He was speaker of the Irish House of Commons in the parliaments of 1557, 1560, and 1568. At the opening of each session he delivered an oration. He proved himself a supporter of Protestantism under Elizabeth I of England, and contrived the passing through the Comons of the Act of Uniformity passed in England the year before, in 1560, putting the question when its chief opponents were absent from the chamber. On the other hand, his friendship with Edmund Campion suggests that like many of the Anglo-Irish gentry he retained a certain sympathy with the Roman Catholic faith.
In 1570 he recommended to parliament, in a speech which he delivered at the prorogation, a system of national education for Ireland, proposing the establishment of grammar schools throughout the country. At the same time he suggested the formation of a university at Dublin such as was inaugurated a few years later. The speech is said to have been printed. Stanyhurst's educational policy was not accepted by the government, although Sir Henry Sidney, to whom he was close, strongly supported it. Edmund Campion, who acted as tutor to son Richard, was also a good friend, and acknowledged assistance from Stanihurst in writing his history of Ireland. On one occasion Stanihurst, despite his Protestant faith, saved Campion from arrest by sending him to the home of the Barnewall family, who were staunch Catholics.
He died at Dublin on 27 December 1573, aged 51. A Latin elegy by his son Richard was printed in the latter's description of Ireland, as well as in the appendix to his translation of Virgil.
Richard Stanihurst was his son, and he left another son, Walter, who translated into English Innocent, de Contemptu Mundi. A daughter Margaret married Arland Ussher, one of the six clerks of the Irish court of chancery, and was mother of James Ussher.
|Speaker of the Irish House of Commons
1557, 1560 and 1568
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