John Sharp (bishop)

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The Most Reverend
John Sharp
Archbishop of York
Abp John Sharp.jpg
Archdiocese York
Installed 1691
Term ended 1714 (death)
Predecessor Thomas Lamplugh
Successor Sir William Dawes, Bt.
Other posts Dean of Norwich (1681–89)
Dean of Canterbury (1689–91)
Personal details
Born (1645-02-16)16 February 1645
Died 2 February 1714(1714-02-02) (aged 68)
Buried York Minster
Nationality British
Denomination Anglican
Spouse Elizabeth Palmer (m.1676)
Education Bradford Grammar School
Alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge
For other people named John Sharp, see John Sharp (disambiguation).

John Sharp (16 February 1645 – 2 February 1714), English divine who served as Archbishop of York.


Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky Esq.:

Dr. John Archbishop Sharp of York was a Rector of St Giles in the Fields, in the Reign of King James; when, preaching warmly against Popery, he was silenced, and the Bishop of London (Dr. Compton) suspended from his office, for not turning him out. He was made by the King William Archbishop of York; and this Queen hath made him her Lord Almoner. He is one of the greatest Ornaments of the church of England, of great Piety and learning; a BLACK MAN, and fifty-five Years old.

John Sharp was born at Bradford, the eldest son of Thomas West, a salter, and Dorothy Weddal. He was educated at Bradford Grammar School and 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 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, whose Low Church views made him uncongenial to the Queen. 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 contradicts the Memoirs of Sarah Churchill on a number of 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 always tried to obtain his consent to her choice. By contrast, when Archbishop Tenison who was out of favour, protested that he had not been consulted about the appointment of Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 3rd Baronet as the new Bishop of Winchester in 1707, 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 policies 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.


Archbishop Sharp, 1691 engraving by Robert White.

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
Herbert Astley
Dean of Norwich
Succeeded by
Henry Fairfax
Preceded by
John Tillotson
Dean of Canterbury
Succeeded by
George Hooper
Preceded by
Thomas Lamplugh
Archbishop of York
Succeeded by
Sir William Dawes, Bt.