Fisher, John

Fisher, John bishop of Rochester, was born at Beverly, in Yorkshire, in 1459. He was educated at Michael House, Cambridge, of which house he became master in 1495; and being appointed confessor to Margaret, countess of Richmond, mother of Henry VII, he induced her to found St. John's and Christ's colleges. He was made divinity-professor in Cambridge, 1502, and bishop of Rochester, 1504. He was a great benefactor to the University of Cambridge. He opposed the Lutheran reformation, and was supposed by some to be the real writer of Henry VIII's book against Luther; and on Luther's replying, he wrote a Defence of the King of England's Assertion

of the Catholic Faith. He continued in high favor with Henry VIII till he opposed the king's divorce, and to his honest views on this point he adhered unflinchingly. He remained unmolested till 1534, when he refused to take the oath of allegiance, and was committed to the Tower. He was attainted by Parliament November 3, 1534, and his bishopric was declared void January 2, 1535. He would probably have been permitted to remain quietly in prison during the rest of his life had not Paul III, by making him, in May, 1535, cardinal-priest of St. Vitalis, angered the king, who issued orders that no person should be permitted to bring the hat into his dominions. Lord Cromwell, being sent to examine the bishop, asked him, "My lord of Rochester, what would you say if the pope should send you a cardinal's hat; would you accept of it?" The bishop replied, "Sir, I know myself to be so far unworthy any such dignity, that I think of nothing less:; ut if any such thing should happen, assure yourself that I should improve that favor to the best advantage that I could, in assisting the Holy Catholic Church of Christ, and in that respect I would receive it upon my knees." When this answer was brought to the king by secretary Cromwell, Henry said in a great passion, "Yea, is he yet so lusty ? Well, let the pope send him a hat when he will, Mother of God, he shall wear it on his shoulders then, for I will leave him never a head to set it on." Fisher was convicted of high treason, and beheaded on Tower Hill, June 22, 1535. His Life Rev. Bailey is published with those of More and Roper (Dublin, 1835, 7th edit.). There is also a Life by Lewis (Lond. 1862, 2 vols. 8vo). His polemical and miscellaneous writings will be found in the edition Opera. J. Fisheri quce hactenus inveniri potuerunt omnia (Wurtzb. 1597, fol.). "The character of Fisher is remarkable for firmness. In his steady maintenance of the fallen cause of queen Catharine, undaunted by the anger of the vindictive king, this quality peculiarly shone forth; and still more with regard to the oath of supremacy, refusal to take which was certain to call forth severe punishment, and in all probability death. Fisher was immovable, not being convinced that he was in the wrong; his fearless firmness allowed him to maintain an open profession that he was in the right. He was a learned and devout man, and his conduct fully proved his sincerity."-Dupin, Eccles. Hist. cent. 16:p. 412; Burnet, Hist. Reform. ii, 248, 567 sq.; Hook, Eccl. Biography, v, 132.

 
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