allowed her to study his own painting techniques, and she was able to build up a lucrative trade from making replicas of his portraits. Obviously ill at ease with his erotically charged depictions of court beauties, she toned down this influence in her own derivative portraits, such as Jane Fox, Lady Leigh as a Shepherdess (c.1676; Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds).

By 1681 Mary Beale's commissions were beginning to diminish but she busied herself with producing pictures for ‘study and improvement’ (Beale notebook, 1681, 300), experimenting with informal poses, as in A Young Girl in Profile (c.1681; Tate collection), and using alternatives to artists' canvas; her portrait of her son Charles looking up was painted on coarse twill-weave fabric (c.1681; Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds). These informal studies are among her finest works, showing that, when not dependent on laborious commissions and the influence of Lely, she was an artist of individuality, sensitivity, and charm. Her current reputation has grown following the retrospective exhibition held at the Geffrye Museum in 1975. Mary Beale died in 1699 at her home next to the Golden Ball, Pall Mall, and she was buried at St James's, Piccadilly, on 8 October. A large number of her portraits survive, but the best and most representative collection is at the Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds.

Beale's son Bartholomew Beale (bap. 1656, d. 1709) was baptized on 12 February 1656 at St Paul's, Covent Garden, London, and trained in her studio but, having gained an MB at Clare College, Cambridge (1682), thereafter practised as a physician in Coventry. He married Ann Naylor (d. 1725/6), and was buried on 17 May 1709 at St Michael's, Coventry.

Charles Beale (bap. 1660, d. 1726?) was baptized on 23 June 1660 at St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, London. He also trained in his mother's studio and studied miniature painting with Thomas Flatman; fine examples of his work are in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Between about 1679 and about 1681 he was producing red-chalk sketches of family and friends which, for their informal and direct approach, are unique in British drawing for this period (British Museum and Pierpont Library, New York). By 1688 he had abandoned miniatures for full-scale portraiture, such as the portrait of Jane Bohun (c.1698; Charlecote Park). The date and place of his death are uncertain but it seems likely that he was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, on 26 December 1726.

Christopher Reeve DNB