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  George Morley (1598?–1684), by Sir Peter Lely, c.1660–62 George Morley (1598?–1684), by Sir Peter Lely, c.1660–62
Morley, George (1598?–1684), bishop of Winchester, was born in Cheapside, London, probably on 27 February 1598, and was baptized at St Matthew's, Friday Street, on 5 March, the eldest son of Francis Morley (d. c.1604) and his wife, Sarah Denham (d. c.1610). His parents were of gentle stock—his mother's brother was the judge Sir John Denham—but Francis Morley sank into debt and by the age of thirteen George was an orphan. Nevertheless he was admitted king's scholar at Westminster School in 1611 and entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1615. At Christ Church, Morley's tutor was John Wall; having matriculated on 17 December 1618, he graduated BA two days later and proceeded MA in June 1621.

Early career and social circle

Most of what is known of Morley's career in the Oxford of the 1620s and 1630s stems from his portrait in the memoirs of his friend Edward Hyde, later earl of Clarendon, and from the biography by Anthony Wood in his Athenae Oxonienses. Hyde judged Morley a man ‘of eminent parts in all polite learning, of great wit, readiness and subtlety in disputation, and of remarkable temper and prudence in conversation’ (Hyde, Life, 1.46). Morley moved in the same college and university circles as Gilbert Sheldon, Henry Hammond, Robert Payne, Robert Sanderson, William Chillingworth, and Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland. The poet Edmund Waller was a distant relation of Morley's and it is possible that he obtained the young clergyman's initial introduction to Falkland's circle. Clarendon's portrait of the conversation and meetings at Falkland's house at Great Tew evokes a liberal and cultivated milieu in which the witty Morley was at home. One famous piece of repartee has been persistently attributed to Morley: when asked what the Arminians held, he replied that they held all the best bishoprics and deaneries in England. There is no evidence of his relationship with the Arminian Archbishop Laud, but his Calvinist theological views, his worldliness, and his wide circle of friends, including Arthur Goodwin and John Hampden, left him slightly outside the Laudian élite of Charles I's church. Wood states that he was chaplain to Robert Dormer, earl of Carnarvon, until he was forty-three, which would be about 1640 or 1641, when he was presented to the sinecure rectory of Hartfield in Sussex. Edward Hyde may well have been promoting his cause because in 1641 Morley was appointed a royal chaplain and made a canon of Christ Church. He also exchanged his sinecure with Dr Richard Stewart for the rectory of Mildenhall in Wiltshire.

Royalist in England and in exile, 1642–1660

As the political crisis of the early 1640s worsened Morley's royalism came to the fore. When he preached before the Commons in 1642 the house did not make the customary request for the sermon's publication. Although appointed to the Westminster assembly of divines he never attended. Morley was almost certainly in Oxford during the civil war. In 1645 he was a royalist delegate to the Uxbridge peace negotiations. He attended Charles I as chaplain at Newmarket in the summer of 1647. In the same year he served on the committee appointed by the University of Oxford to resist the parliamentary visitation and was charged with selecting legal counsel to represent the heads of houses. When deprived of his canonry he resisted. Wood claimed that he refused an offer to retain his place if he abstained from opposition to the visitors and that he suffered a short period of imprisonment. He was finally ejected in the spring of 1648 and he remarked in a letter to Bulstrode Whitelocke that ‘seeing I could not keep it with a good conscience, I thank God it doth not trouble me at all’ (Whitelocke, 2.149–50). Wood stated that Morley took part in the Newport negotiations in the autumn of 1648. In March 1649 he attended his friend Arthur Capel, Lord Capel, after his condemnation for royalist plotting and accompanied him to the foot of the scaffold. Then, says Wood, he quit the country resolved never to return until king and church were restored. Morley later claimed that he took all he had—a total of £130—with him. The House of Lords had already given him a pass to go abroad dated 25 January 1648.

