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Gardiner, Stephen

Gardiner, Stephen (c.1497–1555). Bishop. One of the most influential courtier-prelates of the early Tudor age, Gardiner sought to reconcile political advancement with principled defence of the rights of the church. He studied and taught at Cambridge until taken up by Wolsey as a secretary in 1524. Wolsey secured for him the mastership of Trinity Hall in 1525 and several diplomatic missions in 1527–9. On Wolsey's fall Gardiner became principal secretary to Henry VIII, and received the wealthy bishopric of Winchester in 1531. During the establishment of the royal supremacy in 1532–5 Gardiner opposed encroachments on church immunities until they became law, but accepted them once enacted. He acted on Henry VIII's behalf in his divorce suit and wrote De vera obedientia (‘On True Obedience’) in 1535 in defence of the king's actions. On returning from an embassy in France in 1535–8, Gardiner led resistance to Thomas Cromwell's surreptitiously Lutheran changes in English religion. He promoted the Act of Six Articles in 1539, and worked for Cromwell's fall the following year. From 1542 to 1547 he was one of Henry's leading ministers, inspiring some conservative religious measures and helping to administer the king's final wars. On Edward VI's accession Gardiner was outspoken in opposition to Protector Somerset's Reformation: from summer 1548 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, losing his bishopric and other titles in February 1551. On the accession of Mary I he was at once restored to all his positions and made lord chancellor in August 1553. His last years were clouded by bitter political strife with the Hispanophile minister William, Lord Paget, who wrecked Gardiner's first attempt to restore papal authority in the Parliament of spring 1554. Gardiner nevertheless married Mary and Philip, welcomed Cardinal Pole to England, and played a minor role in the persecution of leading protestants until his death on 12 November 1555.

Euan Cameron

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Gardiner, Stephen

Stephen Gardiner, 1493?–1555, English prelate. He was educated at Cambridge. He became secretary to Thomas (later Cardinal) Wolsey and later secured the favor of Henry VIII by a mission to Rome to further the king's plans for divorce from Katharine of Aragón. He was made bishop of Winchester (1531) and wrote De vera obedientia (1535), justifying the royal supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs. Thomas Cromwell's fall was in part due to him, and he was the probable author of the Six Articles (1539), which reaffirmed the king's adherence to medieval church doctrines as against those of the Reformation. After the accession of Edward VI he was deprived of his bishopric and put in the Tower of London for five years. When Mary I came to the throne, he was restored to his see and made lord high chancellor. Gardiner was condemned by Catholics for his support of royal supremacy and by Protestants for his opposition to Reformation doctrines.

See J. A. Muller, Stephen Gardiner and the Tudor Reaction (1926, repr. 1970).

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