Lancelot attended the Cooper's free school, Ratcliff, in the parish of Stepney, and then to the Merchant Taylors' School under Richard Mulcaster. In 1571 he entered Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A., proceeding M.A. in 1578. In 1576 he had been elected fellow of Pembroke. In 1580 he took orders; in 1581 he was incorporated M.A. at Oxford. As catechist at his college he read lectures on the Decalogue (published in 1630), which aroused great interest.
After a period as chaplain to Henry Hastings, earl of Huntingdon, President of the North, he became vicar of St Giles's, Cripplegate, in 1588, and there delivered his striking sermons on the temptation in the wilderness and the Lord's prayer. In a great sermon on the 10th of April (Easter week) 1588, he stoutly vindicated the Protestantism of the Church of England against the Romanists, and, oddly enough, adduced John Calvin as a new writer, with lavish praise and affection. Through the influence of Francis Walsingham, Andrewes was appointed prebendary of St Pancras in St Paul's, London, in 1589, and subsequently became master of his own college of Pembroke, as well as a chaplain of Archbishop John Whitgift. From 1589 to 1609 he was prebendary of Southwell. On March 4th 1590, as a chaplain of Queen Elizabeth I of England, he preached before her an outspoken sermon, and in October gave his introductory lecture at St Paul's, undertaking to comment on the first four chapters of Genesis. These were later compiled as The Orphan Lectures (1657).
Andrewes liked to move among the people, yet found time to join a society of antiquaries, of which Walter Raleigh, Sir Philip Sidney, Burleigh, Arundel, the Herberts, Saville, Stow and Camden were members. In 1598 he declined the bishoprics of Ely and Salisbury, because of the conditions attached. On November 23rd 1600 he preached at Whitehall a controversial sermon on justification. In 1601 he was appointed dean of Westminster and gave much attention to the school there. He assisted at the coronation of King James I of England and in 1604 took part in the Hampton Court conference. His name is the first on the list of divines appointed to make the authorized version of the Bible.
In 1605 he was consecrated bishop of Chichester and made lord almoner. In 1609 he published Tortura Torti, a learned work which grew out of the Gunpowder Plot controversy and was written in answer to Bellarmine's Matthaeus Tortus, which attacked James I's book on the oath of allegiance. After moving to Ely (1609), he again controverted Bellarmine in the Responsio ad Apologiam.
In 1617 he accompanied James I to Scotland with a view to persuading the Scots that Episcopacy was preferable to Presbyterianism. In 1618 he attended the synod of Dort, and was soon after made dean of the Chapel Royal and translated to Winchester, a diocese which he administered with great success. He died on September 26th 1626, mourned alike by leaders in Church and state.
Two generations later, Richard Crashaw caught up the universal sentiment, when, in his lines "Upon Bishop Andrewes' Picture before his Sermons," he exclaims:----
Biographies include those by H Isaacson (1650), AT Russell (1863), RL Ottley (1894), and Dean Church's essay in Masters in English Theology. See also WH Frere, Lancelot Andrewes as a Representative of Anglican Principles (1898; Church Hist. Soc. Publications, No. 44).
Andrewes continues to influence religious thinkers to the present day, and was cited as an influence by T. S. Eliot, among others.