Historical records matching William Bill
About William Bill
Dr. William Bill, d. 1561, the first Dean of Westminster after the establishment of the Abbey as a Collegiate Church by Elizabeth in 1560. A brass figure of " an antient man in a doctor's habit," with a laudatory inscription in Latin verse, rests on the low altar tomb. Another inscription in brass letters surrounded the ledge, but little of this remains.
From the book "Antiquities of Westminster Abbey":
THE MONUMENT OF WILLIAM BILL, D.D., Dean Of
Westminster, ob. 16th July, 1561.
iff TBE CHAPEL OF ST. BENEDICT. i
An altar tomb, situated on the west side of St. Benedict's Chapel, eastward of the South Transept, is covered with a marble slab, inlaid with a portrait in brass, and indents which formerly contained shields of arms, to the memory of Doctor William Bill, the first Dean of Westminster, on Queen Elizabeth's Foundation. Round the verge is this inscription.
HIC JACET GVLIELMVS BILL,
SACR i: THEOLOGIZE DOCTOR,
DECANVS WESTMENASTERII PRIMARIIIS,
COLLE6II TRINITATIS, APVT CANTABRIGIAM, PRJEFECTVS,
ET SERENISSIM.E REGIN.fi ELIZABETHS SVMMVS ELEIMOSINARIVS,
OBIIT XV. JVLII, ANNO SALVTIS MDLXI.
In the centre of the slab, on the top of the monument, is the portrait of the Dean, in his Doctor's gown and hood, with his hands raised as in prayer. The figure, although not very well drawn, is curious, for the costume, and as the only accredited portrait of the learned Prelate, who was one of the persons selected by Queen Elizabeth to restore the " Book of Common Prayer,"* at her accession to the throne.
The Abbot and Monks were finally removed from Westminster, on the 12th of July, 1559, and a Collegiate Church founded by the Queen's Charter, dated 21st of May, 1560. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and the Dean of St. Paul's, were the Commissioners who gave possession to the Dean and Prebendaries, and the latter were solemnly installed, on the 30th of June, in the same year.
Doctor William Bill, selected by Queen Elizabeth for the first Dean on her Foundation, was born at Ashwell, in Hertfordshire, and completed his education at St. John's College, Cambridge, of which he was admitted Fellow in 1523. In 1542 he was made Greek Professor in that University, and Master of St. John's College, in 1546. He resigned the latter in 1551, being appointed Master of Trinity College, by King Edward VI., on whose death he was expelled by Queen Mary, but was reinstated as soon as Elizabeth ascended the throne. By this Queen he was made Provost of Eton College, and constituted her High Almoner.*
He enjoyed the office of Dean of Westminster but a short time, as he died 15th of July, 1561. The following commendatory lines are placed under his figure, on the slab.
BILLVS ET IPSE BONVS FV1T ET VIRTVT1S AMAIOR,
ET COLVIT DOCT0S*DOCTVS ET IPSE FU1T.
OFFICII CVSTOS ERAT, ATQ : MAGISTER HONESTI,
ET BENE PERFICIT MVLTA l.OQVENDO PARVV.
PATRIA PRVDENTKM, FIDVM REGINA MINISTRY.
PERDIDIT ET PATREM PAVPER ABISSE GEMIT.
ET TRIA TALE CAPVT COLLEGIA MESTA RELIQVIT,
QVALE D1V RVRSVS NON HABITVRA KEOB.
AVT EGO DELEAI N1MIV, DVM V1VERET, 1LLVM ;
AVT PATRIE MAGNO CONCIDIT IPSE MALO.
Doctor Bill drew up Statutes for the government of the Abbey Church, which, it appears, had not obtained the Royal assent, at the death of his successor, Dean Goodman, in 1601.
At each corner of the monument was formerly a small shield, containing arms: these have all been purloined, and the indents only remain. When the drawing for the Plate was made, the shield upon the sinister side, at the top of the slab, was perfect, and contained the arms of Bill, viz., Ermine, two wood-bills in Saltier, on a chief, a pale between two pelicans' heads, erased, charged with a rose, barbed and seeded. The arms of the Deanery of Westminster, which most probably occupied the dexter shield at the top, are thus blazoned:—Azure, a cross patonce between five martlets, or, on a chief of the last, a pale, quarterly, of France and England, between two roses, barbed, vert, seeded.
Master of St. John's College 1547. Then D.D. and Vice Chancellor of the University. Master of Trinity College and Chaplain to King Edward VI (1551). Dr. Bill lost all these positions during the reign of Queen Mary I. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I he was restored to Master of Trinity College (1559) and became a Fellow and then Provost of Eton College. In 1560 he became the first Dean of Westminster Abbey.
Did William Bill marry? The official history at Westminster Abbey (see below) says no but some amateur sources suggest that he did marry ca 1542 and actually had three children, Mary ca 1543, William ca 1547, and Charles ca 1550.
