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ALEXANDER NOWELL, the son of John Nowell, Esq., of Whalley, in the county of Lancaster, was born in that parish sometime in the year 1507 or 1508: educated at Middleton in the same county, and at the early age of thirteen, was admitted of Brasen-Nose College, Oxford. Of that society he afterwards became fellow; and very late in life (1595) was for a few months President of the College. In 1543 he was appointed Master of Westminster School1; and in November, 1551, was made prebendary of Westminster on the death and in the room of Dr Redmayn, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
On the accession of Queen Mary, Nowell was returned (probably through the influence of the Earl of Devon) as one of the burgesses to represent the borough of Loo in the parliament which met in October 1553. A committee of the House of Commons, however, declared him to be ineligible to be a member of that house, because of his "being a prebendary of Westminster, and thereby having a voice in the Convocation House." But unless Nowell were the Proctor elected to represent the Chapter of Westminster in Convocation, he would not have "a voice in the Convocation House" merely because he happened to be a prebendary of Westminster. Considering, therefore, that Dr Tregonwell, a zealous papist, who was also a prebendary of Westminster, was allowed to retain his seat in parliament, the ejection of Nowell from that assembly may be ascribed to his known attachment to the Reformation 2.
Of this attachment Nowell gave decisive evidence in the following year for when the persecuting spirit of Queen Mary
1 Carlisle Grammar Schools, II. 114.
2 Carte, Hist. of Engl. 1. 295.
had begun to shew itself, we find him at Strasburgh among those eminent persons who were exiles for their religion. It appears that from Strasburgh Nowell removed to Frankfort, and when the "troubles" arose there, that he at first adhered to the party who advocated the "new discipline," against Horn and the strictly episcopalian party. He was, however, afterwards found among those who enforced the importance of unity in essentials, and who expressed their willingness to submit to authority as regarded matters ceremonial. Yet when the question of rites and ceremonies came to be discussed in the Convocation of 1562, Nowell, with others, proposed some relaxation in the rubrics of King Edward Sixth's Service-book, as regarded the wearing of the surplice, the cross in baptism, and other like matters, respecting which some ministers had scruples1. Afterwards, also, we find him acting as a pacificator in the proceedings which were taken against Sampson, Dean of Christ's Church, and Humphry, President of Magdalen College, Oxford, for refusing the habits2.
When, on the death of Queen Mary, the exiles returned to England, Nowell was among those who were employed to carry out Queen Elizabeth's plans for the reformation of religion. One of the most efficacious of those plans was the appointing of visitors for different parts of the country, whose duty it should be to see that such injunctions and ordinances as were issued by authority respecting religion and ecclesiastical affairs were complied with. To Nowell and others were assigned, in 1559, the visitation of the diocese of Lincoln, Peterborough, Oxford, and Lichfield3. Early in the following year Bishop Grindal collated Nowell to the archdeaconry of Middlesex, to the rectory of Saltwood (which however he very soon resigned), and to a stall in the church of Canter
1 Troubles at Frankfort, pp. 65, 115–135, 189, 190. Lond. 1846. Strype, Ann. 1. i. 1591. Oxf.
2 Strype, Life of Parker, 1. 343. Oxf.
8 Strype, Ann. I. i. 247.
bury. In the same year he was appointed to a stall in St Peter's, Westminster, which from being a monastery had been erected into a collegiate church; and at the close of the year, Nowell was preferred to the deanery of St Paul's, which he held till his death.
During the earlier periods of the Reformation licences to preach were but very sparingly granted. The persons selected for that privilege were always men of eminent abilities and of settled principles. It was to be expected therefore that Nowell would be very often employed in so important a service. Accordingly we find him among those appointed to preach at St Paul's Cross; in the Cathedral; before the Queen during Lent; and on other occasions. A specimen of his preaching is given in the Appendix to this Volume.
In the Convocation which revised the "Articles of Religion" agreed upon in the reign of King Edward VI., Nowell was chosen prolocutor, and took an active part in the proceedings of that assembly. He was soon after employed to compose a Homily to be added to the Form of Prayer which was put forth in consequence of the plague which was raging.
Early in the year 1565 we find Nowell engaged in a controversy with Thomas Dorman, who had been fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, during the reign of Edward VI., but went over to popery when Queen Mary came to the throne. This Dorman had put forth an attack on certain portions of Bp Jewell's Apology, under the title of "A Proof of certain Articles in Religion denied by Mr Jewell." He undertook in his book to prove that the supremacy of the bishop of Rome; transubstantiation; the sacrifice of the mass and communion under one kind; were severally held and professed by the Church of Christ within the first six centuries. It was, however, to establish his proposition respecting the universal supremacy of the bishop of Rome that Dorman chiefly laboured;
4 Strype, Ann. I. i. 306.
5 See Grindal's Remains, pp. 95, et seq. Park. Soc. Edit.