Morley went to the court of Charles II at St Germain and then moved among the royalist exile community for several months. In November 1649 he was officiating in Sir Richard Browne's chapel in Paris. He followed Charles II to Breda and preached before him on the eve of his departure for Scotland. He then served as chaplain to Lady Ormond at Caen before arriving at Sir Edward Hyde's household in Antwerp in November 1650. He travelled so incessantly that some of the details of his movements may have become confused. He was based at The Hague, but also spent three or four years in Hyde's house at Antwerp and that is the address on most of his letters of 1652 and 1653 written under the pseudonym Jasper Gower to friends in England like Gilbert Sheldon. He moved around this corner of northern Europe tending to the spiritual needs of various royalists, especially ladies like Frances, Lady Hyde, Elizabeth, Lady Thynne, and Elizabeth, queen of Bohemia, and he followed Charles's court—to Düsseldorf, for example, in October 1654. He made the acquaintance of leading scholars such as Rivetus, Heinsius, and Salmasius, and he tangled with Roman Catholic priests. On paying a visit to the Jesuits' college in Brussels on 23 June 1650 Morley and Dr Creighton were drawn into a debate with Father Darcy about the merits of their respective churches. Morley was later adamant that while in exile he remained faithful to the Church of England, constantly used its prayer book, and did not attend reformed services.

As the protectorate regime began to collapse in the late 1650s, Morley became one of the most important conduits of information between the exiles and their Anglican royalist sympathizers in England. According to Richard Baxter, for instance, in 1659 the royalist gentry of Worcestershire were being told by Henry Hammond on Morley's authority that a moderate religious settlement with only the most vestigial form of episcopacy was acceptable to the king. In April 1660 Morley was sent to England by Hyde so that he, Barwick ‘and other discreet men of the clergy should enter into conversation and have frequent conference with those of the presbyterian party’ (Barwick, 525). Morley was to reassure them, to rebut claims that Charles II was a Roman Catholic, and even to tempt them with the prospect of preferment. He was also to allay ‘the too much Heat and Distemper’ of some of our friends. He reported back that his discussions with Edward Reynolds, Edmund Calamy, and the earl of Manchester had gone well, not least because they perceived him as ‘somewhat more moderate than others of our clergy’. On the central issue of whether ordinations received during the 1650s from presbyterian classes rather than bishops were to be valid, Morley proposed ‘two expedients’: either the question could be simply ignored or there could be a ‘hypothetical re-ordination by Bishops’ which would regard the first orders not as ‘nullities but only irregular and uncertain’ (Hyde, State papers, 3.727, 738). It is not unfair to say that Morley's powers of persuasion were one of the keys to reconciling the leaders of the presbyterian party to the restoration of the monarchy and some form of national church.

Restoration triumph and the see of Worcester, 1660–1662

In the first years of the Restoration, Morley was everywhere. He was in Oxford, and there he regained his canonry at Christ Church. Long promised the deanery, and greeted by a cavalcade of over eighty horsemen and cheering crowds, he was installed in that office on 26 July 1660. He was also to be found at court exercising his characteristic diplomacy. In October 1660 he was required to interview Anne Hyde, duchess of York, about the legitimacy of her new-born son. Along with Humphrey Henchman, Morley represented the episcopalian interest at the Worcester House discussions which fleshed out the plan for a comprehensive church settlement. He wrote enthusiastically to friends in Scotland about the broad church which was emerging. On 28 October he was consecrated as the bishop of Worcester alongside four other new bishops, Sheldon, Sanderson, Henchman, and George Griffith. Morley was also dean of the Chapel Royal and preached at Charles II's coronation on 23 April 1661, when he remarked that Charles had been marked out by heaven and providence and that one good prince could do more than many preachers for the public reformation of church and state. It was published as A Sermon Preached at the Coronation the same year.

