Andrew Perne

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For the English clergyman, see Andrew Perne (Puritan).
Weather vane with the letters AP, referring to Andrew Perne's "remarkable versatility", on St Peter's Church, Cambridge

Andrew Perne (c. 1519 – 26 April 1589), Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University and dean of Ely, was the son of John Perne of East Bilney, Norfolk.


Perne was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1539, BD in 1547 and DD in 1552.[1] He was elected fellow of St John's in 1540,[2] but moved to Queens' later that year. He was successively bursar and dean of Queens', culminating in becoming vice-president in 1551, and was five times vice-chancellor of the university. Scurrilous Puritans said he had once been the homosexual lover of John Whitgift, later Archbishop of Canterbury, with whom he went to live in old age at Lambeth Palace.[3] But he owes his notoriety to his remarkable versatility, and, like the Vicar of Bray, he was always faithful to the national religion, whatever it might be.[4]

In April 1547 he advocated Catholic doctrines, but recanted two months later, and his Protestant faith was strengthened during Edward VI's reign; he was appointed a royal chaplain and canon of Windsor. Soon after Mary's accession, however, he perceived the error of his ways and was made Master of Peterhouse in 1553 and Dean of Ely in 1557.[5]

He preached the sermon in 1557 when the bodies of Bucer and Fagius were disinterred in Cambridge and burnt for heresy, and also, remarkably, in 1560 when these proceedings were reversed and the dead heretics were rehabilitated. In Elizabeth's reign he subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles, denounced the pope and tried to convert Abbot Feckenham to Protestantism; and in 1584 Whitgift in vain recommended him for a bishopric.[6]

He was selected as the type of Anglican prelate by the authors of the Martin Marprelate tracts and other Puritans, who nicknamed him "Old Andrew Turncoat", "Andrew Ambo", "Old Father Palinode". Cambridge wits, it was said, translated "perno" by "I turn, I rat, I change often"; and a coat that had often been turned was said to have been "perned".[6]

Historian Alice Hogge recounts an episode in which a close friend asked Perne "to tell her honestly and simply which was the holy religion that see her safe to heaven". Perne replied that, if she wished, she could live in the religion which the Queen (Elizabeth I) and the kingdom professed – Anglicanism – "but don't die in it. Die in faith and communion with the Catholic Church, that is, if you want to save your soul". As Hogge notes wryly, he never had the chance to follow his own advice, dying suddenly on the way back to his room after dining – and "in the headquarters of that faith [Anglicanism], Lambeth Palace itself".[7]

On his death, he bequeathed the greater part of his library to Peterhouse, where he had been Master, together with the funds to house it in what is now the Perne Library there.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Perne, Andrew (PN537A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ Peterhouse: Eminent Petreans
  3. ^ Dairmuid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe's House Divided, London, 2005
  4. ^ Pollard 1911, p. 178.
  5. ^ Pollard 1911, pp. 178,179.
  6. ^ a b Pollard 1911, p. 179.
  7. ^ Hogge, Alice (2005) God's Secret Agents London: Harper Collins, 36 - 7



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Academic offices
Preceded by
Ralph Aynsworth
Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Robert Some
Preceded by
John Madew
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Edward Hawford
Preceded by
Cuthbert Scott
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
John Pory
Preceded by
Edmund Cosyn
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Henry Harvey
Preceded by
John Whitgift
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
John Still
Preceded by
John Hatcher
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
William Fulke