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John Hooper

John Hooper (died February 9, 1555) was an English churchman, Bishop of Gloucester and Worcester and a Marian martyr.

He was born in Somerset about the end of the 15th century and graduated BA. 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 Cisterriensis," i.e. of the Cistercian house at Cleeve in Somerset. On the other hand, he was not accused, like 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 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, an influential man. 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. During the journey, he was twice imprisoned, driven about for three months on the sea, and reaching Strasbourg in the midst of the Schmalkaldic war. There he married Anne de Tserclaes, and later on he proceeded by way of Basel to Zürich, where his Zwinglian convictions were confirmed by constant intercourse with Zwingli's successor, Bullinger.

It was not until May 1549, after publishing various works at Zürich, that Hooper returned to England. He at once became the principal champion of Swiss Protestantism against the Lutherans as well as the Catholics, and was appointed chaplain to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, the Lord Protector. Somerset's fall from power endangered Hooper's position, especially as he had taken a prominent part against Gardiner and Bonner, whose restoration to their sees was now anticipated. John Dudley, 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; 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 installed as bishop, Hooper set about his episcopal duties with enthusiasm. His visitation of his diocese (printed in English Hist. Rev. Jan. 1904, pp. 98-121) 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; 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 Tudor from the throne; but this did not save him from speedy imprisonment when she became queen.

He was sent to the Fleet on September 1 on a doubtful charge of debt; the real cause was his steadiness to a religion which was still by law established. Edward VI's legislation was 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 he was kept in prison; the revival of the heresy acts in December 1554 was swiftly followed by execution. On January 29, 1555, Hooper, Rogers, Rowland Tavier and others were condemned by Gardiner and degraded by Bonner. Hooper was sent down to suffer at Gloucester, where he was burnt on 9 February, meeting his fate with steadfast courage and unshaken conviction.

Hooper was the first of the bishops to suffer because he represented the extreme reforming party in England. While he expressed dissatisfaction with some of Calvin's earlier writings, he approved of the Consensus Tigurinus negotiated in I 549 between the Zwinglians and Calvinists of Switzerland; and it was this form of religion that he laboured 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.

Two voltimes of Hooper's writings are included in the Parker Society's publications and another edition appeared at Oxford in 1855. See also Gough's General Index to Parker Soc. PubI.; Strype's Works (General Index); Foxe's Acts and Monuments, ed. Townsend; Acts of the Privy Council; Cal. State Papers, "Domestic" Series; Nichols's Lit. Remains of Edward VI.; Burnet, Collier, Dixon, Froude and Gairdner's histories; Pollard's Cranmer; Dict. Nat. Biogr.