Bonner, Edmund

Bonner, Edmund bishop of London, and styled, from his persecuting spirit, Bloody Bishop Bonner," and the "ecclesiastical Nero of England," was the son of humble parents at Hanley, in Worcestershire, and was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford. He at first favored the Reformed views, and advocated the divorce of the king. Henry VIII made him his chaplain, bishop of Hereford, and then of London, and employed him on embassies to France, Germany, and the pope. But when death had removed the despot whose ungovernable temper seems to have obtained submission even from men of virtue and of ordinary firmness, Bonner's Protestantism ceased; he protested against Cranmer's injunctions and homilies, and scrupled to take the oath of supremacy. For these offences he was committed to the Fleet, from which, however, he was soon after released. From this time Bonner was so negligent in all that related to the Reformation as to draw on himself in two instances the censure of the Privy Council; but as he had committed no offence which subjected him to prosecution, the council, according to the bad practice of those times, required him to do an act extraneous from his ordinary duties, knowing that he would be reluctant to perform it. They made him preach a sermon at St. Paul's Cross on four points. One of these Bonner omitted, and commissioners were appointed to try him, before whom he appeared during seven days. At the end of October, 1549, he was committed to the Marshalsea, and deprived of his bishopric. After the death of Edward VI Bonner was restored by Queen Mary. His first acts were to deprive the married priests in his diocese, ' and set up the mass in St. Paul's" before the queen's ordinance to that effect. It would be tedious to follow him in all the long list of executions for religion which make the history of that reign a mere narrative of blood. Fox enumerates 125 persons burnt in his diocese, and through his agency, during this reign; and a letter from him to Cardinal Pole (dated at Fulham December 26, 1556) is copied by Holinshed, in which Bonner justifies himself for proceeding to the condemnation of twenty-two heretics who had been sent up to him from Colchester. These persons were saved by the influence of Cardinal Pole, who checked Bonner's sanguinary activity. When Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the throne, Bonner was made the single exception to the favorable reception given to the bishops. In May, 1559, he was summoned before the Privy Council, and died in confinement, Sept. 5, 1569. Bonner was a good scholar, skilled in the canon law and in scholastic theology, but a man of a severe and cruel nature, and of a base and mean spirit. Maitland endeavors to 'vindicate his memory from some of the charges which stain it in his Essays on Subjects connected with the Reformation (London, 1849). See Burnet, Hist. of Ref. i, 195; ii, 430; Life and Def. of Bp. Bonner (Lond. 1842).

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