Robert Holgate, Archbishop
1545AD - 1554AD
Robert Holgate from a Yorkshire family, was educated in Cambridge and entered the Gilbertine order as a canon. He played an important role in the life of the community before the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Considered to be a protégé of Thomas Cromwell, Holgate was appointed president of the Council in the North in 1538, a post he held for 11 years. He lived in the house of the former abbot of St Mary’s Abbey in York, which has survived as King’s Manor.
Following the death of Archbishop Lee in September 1544, Holgate was named his successor and was consecrated as Archbishop of York at Lambeth in January 1545, renouncing papal authority.
From then, the tenets of Protestant theology were regularly expounded in the Minster for the first time, and organ music was abolished. He instructed that the Minster Library be furnished with new Protestant commentaries on the Bible by theologians like Calvin.
Archbishop Holgate founded three grammar schools in 1546, one at his birthplace of Hemsworth in the West Riding, one at Old Malton and one in York. He required his headmasters to be skilled in Hebrew, Greek and Latin and to take his pupils to the Minster on Sundays.
In order to prove his Protestantism to the sceptical Duke of Northumberland, in 1550, aged 68, the Archbishop took a bride when he was 68 – local gentlewoman Barbara Wentworth. This was a year after an Act of Parliament removed the duty of celibacy from the English clergy.
But when Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553 and returned England to Catholicism, Holgate was sent to the Tower then stripped of his post for breaking his vow of celibacy.
Having paid the crown £1,000 for his ‘crimes’ Holgate was set free in January 1555 only to die that November in London.