John Harpsfield

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John Harpsfield (1516–1578) was an English Catholic controversialist and humanist.


Harpsfield was educated in Winchester College and New College, Oxford (BA 1537, MA in theology 1541). He was perpetual fellow of New College from 1534 until 1551 and was appointed the first Regius Professor of Greek (Oxford) (approximately 1541-1545). He became Vicar of Berkeley, Gloucestershire in 1550, Archdeacon of London in 1554, and Dean of Norwich in 1558.

He was a champion of papal authority and a leader of the Marian Persecutions. He interrogated John Bradford, who was put to death under the revived Heresy Acts in 1555. He assisted Edmund Bonner in the questioning of Thomas Cranmer and preached on the occasion of Cranmer's disgradation (14 February 1556).

After the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558, Harpsfield was deposed as archdeacon and dean in 1559. At some point between 1559 and 1562, he was committed to Fleet Prison, together with his brother Nicholas Harpsfield, for his refusal to swear the Oath of Supremacy. He wrote letters of appeal to Lord Burghley and Sir Thomas Smith in Greek, as a fellow humanist, and was released on health grounds in 1574. He continued to be called before the Star Chamber and was placed in the custody of the Bishop of Lincoln.


  • Latin translation of Simplicius' commentary on Aristotle's Categories
  • Greek translation of Virgil, Aeneid, Book 1
  • Several published sermons, including nine of the thirteen in Edmund Bonner's Homilies (1555), and A Notable and Learned Sermon made upon Saint Andrewes Day (1556)
  • Versus elegiaci, ex centuriis summatim comprehensi, de Historia Ecclesiastica Anglorum
  • Chronicon Johannis Harpesfeldi a diluvio ad annum 1559


  • William Wizeman, "Harpsfield, John (1516–1578)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004