He was born probably in the district known as Cover-dale, in that part of the North Riding of Yorkshire called Richmondshire, England, 1488; died in London and buried in St. Bartholomew's Church Feb. 19, 1568.
He studied at Cambridge (bachelor of canon law 1531), became priest at Norwich in 1514, and entered the convent of Austin friars at Cambridge, where Robert Barnes was prior in 1523 and probably influenced him in favor of Protestantism. When Barnes was tried for heresy in 1526 Coverdale assisted in his defense, and shortly afterward left the convent and gave himself entirely to preaching.
From 1528 to 1535 he appears to have spent most of his time on the Continent, where his Old Testament was published by Jacobus van Meteren in 1535. In 1537 some of his translations were included in the Matthew Bible, the first English translation of the complete Bible. In 1538 he was in Paris, superintending the printing of the "Great Bible," and the same year were published, both in London and Paris, editions of a Latin and an English New Testament, the latter being by Coverdale. He also edited "Cranmer's Bible " (1540).
He returned to England in 1539, but on the execution of Thomas Cromwell (who had been his friend and protector since 1527) in 1540 was compelled, again to go into exile, lived for a time at Tubingen, and, between 1543 and 1547, was Lutheran pastor and schoolmaster at Bergzabern (now Bad Bergzabern) in the Palatinate, and very poor.
In Mar., 1548, he went back to England, was well received at court and made king's chaplain and almoner to the queen dowager, Catherine Parr. In 1551 he became bishop of Exeter, but was deprived in 1553 after the succession of Mary. He went to Denmark (where his brother-in-law was chaplain to the king), then to Wesel, and finally back to Bergzabern. In 1559 he was again in England, but was not reinstated in his bishopric, perhaps because of Puritanical scruples about vestments. From 1564 to 1566 he was rector of St. Magnus's, near London Bridge.