Most Rev William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury

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Most Rev William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury

Birthplace: Blandford Forum, Dorset, England, United Kingdom
Death: January 24, 1737 (79)
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Croydon, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of William Wake and Anne Wake
Husband of Etheldreda Wake
Father of Ethelred Benett; Magdalene Churchill and Dorothy Wake

Occupation: Archbishop of Canterbury
Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Most Rev William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury

Burial record:


From DNB:

sister projects: Wikipedia article.

720539Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58 Wake, WilliamJoseph Hirst Lupton1899

WAKE, WILLIAM (1657–1737), archbishop of Canterbury, born at Blandford in Dorset on 26 Jan. 1656–7, was the son of William Wake (d. 1705) of Shapwick in the same county. His father was a man of considerable property and ancient family [see Wake, Sir Isaac]. A manuscript account of it, drawn up by the archbishop himself, was privately printed in 1833 by his great-granddaughter, Etheldreda Benett (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vi. 353). After being educated at the grammar school of his native town under Mr. Curganven (Carlisle, Endowed Grammar Schools, i. 362), he was entered at Christ Church, Oxford, whence he matriculated on 28 Feb. 1672–3. He graduated B.A. in 1676, M.A. in 1679, and B.D. and D.D. by accumulation in 1689.

On leaving the university, Wake was ordained, and in 1682 went to Paris in the capacity of chaplain to Richard Graham, viscount Preston [q. v.], an old Christ Church man, who had been appointed ambassador to the court of France. It was the year in which a synod of the French clergy were engaged in putting forth the ‘Declaratio Cleri Gallicani,’ called by Dorner ‘the most celebrated act of Gallicanism.’ Wake's attention was thus turned to a subject which afterwards formed a chief interest of his life—the affairs of the French church. He also became known as a scholar to many of the savants of the French capital, and was applied to by John Fell (1625–1686) [q. v.], bishop of Oxford, to collate some Paris manuscripts of the Greek Testament for John Mill's projected edition. By detecting some important changes, due to a censure of the Sorbonne, in the second edition of Bossuet's ‘Exposition de la foi catholique’ (1671), Wake was enabled to retort upon the author of the ‘Variations des Églises protestantes.’ This he did in his ‘Exposition of the Doctrine of the Church of England’ (1686, 4to).

In 1685 he returned home in the suite of Lord Preston, and in 1688 was chosen preacher of Gray's Inn, an office which he held for eight years. It is said that James II tried to prevent an election being made till his pleasure was known (art. in Biogr. Britannica, quoting the Rev. Osmund Beauvoir). On the accession of William and Mary, Wake was made deputy clerk of the closet and chaplain in ordinary to the king and queen. In June 1689 he was appointed to a canonry in Christ Church, Oxford. His protest against resigning this in 1702 is preserved among the Additional manuscripts in the British Museum (747, f. 155). In July 1693 he was presented to the rectory of St. James's, Westminster, which he held till 1706. On 14 Feb. 1702–3 he was made a canon residentiary of Exeter, and installed dean two days later (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 388; the date is often given as 1701, see Le Neve, ii. 520). On 21 Oct. 1705 he was consecrated bishop of Lincoln. In January 1715–16, on the death of Thomas Tenison [q. v.], Wake was translated to Canterbury.

Wake was a man of wide reading, of immense industry, and of a liberal and tolerant spirit. Some of his speeches in parliament may appear inconsistent with this last quality (Abbey and Overton, English Church in the Eighteenth Century, i. 356); as when he argued against Lord Stanhope's bill in 1718 for repealing certain clauses in the Corporation and Test acts; or when, in 1721, he opposed the government measure for granting relief to the quakers. But his opposition was probably due to the spirit in which, as he considered, these changes were demanded (Perry, Hist. of the Church of England, iii. 309, 317). In his personal dealings with nonconformists, whether at home or abroad, he always showed a spirit of comprehensive charity. He advocated some modifications of the Book of Common Prayer, if by that means the just scruples of protestant dissenters might be removed (Gent. Mag. 1737, p. 263). He was in constant correspondence with men like Jablonski and Le Clerc. Antoine Court appealed to him for help and sympathy. He had pleaded the cause of the exiled Vaudois in a sermon before William and Mary.

The most memorable event in the history of his relations with foreign churches was the negotiation with certain members of the Gallican church, which went on from 1717 to 1720. The hostility of French ecclesiastics to the high papal pretensions set forth in the bull ‘Unigenitus’ led some of them to contemplate a union with the English church. On 11 Feb. 1718 Louis Ellies Du Pin, the ecclesiastical historian, wrote to Wake expressing his ardent desire for union. Wake showed himself well disposed, and the matter was discussed by the Sorbonne in a conciliatory spirit, and on 28 March Du Pin raised few important objections to the doctrines contained in the ‘articles,’ and Wake declared himself willing to recognise some differences in belief. After Du Pin's death, however, in 1719, the negotiations made no further progress, and it may be doubted whether the project would ever have found general favour among French and English churchmen (Lupton, Archbishop Wake and the Project of Union, 1896).