In the following May Morley was the prime manager for the episcopalian party at the Savoy conference. Here he began to shed the conciliatory guise which had served him so well in previous negotiations with the presbyterians. This also marked a deterioration in his relationship with their spokesman, Richard Baxter. Baxter, upon whose testimony historians depend so heavily for the details of religious negotiations in this period, developed a personal animosity towards Morley. This had its roots in Morley's refusal to license Baxter to preach in the diocese of Worcester. Baxter had served in the Worcestershire parish of Kidderminster in the 1650s but lost the living when its previous incumbent was restored in 1661. What Baxter resented was Morley's part in preventing him from maintaining any relationship with his previous flock: not only was he barred from any kind of preaching in the diocese, but Bishop Morley himself preached in the parish ‘a long Invective against them [the parishioners], and me, as Presbyterians’ (Reliquiae Baxterianae, 2.376). Baxter responded by publishing an attack on Morley and he replied with The bishop of Worcester's letter to a friend in vindication of himself from Mr Baxter's calumny (January 1662) which dwelt upon Baxter's disruptive part in the Savoy conference and upon the dangerous opinions contained in his Holy Commonwealth (1659). Morley had arrived in his diocese in September 1661, when he was ‘solemnly brought into Worcester by my Lord Windsor, Lord Lieutenant of the County, and most of the gentry and all the clergy’ and the militia and trained bands (Bosher, 234).

Bishop of Winchester and the imposition of uniformity, 1662–1667

In May 1662, however, Morley was translated to the wealthy see of Winchester. He was in his diocese as the Act of Uniformity came into force. His first visitation began at Winchester with ‘all the considerable men of the county’ on 26 August and lasted until 27 September. His own account described how he confirmed 300 in Romsey, 600 in Southampton, and ‘neere a 1000 of all sorts, and amongst them all the Gentry male and female young and old’ of the Isle of Wight. In his charge at each place Morley ‘did … invite those that had not or would not subscribe to come and speak with me, professing that if they would yet conforme, they should find me as ready to receive and encourage them, as any other of the clergy that had never offended in that kind’ (Bodl. Oxf., MS Clarendon 73, fols. 216–17). Morley estimated that only twelve clergy in the whole diocese would refuse to conform and he wanted to ‘give them some time’ (ibid.), but eventually nearly fifty ministers were ejected. His letters to Clarendon encouraged the chancellor to resist all attempts to dilute the Act of Uniformity and while recognizing that some of the metropolitan presbyterian leadership might have a claim to some indulgence on the strength of their role in the Restoration, Morley was adamant that there could be no compromise with the dissident ministers of the shires.

Morley was soon back in the capital. On Christmas day 1662 he preached at Whitehall. Pepys thought it a poor sermon, ‘but long and reprehending the mistaken jollity of the court … perticularized concerning their excess in playes and gameing’—yet he was dismayed to hear the bishop laughed at for his pains (Pepys, 3.292–3). Although generous and charitable Morley had a serious frame of mind and austere personal habits. He rose at 5 a.m. every day, eschewed a fire on winter mornings, and ate only once a day. He had many responsibilities beyond his diocese. He was appointed a governor of the Charterhouse in May 1663. As bishop of Winchester he was ex officio prelate to the Order of the Garter and visitor to five Oxford colleges. In 1664 he visited all five colleges and took corrective action at only one, Corpus Christi. Politically Morley remained close both to Clarendon and to Archbishop Sheldon and the church party who promoted punitive legislation against the nonconformists. During the debate on the Five Mile Act at the Oxford session of parliament in October 1665 Morley spoke passionately against the nonconformists and the religious and political dangers posed by conventicles. The bill, he claimed, ‘doth but send them where they shall doe noe hurt to themselves nor others’. He was particularly suspicious of their refusal to renounce the solemn league and covenant: ‘here they sticke. They will not say they will renounce the last Warr, and they will forestall another’ (Robbins, 223–4). He returned to the subject in a sermon, published in 1683 as A Sermon Preached before the King at White-Hall … Novemb 5 1667, when he proclaimed it ‘the peculiar Glory of the Church of England’ that she had declared ‘without Iffs or Ands, or any other clause, or words of exception or reservation’ that it was unlawful for subjects to take up arms against the sovereign (pp. 36–7).

Morley's position could not but be damaged by the fall of Lord Chancellor Clarendon in 1667. After the impeachment was drawn up against Clarendon, Morley and Bishop Herbert Croft visited the disgraced minister to explain that the king wished him to leave the country. But soon Morley himself, like other Clarendonians such as Bishop Dolben of Rochester, was out of favour; in February 1668 Morley lost his position as dean of the Chapel Royal and withdrew from court.