He is listed on www.westminster-abbey.org among names of people buried or commemorated there:
William was a son of John and Margaret Bill of Ashwell in the county of Hertfordshire. His brothers were John, a lawyer of Ashwell and Thomas, M.D. (died 1552), physician to Henry VIII and Edward VI. His sisters were Mary, who married Francis Samwell and Elizabeth, who married Thomas Gosnold. William was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, becoming Master there and Doctor of Divinity in 1547. He was elected Master of Trinity College in 1551, became Lord High Almoner 1558-61 and assisted Archbishop Parker in revising the liturgy of Edward VI. He was installed as Dean of Westminster 30 June 1560 (the first Dean since Elizabeth I established the Abbey as a Collegiate Church). But he died the following year and was buried in the chapel of St Benedict, where his small figure in brass on a low tomb still remains. He was not married.
The inscription around the edge of the tomb can be translated: "Here lies William Bill, D.D., Dean of Westminster, President of Eton College and head of Trinity in Cambridge, and Chief Almoner to the most serene princess Queen Elizabeth. He died 15 July 1561." The inscription on the brass plate below his effigy can be translated as "Bill was himself a good man and a lover of virtue; he taught the learned and was himself learned. He was careful of his office and a teacher of probity. He accomplished many things well by speaking little. The country has lost a prudent and the Queen a faithful servant, and the poor man laments at his father's passing. And their Head has left three colleges mournful, a Head such as I deem they will not have again for a long time. Either I loved him too much while he lived, or he was a great loss to his country when he died." The epitaph was obviously written by someone who knew him well. Originally there were four shields with coats of arms but all have now disappeared from the tomb. In heraldic terms his arms are ermine, two bills (or billhooks) in saltire proper, on a chief azure, between two pelicans heads erased argent, a pale of the last charged with a rose gules (ie. two silver pelicans heads between a red rose at the top of the shield, with two crossed billhooks on an ermine background below).
•Name: William Bill
•Given Name: William
•Birth: abt. 1505 in Ashwell, Hertsford, England
•Death: 15 Jul 1561
•Burial: Westminister Abby, London, London, England
LDS Archive-Research of Mildred Boyd.
History of Bill Family by Ledyard Bill, e. N.Y., 1867
The name Bill derived from the "Battle-Axe" or "Bill men," the middle grade of soldiers in the British army, many years before 1300 AD. Surnames were not in use much before 1300 AD. Our name oldest in England, being traced to a county (Shropshire) for a period of about 500 years. First of whom we have any special account is Dr. Thomas Bills M.D.born about 1490 in Bedfordshire, England, attended Princess Elizabeth in 1549. Physician to King Henry VIII, Edward VI (md. Agness.) Dr. Bill's will bears date June1, 1551--probably brother of John Bill and also near relative of Dr. Thomas Bill M.D. (maybe first cousin.)
In 1547 William Bill received his D.D. degree; in 1551 he was appointed Master of Trinity College. Shortly after the Accession of Queen Mary he was ejected from the mastership in a rude manner and he went into retirement during the reign of Queen Mary. There was a conflict of religion at the time; Dr. Bill was protestant and the Queen was Catholic. Confusion reigned. Many went into exile or were driven and many were martyered. Then came th reign of Queen Elizabeth. Dr. Bill was given back the Mastership at Trinity. He died 15 July 1561, buried at Westminister Abbey. His daughter, Mary married Frances Samwell, Auditor to King Henry VII. Their son and heir Sir William Samwell received Knighthood at the Coronation of King James 1. Sir William Married Jane, daughter Sir Henry Skipworth. Charles Bill born about 1550 in London, believed to be the son of the proceeding was educated and received his B.A. & M.A. degrees.
John Bill, baptized 1576, born in Parish of Much Wedlock, and son of Charles Bill, were the publishers of the 1st King James version of the Bible and prayer books. No one was allowed to print these excpect by Royal permission. Published in 1611. John Bill married (1) Ann Mountford, daughter of Thomas Douglass, b. 1538, d. 1621 at age 33, buried at St. Faiths, at Paul's; he married (2) Joan Franklin, daughter of Henry Throwley, in Kent. John Bill's will dated 1630. No death date is given. Listed in the will are there children: John, Ann, Charles and Henry. Also listed are a supposed brother, William and supposed nephews Thomas and John. John Bill, son of printer John Bill, was a grown man in 1630 and may be the John and Dorothy Bill, first Bill family to come to America. Bill's had a Coat of Arms but no Crest.
•Change Date: 19 Feb 2008 at 16:53:27
Marriage 1 Mrs. William Bills b: ABT 1505 in London, London, England
•Married: 1542 in , , England
•Note: Bills Genealogy. Research of Brian Crittenden
1. Charles Bill b: abt. 1550 in London, London, England
2. Nearly Bill
3. William Bill b: 1547 in London, London, England
Resided in Hertfordshire, England. Chaplain of King Edward. Dean of West Minster June 30, 1560. Interred at West Minster Abbey. See Bill Information.