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William Howley (1766-1848)

This article was written by George Fisher Russell Barker and was published in 1891.

HowleyWilliam Howley, archbishop of Canterbury, the only son of William Howley, vicar of Bishops Sutton and Ropley, Hampshire, was born at Ropley on 12 February. 1766. He was educated at Winchester, where he gained the prize for English verse in 1782 and 1783. On 11 September 1783 he matriculated at Oxford as a scholar of New College (of which he afterwards became a fellow and tutor), and graduated B.A. 1787, M.A. 1791, B.D. and D.D. 1805. Howley was appointed tutor to the Prince of Orange, afterwards William II of Holland, during his residence at Oxford. In 1794 he was elected a fellow of Winchester College, and on 2 May 1804 was installed a canon of Christ Church, Oxford. In 1809 Howley was made regius professor of divinity at Oxford, an appointment which he resigned upon his elevation to the episcopal bench. He was instituted to the vicarage of Bishops Sutton on 8 December 1796, to the vicarage of Andover on 22 January 1802, and to the rectory of Bradford Peverell on 23 May 1811. He was admitted to the privy council on 5 October 1813, and on the 10th of the same month was consecrated bishop of London at Lambeth Palace, in the presence of Queen Charlotte and two of the princesses. He took his seat in the House of Lords at the opening of parliament on 4 November 1813.

In 1820 he supported the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline from ‘a moral, constitutional, and religious point of view’, and is asserted to have laid it down with much emphasis ‘that the king could do no wrong either morally or physically’. On the death of Charles Manners Sutton in July 1828 Howley was translated to the see of Canterbury, and on 2 April 1829 led the opposition to the second reading of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, but his amendment that the bill should be read a second time that day six months was defeated, after a debate of three nights, by a majority of 105. In October 1831 Howley opposed the second reading of the Reform Bill, ‘because he thought that it was mischievous in its tendency, and would be extremely dangerous to the fabric of the constitution’; in the following spring, however, after much hesitation, he offered no further opposition to the measure. In 1833 he strongly opposed the Irish Church Temporalities Bill, and in the same year successfully moved the rejection of the Jewish Civil Disabilities Repeal Bill. In July 1839 Howley moved a series of six resolutions denouncing Lord John Russell's education scheme, the first of which was carried by a majority of 111, and the others were agreed to. Howley died at Lambeth Palace on 11 February. 1848, on the eve of his eighty-second birthday, and was buried on the 19th of the same month at Addington, near Croydon.

Howley was ‘a very ordinary man’ in Greville's opinion. He is said to have been remarkable for the equanimity of his temper, and for his cold and unimpressive character. He was neither an eloquent preacher nor an effective speaker. He took part in a great number of royal ceremonials, and lived in considerable state at Lambeth Palace. Accompanied by the lord chamberlain, he carried the news of William IV's death to Kensington Palace, where they had an interview with the young queen at five in the morning.

Howley married, on 29 August 1805, Mary Frances, eldest daughter of John Belli, E.I.C.S., of Southampton, by whom he had two sons and three daughters. His elder son, William, was born on 11 October 1810. He matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, on 17 December 1828, graduated B.A. 1832, and died at Lambeth Palace on 16 January 1833. George Gordon, his younger son, died on 3 September 1820, aged 6. Mary Anne, his eldest daughter, married, on 16 June 1825, George Howland Willoughby Beaumont of Buckland, Surrey, afterwards a baronet. Anne Jane, the second daughter, became the wife of William Kingsmill of Sydmonton Court, near Newbury, on 16 March 1837. Harriet Elizabeth, the youngest daughter, married, on 12 October 1832, John Adolphus Wright, rector of Merstham, Surrey. Mrs. Howley survived her husband several years, and died on 13 August 1860, aged 77.

Howley published several charges and occasional sermons. He also published ‘A Letter addressed to the Clergy and Laity of his Province,’ London, 1845, and is said to have edited ‘Sonnets and Miscellaneous Poems by the late Thomas Russell, Fellow of New College,’ Oxford, 1789. His correspondence with Dr. Renn Dickson Hampden, relative to the appointment of the latter to the regius professorship of divinity in the university of Oxford, passed through several editions. Howley bequeathed his library to his domestic chaplain, Benjamin Harrison and it now forms part of the Howley-Harrison library at Canterbury.

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