Scholar and patron

Morley was more than a court prelate, however. He was a significant intellectual and theological figure. His substantial library, which was catalogued in 1672 and 1682 and eventually bequeathed to Winchester Cathedral, was rich in titles relating to philosophy and science, including works by Thomas Hobbes, Descartes, Pascal, the Jansenists, and the Cambridge Platonists. Morley advised the exiled Clarendon over the composition of his Brief View, a reply to Leviathan, which was completed by 1673 and published at Oxford in 1676. Morley's patronage was extensive and eclectic. He is alleged to have helped Henry Stubbe to a medical position in Jamaica; he asked Adam Littleton to complete Bishop John Earle's translation of Richard Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity into Latin; and, most famously, he supported Izaak Walton. In dedicating the 1670 edition of his Lives to Morley, Walton referred to ‘the advantage of forty years friendship’ with him. They knew each other in pre-civil war Oxford, and at the Restoration Morley was in a position to help his old friend, who served briefly as his steward at Worcester in 1661–2 and thereafter spent the rest of his life as a member of Morley's household. Walton's Life of Robert Sanderson (1678) was shaped by his relations with Morley as much as by his admiration for Bishop Sanderson; indeed, about 1638 Morley had introduced Walton and Sanderson, possibly at Great Tew. Many strands of Morley's life and thought can be traced back to those Oxford intellectual circles of the 1630s. The other abiding influence in his life was his Calvinism. Wood noted that ‘he was a great Calvinist, and esteemed one of the main patrons of those of that persuasion’ (Wood, Ath. Oxon., 4.154). This is evident in his role as dedicatee, if not sponsor, of the publications by Thomas Tully and other Oxford theologians designed to refute the Arminian teachings of George Bull in the early 1670s. Both Calvinism and 1630s Oxford explain his long-lasting relationship with Thomas Barlow, Calvinist provost of the Queen's College and from 1675 bishop of Lincoln: the two men swapped papers and books throughout their long lives.

Calvinist bishop in the 1670s

The early 1670s were a disheartening time for Morley and his Anglican brethren. The conversion to Catholicism and early death of Morley's former pupil Anne Hyde, duchess of York, were disquieting. The 1672 declaration of indulgence and French alliance were a blow. Remarking at the time to Sheldon on his own loyalty to the doctrine, discipline, and government of the Church of England, Morley remarked ‘but perhaps I be the worse lookd upon at Court because I am soe’. Despite rumours he was neither ‘a Popish Bishop’ nor ‘a Presbyterian Man’ (Bodl. Oxf., MS Tanner 43, fols. 32–3). As he told the earl of Anglesey in July 1672, he was for the incorporation, not comprehension, of the presbyterians within the Church of England: ‘I am very confident that there are no Presbyterians in the world (the Scotch only excepted) that would not conform to all that is required by our Church, as especially in such a juncture of time as this is’ (Bodl. Oxf., MS Carte 69, fol. 447). After the cancellation of the indulgence in 1673 the Commons considered ways to improve the position of moderate dissenters, but Morley told Sheldon that while he could accept concessions to divide ‘the Presbyterians from the rest of the Sectaries … yet I never would have consented nor ever will consent to that w[hich] they call a Comprehension’ (Bodl. Oxf., MS Tanner 42, fol. 7). Such statements are significant because of Morley's continuing involvement in negotiations to win over presbyterians and moderate dissenters. In December 1673 Morley, along with Osborne and Orrery, asked Richard Baxter to prepare a scheme for comprehension. And in February 1674 Morley intervened when a proposal was made in the Commons to lift most of the oaths and subscriptions required of dissenters; Morley forced this bill's withdrawal and promoted another in the Lords which eleven other bishops opposed. He encouraged and then scuppered another round of negotiations with dissenters in the following winter. As Richard Baxter is reported to have remarked when told that Morley was involved, ‘then it will come to nothing if he, that is the B[isho]p of Winchester, be concerned in it’ (DWL, Morrice Entring Book P, fol. 359).

