Henry Compton

Henry Compton

Henry Compton (1632 – July 7, 1713), English bishop, was the sixth and youngest son of the second earl of Northampton.

He was educated at The Queen's College, Oxford, and then travelled in Europe. After the restoration of Charles II he became cornet in a regiment of horse, but soon quit the army for the church. After a further period of study at Cambridge and again at Oxford, he held various livings.

He was made Bishop of Oxford in 1674, and in the following year was translated to the see of London. He was also appointed a member of the Privy Council, and entrusted with the education of the two princesses—Mary and Anne. He showed a liberality most unusual at the time to Protestant dissenters, whom he wished to reunite with the established church. He held several conferences on the subject with the clergy of his diocese; and in the hope of influencing candid minds by means of the opinions of unbiassed foreigners, he obtained letters treating of the question (since printed at the end of Stillingfleet's "Unreasonableness of Separation") from Le Moyne, professor of divinity at Leiden, and the famous French Protestant divine, Jean Claude.

In contrast to his liberality about Protestant dissent, Compton was strongly opposed to Roman Catholicism. On the accession of James II he consequently lost his seat in the council and his deanery in the Chapel Royal; and for his firmness in refusing to suspend John Sharp, rector of St Giles's-in-the-Fields, whose anti-papal writings had rendered him obnoxious to the king, he was himself suspended.

At the Revolution Compton embraced the cause of William and Mary, being one of the Immortal Seven who invited William to invade England; he performed the ceremony of their coronation; his old position was restored to him; and among other appointments, he was chosen as one of the commissioners for revising the liturgy. During the reign of Anne he remained a member of the privy council, and was one of the commissioners appointed to arrange the terms of the union of England and Scotland; but, to his bitter disappointment, his claims to the primacy were twice passed over. He died at Fulham on July 7, 1713.

He had conspicuous defects both in spirit and intellect, but was benevolent and philanthropic. He was a successful botanist. He published, besides several theological works, "A Translation from the Italian of the Life of Donna Olympia Maladichini, who governed the Church during the time of Pope Innocent X, which was from the year 1644 to 1655" (1667) (See Olimpia Maidalchini.), and "A Translation from the French of the Jesuits' Intrigues" (1669).


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