Gilbert Sheldon was born at Ashbourne in Derbyshire on July 19,1598. Very little is known of his family background.1 His father, Roger Sheldon, is listed simply as a “menial servant” of Gilbert Talbot, the earl of Shrewsbury. But the term “menial” cannot have been used here in its modern sense. There is evidence that both Sheldon and his older brother Ralph inherited a considerable amount of property; 2 and the earl himself, along with the father of Bishop Sanderson, stood godfather at Sheldon’s christening. These facts seem to indicate that Roger Sheldon was no ordinary servant. Perhaps it would be safe to surmise that the elder Sheldon was either a trusted bailiff who managed the earl’s estates, or he may have been a Shrewsbury client — a neighbor of some standing — who served in the earl’s interest.


Early Life Seventeenth Century Young Scholar Satisfactory Income Religious Matter 
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  1. 1.
    V. Staley, Sheldon’s only biographer, says that the Sheldon family was an old and respected one in the county. See V. Staley, The Life and Times of Gilbert Sheldon (London, 1913), p. 7. While pasturing at Ickford in the 1880’s, Staley saw Sheldon’s entries in the parish register, became interested in him, and attempted a short biography. This work is of very little value to the student. Apparently Staley was unaware of the manuscript sources available at the British Museum and the Bodleian library.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ralph Sheldon, who had the reputation of being a spendthrift, still left some property to his sons upon his death. In the fifties, Sheldon was involved on more than one occasion in suits at law aimed at protecting his nephew’s holdings. See W. N. Clarke, “Illustrations of the State of the Church During the Great Rebellion.” The Theologian and Ecclesiastic, (1851), XIII, 328, where Henry Hammond is assisting Sheldon in protecting some land belonging to his nephews. One of these, Sir Joseph Sheldon, was Lord Mayor of London in the 1670’s. (This work is hereafter referred to as Theologian and Ecclesiastic)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sheldon did not enter the University as a servitor as was usually the custom for very poor scholars, again indicating that his parents possessed some financial means.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Samuel Parker, History of His Own Times (London, 1777), p. 41.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    To some extent the Church offered a career open to talent — one of the few areas of endeavor where that was true in the seventeenth century. After all Laud was the son of a linen draper, Jeremy Taylor the son of a Cambridge barber, Sheldon was the son of a “menial” servant, and William Sancroft, his successor at Lambeth, was also of obscure parentage.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    H. B. Wheatley (ed.), The Diary of Samuel Pepys (New York, 1948), II, 612. Pepys reports gossip to the effect that Sheldon was a “wencher.”Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For a summary of Sheldon’s activities as warden of All Souls see Montagu Burrows, Worthies of All Souls (London, 1874), pp. 247–250.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Clarendon says that Coventry employed his services “not only in all matters relating to the Church, but in many other businesses of importance” as well. Clarendon, Edward, earl of, Life (Oxford, 1759), pp. 25–26.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Staley, p. 9, and Dictionary of National Biography, Sheldon’s life.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    The partnership between Sheldon and the king is described in Chapter II.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Staley details all of these preferments, pp. 8, 9, 20, and 28. He seems to have the facts generally correct, although he does not make allowances for the change in the calendar. Thus he has Sheldon elected warden of All Souls in early 1635, when, in keeping with the modern reckoning of the year, it was actually March, 1636. Sheldon was prevented from occupying the Savoy quarters by the Civil War and only succeeded to that lucrative preferment in 1660. Besides the London residence, it probably brought him £ 400 to £ 500 per year.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Apparently, with the single exception of Ickford, Sheldon served none of the above parishes himself — employing in every case a curate to serve in his stead. Ickford alone has entries in its parish register in Sheldon’s handwriting. However, all of these are from the period of the early 1650’s when Sheldon was dispossessed of all of his other livings but, through an oversight on the part of parliament, retained Ickford for several years.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    See DNB, Sheldon’s biography, for Anthony Wood’s emphatic statement concerning Sheldon’s anti-Arminianism.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    It is reported that Falkland kept such constant open house that on any given day he never knew who was partaking of his hospitality until his guests gathered for dinner. Clarendon, Life, pp. 20–22.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See Ibid., for a description of Falkland’s position.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ibid., p. 26. Laud was down on Morley for some time as a result of this remark, says Clarendon.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    George Every, The High Church Party, 1688–1718 (London, 1956), Chapter I.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    During the Interregnum, Hyde could write to Sheldon from the continent and recall with nostalgia those pleasant days at Great Tew and could hope that “the time is drawing on that we may [again] enjoy each other.” Peter Barwick, Life of John Barwick (London, 1724), p. 398.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Clarendon reports that Sheldon was “frequently” at Great Tew. Life, p. 25.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See Theologian and Ecclesiastic, VII, 147 and 285, where Sheldon and Hammond are supervising the Falkland holdings in the early fifties. There are numerous other entries in this series pertaining to Falkland business matters.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    This exchange is reported by Brian Walton. See H. J. Todd (ed.) Memoirs of the Life and Times of Rt. Reverend Brian Walton (London, 1821), I, 291.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    This controversy between Laud and Sheldon is detailed in R. Heber (ed.), The Works of Jeremy Taylor (London, 1828), I, XIII, and Montagu Burrows, Worthies, pp. 144–148.Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    Taylor remained at All Souls only for a year or two and then resigned his place. Perhaps he could not face the daily hostility of the warden, for Sheldon could be implacable in his hatreds. Later, during the Interregnum, Sheldon rescued Taylor and supported him with periodic financial contributions (see Chapter III). Taylor was deeply appreciative, but the two never became close friends.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    For Sheldon’s sermon before Charles I in 1630, see MS. Eng. Th., f. 14, Bodleian Library.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    I. Coltman, Private Men and Public Causes (London, 1962), p. 22.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hyde considered this abrupt dismissal of the Short Parliament as the most short sighted action of the reign. The members of that body, he was sure, wanted some reform, but they were basically loyal monarchists whereas the new parliament which met in November- the Long Parliament — was composed of rebellious, factious members whose loyalty to monarchy was suspect from the beginning. W. Dunn Macray, (ed.), Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion (London, 1888, reprinted 1958), I, 183.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    F. J. Routledge, et al, (eds.), Calendar of State Papers, Clarendon (Oxford, 1872–1928), I, 209. (Hereafter referred to as CSP, Clarendon.)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Hyde gives the details of this “plot” in History of the Rebellion, p. 198.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    See The Parliamentary and Constitutional History of England from the Earliest Times to the Restoration of Charles II (London, 1763), IX, 291.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    For Sheldon’s signed pledge, see Historical Manuscripts Commission Reports, 5th Report, p. 131.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    When he was dying in prison, Chillingworth wrote to his “spiritual” godfather, Sheldon, to inform him that he was still strong in the faith. Staley, p. 10.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Clarendon’s Life, p. 27.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    For a glowing reference to Sheldon’s administrative abilities, see a letter from Laud to Warden Astley, in William Laud, The Works of Archbishop William Laud (Oxford, 1860), VI, Part II, 444.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Nor were they mistaken. Every member of the Great Tew Circle supported the king. Clarendon and Sheldon became his closest advisors, Sir Francis Wenman and Falkland both died fighting for the royalist cause on the battlefield, William Chillingworth died in a Parliamentary prison after being captured on a battlefield where he was serving as royal chaplain, and Morley and John Earle shared Charles IPs exile in the fifties and served as his court chaplains.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Barwick, p. 280, n.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Clarendon’s Life, p. 25.Google Scholar
  37. 37.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1973

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  • Victor D. Sutch

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