John Bramhall

Bramhall, John, Archbishop of Armagh, was born in 1593 at Pontefract, in Yorkshire. Entering the ministry, he rose to be a distinguished ecclesiastic of the English Church; about 1630 he came to Ireland at the instance of Lord Strafford, and was made one of the King's Chaplains in Ordinary. On 16th May 1634, he was, by Archbishop Ussher, in the Castle Chapel, Dublin, consecrated Bishop of Derry. He immediately applied himself vigorously to recovering portions of the alienated property of the Church, and was so far successful that within a short time he brought back some £40,000 a year, wasted or impropriated revenues. He was instrumental in persuading the Irish Convocation, bent upon retaining its own canons, to adopt the XXXIX Articles. Whilst on a visit to England in 1637, Charles I., Laud, and others, paid him much respect; but this did not prevent an accusation, from which he soon cleared himself, being preferred against him in the Star Chamber.

In March 1641, articles of high treason were brought against him and others in the Irish House of Commons, charging him with a conspiracy to subvert the fundamental laws, and to introduce an arbitrary government. His friends urged him to avoid arrest. This course he considered dishonourable. He was committed to prison; but released upon the intercession of Archbishop Ussher. He now attended the King in England, materially assisting him with funds and counsel. In 1644, after the battle of Marston Moor, he was obliged to seek safety abroad, where he occupied himself with religious controversy and authorship. In 1648 he ventured to visit Ireland—the Marquis of Clanricard protecting him in the exercise of his functions. After the Restoration he was translated to the primacy; and early in 1661 consecrated in one day two Irish archbishops and ten bishops—amongst the latter, the celebrated Jeremy Taylor. After the long war, his diocese was, as might be expected, in an almost complete state of disorganization.

In the Parliament of 1661 he presided over the deliberations of the House of Lords, and procured the passage of a Bill for augmenting the livings of the bishops, and recovering the forfeited impropriate tithes. He expunged from the records of the House the proceedings against his friend Strafford. Archbishop Bramhall died of apoplexy, 25th June 1663, aged about 70. He left, amongst other bequests, money for the repair of Armagh Cathedral, and black gowns to as many poor men as were the years of his life. Ware gives a list of his numerous writings. “Perhaps the most valuable part of his works is that in which he contended with Hobbes. He argued with great acuteness against Hobbes's notions on liberty and necessity, in The Catching of the Leviathan, in which he undertakes to demonstrate, out of Hobbes's own works, that no sincere Hobbist can be a good Christian, or a good Commonwealth's man, or reconcile himself to himself.”


16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

42. Biographical Dictionary: Rev. Hugh J. Rose. 12 vols. London, 1850.

339. Ware, Sir James, Works: Walter Harris. 2 vols. Dublin, 1764.