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John Hooper

John HooperBorn: c. 1495
Birthplace: Somerset, England
Died: 9-Feb-1555
Location of death: Gloucester, Gloucestershire, England
Cause of death: Execution

Gender: Male
Religion: Protestant
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Zwinglian bishop of Gloucester

Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester and martyr, born in Somerset about the end of the 15th century and graduated B.A. at Oxford in 1519. He is said to have then entered the Cistercian monastery at Gloucester but in 1538 a John Hooper appears among the names of the Black friars at Gloucester and also among the White friars at Bristol who surrendered their houses to the king. A John Hooper was likewise canon of Wormesley priory in Herefordshire; but identification of any of these with the future bishop is doubtful. The Greyfriars' Chronicle says that Hooper was "sometime a white monk"; and in the sentence pronounced against him by Stephen Gardiner he is described as "olim monachus de Cliva Ordinis Cisterciensis", i.e. of the Cistercian house at Cleeve in Somerset. On the other hand, at his deprivation he was not accused, like the other married bishops who had been monks or friars, of infidelity to the vow of chastity; and his own letters to Heinrich Bullinger are curiously reticent on this part of his history. He there speaks of himself as being the only son and heir of his father and as fearing to be deprived of his inheritance if he adopted the reformed religion. Before 1546 he had secured employment in the household of Sir Thomas Arundell, a man of influential connections. Hooper speaks of himself at this period as being "a courtier and living too much of a court life in the palace of our king." But he chanced upon some of Zwingli's works and Bullinger's commentaries on St. Paul's epistles; and after some molestation in England and some correspondence with Bullinger on the lawfulness of complying against his conscience with the established religion, he determined to secure what property he could and take refuge on the continent. He had an adventurous journey, being twice imprisoned, driven about for three months on the sea, and reaching Strassburg in the midst of the Schmalkaldic war. There he married Anne de Tserclaes, and later on he proceeded by way of Basle to Zürich, where his Zwinglian convictions were confirmed by constant intercourse with Zwingli's successor, Bullinger.

It was not until May 1549, after he had published various works at Zürich, that Hooper again arrived in England. He at once became the principal champion of Swiss Protestantism against the Lutherans as well as the Catholics, and was appointed chaplain to Protector Somerset. Somerset's fall in the following October endangered Hooper's position, and for a time he was in hourly dread of imprisonment and martyrdom, more especially as he had taken a prominent part against Gardiner and Bonner, whose restoration to their sees was now anticipated. Warwick, afterwards duke of Northumberland, however, overcame the reactionaries in the Council, and early in 1550 the Reformation resumed its course. Hooper became Warwick's chaplain, and after a course of Lent lectures before the king he was offered the bishopric of Gloucester. This led to a prolonged controversy; Hooper had already denounced the "Aaronic vestments" and the oath by the saints prescribed in the new Ordinal; and he refused to be consecrated according to its rites. Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Martin Bucer and others urged him to submit in vain; confinement to his house by order of the Council proved equally ineffectual; and it was not until he had spent some weeks in the Fleet prison that the "father of nonconformity" consented to conform, and Hooper submitted to consecration with the legal ceremonies (March 8, 1551).

Once seated in his bishopric Hooper set about his episcopal duties with exemplary vigor. His visitation of his diocese revealed a condition of almost incredible ignorance among his clergy. Fewer than half could say the Ten Commandments; some could not even repeat the Lord's Prayer in English. Hooper did his best in the time at his disposal; but in less than a year the bishopric of Gloucester was reduced to an archdeaconry and added to Worcester, of which Hooper was made bishop in succession to Nicholas Heath. He was opposed to Northumberland's plot for the exclusion of Mary from the throne; but this did not save him from speedy imprisonment. He was sent to the Fleet prison on the 1st of September 1553 on a doubtful charge of debt to the queen; but the real cause was his stanchness to a religion which was still by law established. Edward VI's legislation was, however, repealed in the following month, and in March 1554 Hooper was deprived of his bishopric as a married man. There was still no statute by which he could be condemned to the stake, but Hooper was kept in prison; and the revival of the heresy acts in December 1554 was swiftly followed by execution. On the 29th of January 1555, Hooper, Rogers, Rowland Taylor and others were condemned by Gardiner and degraded by Bonner. Hooper was sent down to suffer at Gloucester, where he was burned on the 9th of February, meeting his fate with steadfast courage and unshaken conviction.

Hooper was the first of the bishops to suffer because his Zwinglian views placed him further beyond the pale than Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer. He represented the extreme reforming party in England. While he expressed dissatisfaction with some of John Calvin's earlier writings, he approved of the Consensus Tigurinus negotiated in 1549 between the Zwinglians and Calvinists of Switzerland; and it was this form of religion that he labored to spread in England against the wishes of Cranmer, Ridley, Bucer, Peter Martyr and other more conservative theologians. He would have reduced episcopacy to narrow limits; and his views had considerable influence on the Puritans of Elizabeth's reign, when many editions of Hooper's various works were published.

Wife: Anne de Tserclaes (m. in Strassburg)

    Debtor's Prison (1-Sep-1553)
    Heresy (Jan-1555)
    Burned at the Stake Gloucester, England (9-Feb-1555)



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