Wake died at Lambeth on 24 Jan. 1736–7, and was buried at Croydon on 9 Feb. following. His epitaph is given in Lysons's ‘Environs of London’ (i. 184), but with a wrong date. There is a portrait of him, by Isaac Whood, at Lambeth (cf. Catalogue of Second Loan Exhibition, 1867, No. 221), and another in the vestry of St. James's, Piccadilly. A portrait, ascribed to Thomas Gibson, was purchased by the trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, London, in 1857, and a fourth is at Christ Church, Oxford. He is said to have been the last archbishop of Canterbury who went from Lambeth to the houses of parliament by water, using the old state barge (Wheatley, London Past and Present, ii. 363).

In October 1688 Wake married Etheldreda, third daughter and coheiress of Sir William Hovell, knt., of Hillington, Norfolk; and by this lady, who died on 15 April 1731, he had a large family. Particulars of several members of it will be found in ‘Notes and Queries’ (8th ser. viii. 121). Cole (Addit. MS. 5841, p. 21) complains of the archbishop's affairs being wholly managed, in his closing years, by his son-in-law, Dr. Lynch. Wake left by will his collection of coins and medals (on which see a letter from him to Dr. Stukeley, 2 Feb. 1727, in Nichol's Lit. Illustr. ii. 784) and his valuable library of books to his own college of Christ Church. Though he died possessed of a large fortune (Gent. Mag. 1737, p. 61), he had spent considerable sums on the buildings of his dioceses. These are enumerated by Henry Mills in the preface to his ‘Essay on Generosity’ (1732), which was dedicated to Wake (see also Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xii. 345).

Wake's writings are too numerous to be all specified here. The most important of them, in point of magnitude, is the ‘State of the Church and Clergy of England in their Councils, Synods, Convocations, Conventions, and other their Assemblies, historically deduced,’ 1703, fol. A copy of this, with manuscript notes by the author, is in the Cambridge University Library. It was called forth by Atterbury's ‘Rights, Powers, and Privileges of an English Convocation,’ but, like Bentley's ‘Phalaris,’ does much more than confute an opponent. Next in importance may be placed ‘The Genuine Epistles of the Apostolical Fathers, S. Barnabas, S. Ignatius, S. Clement, S. Polycarp, the Shepherd of Hermas,’ (1693, 8vo; 4th edit. 1737). His ‘Principles of the Christian Religion in a Commentary on the Church Catechism’ (13th edit. 1812) has been widely circulated. A copious list of Wake's writings, supplementary to that found in Watt's ‘Bibliotheca,’ is given by Professor John E. B. Mayor in ‘Notes and Queries’ (8th ser. viii. 121).

[Authorities quoted in text; Wake's own manuscripts at Christ Church, Oxford; Ducarel's manuscript catalogue of Wake's papers (Lambeth Library, No. 1133); Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 22880; Jervis's Hist. of the Church of France, 1872, ii. 425–41; Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, ed. Maclaine, 1811, vol. vi. Appendix iv.; D'un Projet d'Union, 1864; Oxford Essays, 1857, pp. 96–7; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. viii. 197; Courayer's Validity of the Ordinations, 1844, pp. xvii sqq., xliv, xlv; others cited by Professor Mayor in the article above referred to.]

Archbishop of Canterbury, 1716-37.

William Wake (26 January 1657 – 24 January 1737) was a priest in the Church of England and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1716 until his death in 1737.


Wake was born in Blandford Forum, Dorset, and educated at Christ Church, Oxford. He took orders, and in 1682 went to Paris as chaplain to the ambassador Richard Graham, Viscount Preston (1648–1695). Here he became acquainted with many of the savants of the capital, and was much interested in French clerical affairs. He also collated some Paris manuscripts of the Greek New Testament for John Fell, bishop of Oxford.

He returned to England in 1685; in 1688 he became preacher at Gray's Inn, and in 1689 he received a canonry of Christ Church, Oxford. In 1693 he was appointed rector of St James's, Westminster. Ten years later he became Dean of Exeter, and in 1705 he was consecrated bishop of Lincoln. He was translated to the see of Canterbury in 1716 on the death of Thomas Tenison. Tenison had been his mentor, and was responsible for his obtaining his bishopric, despite the notable reluctance of Queen Anne, who regarded the appointment of bishops as her prerogative and distrusted Tenison's judgment. During 1718 he negotiated with leading French churchmen about a projected union of the Gallican and English churches to resist the claims of Rome. In dealing with Nonconformism he was tolerant, and even advocated a revision of the Prayer Book if that would allay the scruples of dissenters.

His writings are numerous, the chief being his State of the Church and Clergy of England ... historically deduced (London, 1703). In these writings he produced a massive defence of Anglican Orders and again disproved the Nag's Head Fable by citing a number of documentary sources. The work was written in part as a refutation of the arguments of the "high church" opposition to the perceived erastian policies of King William and the then Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Tenison. He died at his official home, Lambeth Palace.

Manuscripts collection

To the collection of manuscripts belonged minuscule manuscripts of the New Testament: 73, 74, 506-520. These manuscripts came from Constantinople to England about 1731.

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Most Rev William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury's Timeline

January 26, 1657
Blandford Forum, Dorset, England, United Kingdom
January 24, 1737
Age 79
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Croydon, Greater London, England, United Kingdom