Morley was no unreflective conservative. He was always ready to consider reform of the church. As parliament assembled in January 1674, for example, he had Francis Turner write to William Sancroft for proposals for ‘restoring our discipline and maintaining our doctrine. The canons of [16]40 against the Socinians are desird to be reinforct, and many Expedients are in the minds of our Governors to the reformacion of Abuses.’ Altruism was not Morley's only motive: ‘that good old Lord is very full of Church-affaires to do som[e]w[ha]t, if it be possible for the removing of the unsupportable clamor of the people against the Bishops’ (Bodl. Oxf., MS Tanner 42, fol. 75). When the earl of Danby initiated the court's new policy of pandering to the ‘church and cavalier’ interest in October 1674, his first step was to visit Bishop Morley at Farnham Castle. He told Morley that the king wished the bishops to meet and propose ‘some things that might unite and best pacify the minds of people’ for the next meeting of parliament (Bodl. Oxf., MS Carte 72, fol. 229). Morley played an important role in the meetings of the bishops over that winter which produced a plan of general moral and religious reform, aimed equally at profanity, popery, and nonconformity. He subsequently made a bold defence of Danby's proposed test oath in parliament in 1675, and is alleged to have claimed that before Calvin's time there were no Christian churches that lacked bishops.

Last years and legacy

Little came of all these initiatives, and meanwhile Morley, like other leaders of the church, was ageing; but he kept a watchful eye on developments. He was delighted by the protestant marriage of Princess Mary and William of Orange in 1677 and hoped that popular sentiment and parliamentary pressure would restrain pro-French and pro-Catholic tendencies at court. He backed Bishop Henry Compton of London as a suitable successor to Archbishop Sheldon and also thought highly of Bishop Seth Ward of Salisbury as a potential primate. Morley himself was now blind in one eye, but piously hoped for more such afflictions since they were spiritually beneficial. The political prospects for the Church of England continued to deteriorate. In February 1679 Charles sent Morley and Sancroft to the duke of York in a forlorn attempt to reclaim him for the Church of England from popery. At the same time, noted Morley, the bishops were regarded with ‘an Evill Eye’ by the people (Bodl. Oxf., MS Tanner 38, fol. 20). In 1679 Morley withdrew from court. In July he described himself as old and ailing while sending Sancroft what he foretold would be his last gift of venison from Hampshire. He had left the ‘encumbrance and noise of all Secular Affairs’ to live in the country at Farnham Castle and prepare ‘for a quiet and comfortable Exit out of this … World’—a statement which would have been more convincing if it had not been made in the Several Treatises, Written upon Several Occasions, also known as The Vindication, that he published in 1683 to rebut allegations recently renewed by that other long-lived controversialist, Richard Baxter (The Bishop of Winchester's Vindication, 1683, sig. a3). In 1681 Morley published a defence of his dealings with Anne, duchess of York, to counter allegations that he had undermined her protestantism. Even in semi-retirement he continued to write letters and recommend protégés and to worry over the dangers faced by the Church of England. In the summer of 1684 Morley ordered John Foster, curate of a Hampshire chapelry, to desist from daily prayer and weekly celebration of the sacrament until he had received a ruling from the archbishop for fear that ‘it may grow to a schisme in the orthodoxe and conformable party of the church’ (Bodl. Oxf., MS Tanner 32, fols. 80, 106). On 29 October 1684 Morley died, unmarried, at Farnham Castle; he was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Morley was a generous benefactor: he spent £4000 purchasing Winchester House in Chelsea as an episcopal residence, £8000 on remodelling Farnham Castle, and he rebuilt Wolvesey House. He gave generously to Christ Church and Pembroke College, Oxford, to Chelsea Hospital, and to the ‘college’ for widows of clergy at Winchester Cathedral. His reputation suffered thanks to his dealings with the nonconformists. His name was still mud among moderate dissenters and a warning against trusting the Anglicans in James II's reign. ‘It is well remembered that Dr Morley gave as fair words and made as many promises’ to presbyterian leaders in 1660, remarked Roger Morrice in October 1687, ‘and yet he tooke vengiance upon them when he had power, and turned them all out, and was also false to them in all his negotiations with them’ (DWL, Morrice Entring Book Q, fol. 176). But his contribution to the Church of England cannot be denied. He was a tireless figure and offered the church leadership for several decades, perhaps most significantly at the Restoration and again in the mid-1670s when Sheldon's energy seemed to flag. He was a staunch Calvinist and yet an unwavering defender of the episcopacy and liturgy of the Church of England.

