Anglican bishops

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Features, Issue 3 (May/June 2010), Volume 18

Once a man was consecrated a bishop of the Anglican church, he had a seat in the House of Lords. Bishops were especially loyal to Dublin Castle because, as Jeremiah Falvey has shown in his ground-breaking study of the eighteenth-century episcopate, 40 of them owed their elevation to the fact that they had been chaplains to various lord lieutenants. Twenty-six had connections to someone in a position of power in the church, while 24 were in some way related to the landed gentry. Also, once upon the bench of bishops, the churchmen were not shy in looking for further promotions. Charles Agar, when he was bishop of Cloyne, wished to become archbishop of Cashel. He applied for the position as soon as he heard of the death of the incumbent. Agar was rewarded and proved the wisdom of the government in granting him preferment by remaining, for most of his political life, a staunch supporter of the Crown in the House of Lords. The Anglican bishops were men of politics rather than pastors of their flocks. This is made clear by the bishop of Ossory, when he was given the richer living of Clogher in March 1782. It was not until July of that same year that he found time to venture into his new diocese; as he wrote, in a rather dismissive tone, ‘I took advantage of our present parliamentary recess to run down and see what sort of a thing I had gotten’.

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