Monumental Brass Society

John Prideaux

Date of Brass:


September 2021


It is entirely fitting that John Prideaux is commemorated by a brass as he had provided brasses for his parents and other members of his family during his own life. The account by Thacker of his brass tells us that he had composed the Latin inscription himself leaving only the date of his d ath and his age to be added. While the inscription outlines his career it says nothing of his marriages or children. It also omits his clerical appointments prior to being made bishop of Worcester.

John Prideaux was born on 17 September 1578, the fourth son of of his ‘honest parents’ John and Agnes at Stowford in Devon. At the age of eighteen he became a servitor at Exeter College, Oxford, receiving his BA in 1600, becoming a fellow in 1601 and an MA in 1603. After taking holy orders, he was appointed chaplain to Prince Henry. In 1612, shortly before taking his degree as Doctor of Divinity, he was elected Rector of Exeter College, a post he held for nearly thirty years and which carried with it the post of vicar of Kidlington. Following the death of Prince Henry, he was appointed chaplain to the king. His scholarship resulted in his being made Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University in late 1615, a post he stayed in for twenty-six years while being elected Vice-Chancellor of the university no less than five times. From mid-1614 he was vicar of Bampton, Oxfordshire and vicar of Chalgrove in 1620, the same year he was made a canon of Salisbury Cathedral. He became rector of Bladon in 1626 and of Ewelme in 1629. He became chaplain to Charles I after the death of James in 1625.

John Prideaux married around the time he became Rector of Exeter College. His wife Anne was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s cathedral and through her mother, granddaughter of the Marian martyr Rowland Taylor. Nine children of the marriage are recorded of whom five died before adulthood: Matthias died as an infant in 1624, Robert in 1627 and John, twin brother of Matthias in 1636, all commemorated by brass inscriptions in Exeter College chapel; Mary died in 1615 and her death was the subject of a poem by her father. When Anne Prideaux died in 1617 she and two children were commemorated by a brass inscription at the Oxford church of St Michael. John Prideaux married again a year later, his second wife being Mary Reynell. Of the children that reached adulthood, Colonel William Prideaux fell fighting for the king at Marston Moor in 1645 while Matthias Prideaux, who also fought for the same cause, died of smallpox in London the following year. Elizabeth Prideaux married Dr Henry Sutton, a clergyman, and her sister married Dr William Hodges, twh succeeded her father as rector of Bampton in 1634.

Prideaux's opposition to Arminianism and the reforms brought in by Archbishop Laud stymied his advancement in the Church of England but in 1641 after Laud fell, he was made Bishop of Worcester. While his religious views were by no means unacceptable to Parliament, his fund-raising on behalf of the royalist cause meant that he was sequestered. He was eventually allowed to live at Bredon where his son-in-law Henry Sutton was rector and found himself in very reduced circumstances. His funeral in 1650 attracted a large attendance.

John Prideaux's brass consists of an inscription below a large mitre with foutr shields at the corners of a black Belgian marble slab. An incised line runs around the margin of the slab. The brass is complete bar the terminus of one of the ribbons of the mitre but one of the shields at the bottom of the slab was worn by the passage of an iron wheel over it whenever the gate in the communion rail was opened, a problem corrected many years ago.


Copyright: Jon Bayliss

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