John Sharp (bishop)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people named John Sharp, see John Sharp (disambiguation).
Archbishop Sharp, 1691 engraving by Robert White.

John Sharp (16 February 1644/5 – 2 February 1714), English divine, Archbishop of York, was born at Bradford, eldest son of Thomas West, a salter, and Dorothy Weddal. He educated at Christ's College, Cambridge.[1]


Sharp was ordained deacon and priest on 12 August 1667, and until 1676 was chaplain and tutor in the family of Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham at Kensington House. Meanwhile, he became archdeacon of Berkshire (1673), prebendary of Norwich, rector of St Giles's-in-the-Fields, and in 1681 dean of Norwich.[2]

In 1686, when chaplain to James II, he was suspended for ten months on a charge of having made some reflections on the king, and in 1688 was cited for refusing to read the Declaration of Indulgence.[2] He was described as a "vehement preacher" whose eyes "flamed remarkably".

Under William and Mary he succeeded Tillotson as Dean of Canterbury in 1689, and (after declining a choice of sees vacated by non-jurors who were his personal friends) followed Thomas Lamplugh as Archbishop of York in 1691. He made a thorough investigation of the affairs of his see, and regulated the disordered chapter of Southwell.[2]

Advisor to Queen Anne[edit]

He preached at the coronation of Queen Anne and became her Lord High Almoner and confidential adviser in matters of church and state, completely eclipsing Thomas Tenison, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Anne, as he records, said "that I would be her confessor, and she would be mine". His diary makes it clear that she often confided State business to him, and listened carefully to any arguments he made, even if she did not always follow his advice. His diary is a useful source for her reign, and often contradicts the Memoirs of Sarah Churchill on crucial points : unlike Sarah, he maintains that the Queen was devastated by her husband's death ("we both wept"), and that her increasingly close friendship with Abigail Masham was not a secret ("talked with the Queen of Mrs. Masham, I find she has a true kindness for her").

Sarah Churchill, who prided herself on never dissembling her opinions, and eventually lost the Queen's friendship as a result, said that Sharp quickly came to know and comply with the Queen's wishes on all subjects. However, the Queen never appointed a bishop without consulting Sharp and endeavouring to obtain his consent to her choice. By contrast, when Archbishop Tenison in 1707 protested that he had not been consulted about the appointment of Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 3rd Baronet as the new Bishop of Winchester, the Queen cut him short with the cold remark that "the matter was decided", and she continued to ignore Tenison's wishes on episcopal appointments. The Queen relied on Sharp to support her policy in the House of Lords, although she made it clear that he could vote against her wishes if his conscience so demanded it; he was also expected to act as one of her Parliamentary "managers", lobbying not only the bishops but also those Yorkshire MPs who were known to him personally.

He was a Commissioner for the Union with Scotland in 1705-7, as was his fellow Archbishop, Tenison. He welcomed the Armenian bishops who came to England in 1713, and corresponded with the Prussian court on the possibility of the Anglican liturgy as a means of reconciliation between Lutherans and Calvinists.[2] On the much debated question of whether the Queen favoured the Old Pretender or the House of Hanover, Sharp, although he died before the matter became critical, was certain that she favoured the Hanoverian succession.

He died at Bath on 2 February 1714. At his request the Queen promoted William Dawes to fill the vacant see.


His works (chiefly sermons) were published in 7 volumes in 1754, and in 5 volumes at Oxford in 1829.[2]


Sharp was married, by John Tillotson, at Clerkenwell in 1676 to Elizabeth Palmer of Winthorpe, Lincolnshire. Of his fourteen children, only four survived him. Of these, John Sharp (1678–1727) of Grafton Park represented Ripon in Parliament from 1701 to 1714; he was a commissioner of trade from 15 September 1713 to September 1714, and died on 9 March 1726–7; in Wicken church, Northamptonshire, there is a monument to him and his wife Anna Maria, daughter of Charles Hosier of Wicken Park. Thomas (1693–1758), the youngest son, was a churchman and the biographer of his father.[3] The English surgeon William Sharp and his brother the abolitionist Granville Sharp were sons of Thomas. Sir Joshua Sharp, Sheriff of London in 1713, was the Archbishop's brother.


  1. ^ "Sharp, John (SHRP660J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Chisholm 1911.
  3. ^  "Sharp, John (1645-1714)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sharp, John". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Sharp, John (1645-1714)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

Church of England titles
Preceded by
John Tillotson
Dean of Canterbury
Succeeded by
George Hooper
Preceded by
Thomas Lamplugh
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
William Dawes