William Bedell

1627 – 1629 (c.1571-1642)

William BedellWilliam Bedell was a graduate of Cambridge and held a fellowship at Emmanuel College.1 From 1607 to 1610 he had been chaplain to Sir Henry Wotton, the British ambassador to Venice, where he had acted as theological mentor to the leader of the anti-papal party. He was a highly cultured and scholarly man who came somewhat reluctantly to the provostship from a country rectory in Suffolk.

He set about restoring discipline among the Fellows and students, especially in regard to Chapel observances. He produced a complete and ordered version of the statutes. He instituted the reading of a chapter from the Bible during Commons, composed the College’s Latin graces, prescribed that no married man should be admitted Fellow or Scholar, and formalised Temple’s distinction between Senior and Junior Fellows by explicitly excluding Juniors from the government of the College and the election of a Provost.

Posterity has tended to regard Bedell’s fostering of Irish studies as his most forward looking measure. This was not primarily motivated by literary or historical considerations but by a desire to give ordinands the ability to preach to the native Irish in their own language. Bedell’s tenure ended in 1629 when he was appointed Bishop of Kilmore.

  1. J.V. Luce, Trinity College Dublin, The First 400 Years (Dublin, 1992), pp 14-6.