John Spurr


BL, Add. MS 17017; Harley MS 6942 · Bodl. Oxf., MSS Tanner; MSS Clarendon 71, 72, 73; MS Carte 69; MS Tanner 40, fols. 74, 102 · R. Morrice, ‘Ent'ring book’, DWL, Morrice MS P–Q [vols. 1–2] · D. Novarr, The making of Walton's ‘Lives’ (Ithaca, NY, 1958) · R. S. Bosher, The making of the Restoration settlement: the influence of the Laudians, 1649–1662 (1951); rev. edn (1957) · J. Spurr, ‘The Church of England, comprehension and the Toleration Act of 1689’, EngHR, 104 (1989), 927–46 · C. Robbins, ‘The Oxford session of the Long Parliament of Charles II, 9–31 October, 1665’, BIHR, 21 (1948), 214–24 · J. C. Hayward, ‘New directions in studies of the Falkland circle’, Seventeenth Century, 2 (1987), 19–48 · Calendar of the correspondence of Richard Baxter, ed. N. H. Keeble and G. F. Nuttall, 2 vols. (1991) · Walker rev. · Hist. U. Oxf. 4: 17th-cent. Oxf. · Wood, Ath. Oxon., new edn, 4.149–58 · Wood, Ath. Oxon.: Fasti, new edn · Foster, Alum. Oxon. · W. Kennett, A register and chronicle ecclesiastical and civil (1728) · Fasti Angl. (Hardy) · Evelyn, Diary · Pepys, Diary · B. Whitelocke, Memorials of English affairs, new edn, 4 vols. (1853) · R. Scrope and T. Monkhouse, eds., State papers collected by Edward, earl of Clarendon, 3 vols. (1767–86) · E. Hyde, earl of Clarendon, Life (1843) · E. Hyde, earl of Clarendon, The history of the rebellion and civil wars in England, new edn (1843) · P. Barwick, The life of Dr John Barwick (1724) · Reliquiae Baxterianae, or, Mr Richard Baxter's narrative of the most memorable passages of his life and times, ed. M. Sylvester, 1 vol. in 3 pts (1696) · G. B. Tatham, The puritans in power (1913) · Burnet’s History of my own time, ed. O. Airy, new edn, 2 vols. (1897–1900) · I. M. Green, The re-establishment of the Church of England, 1660–1663 (1978) · The poetical works of Edmund Waller, 2 vols. (1777), vol. 1, pp. viii–ix · R. Ollard, Clarendon and his friends (1987) · A. M. Coleby, Central government and the localities: Hampshire, 1649–1689 (1987) · IGI


Bodl. Oxf., letters and MSS · New College, Oxford, letters · Portsmouth Museums and Records Service, accounts of repairs to episcopal properties, donations to charities, and letter to earl of Clarendon |  BL, corresp. with H. P. De Cressey, Add. MS 21630 · NRA, priv. coll., letters to Sir Charles Cottrell · Worcs. RO, corresp. with Lady Pakington


P. Lely, oils, c.1660–1662, Christ Church Oxf. [see illus.] · studio of P. Lely, oils, c.1662, NPG · S. Cooper, 1667, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore · P. Lely, oils, second version, Rousham House, Oxfordshire · E. Luttrell?, chalk drawing (after Lely?), NPG; repro. in Ollard, Clarendon · portrait, Farnham Castle, Surrey · portrait, Oriel College, Oxford · portrait, Pembroke College, Oxford · portrait, Charterhouse