William Chappell

1634 – 1640 (c.1582 – 1649)

William Chappell’s appointment as Provost restored the almost unbroken pattern of Cambridge men as early heads of the College.1 He had been a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge since 1607, where he had tutored John Milton. He had been promoted to the deanery of Cashel the year before his appointment as Provost.

The Fellows were against the appointment and only reluctantly elected him on the direct orders of the Lord Deputy, Thomas Wentworth, and the Chancellor, William Laud, who was also Archbishop of Canterbury. Laud had accepted the chancellorship in 1637 on the condition that he was given a free hand in revising the statutes of the College, having by this time almost completed a similar task on the Oxford statutes.2 Laud had Chappell in mind to help with Trinity.

Soon after taking office Chappell discontinued the teaching of Irish.3 He facilitated Laud’s revision of the College statutes most notable of which was the removal of College’s right to elect to the provostship and the absolute right of the Provost and the Fellows to make statutes and ordinances for the due government of the College. Instead, these rights were now formally vested in the Crown. The government of the College by the Provost and seven most Senior Fellows was confirmed.

The Provost and most of the Fellows were bound to celibacy and were also required to be in holy orders. The number of Scholars ‘on the Foundation’ was fixed at seventy, a feature of Trinity’s constitution that still survives unchanged.

On Trinity Monday, 5 June 1637, the Provost and all the existing Fellows and Scholars individually pledged themselves to obey the new statutes. Trinity Monday was also appointed as the day when all future elections to fellowship and scholarship would be made, and this too has proved an enduring feature of Trinity life.

Chappell was appointed Bishop of Cork and Ross in June 1638, but Wentworth and Laud insisted on his remaining in the provostship, even though this was in clear violation of the statutes he had sworn to uphold the year before. However he was anxious to resign and did so on 20 July 1640, when arrangements for the induction of his successor had been completed.

  1. J.V. Luce, Trinity College Dublin, The First 400 Years (Dublin, 1992), pp 17-9.
  2. R.B. McDowell & D.A. Webb, Trinity College Dublin 1592-1952, An academic history (Dublin, 1982) pp 13-16.
  3. J.V. Luce, Trinity College Dublin, The First 400 Years (Dublin, 1992), pp 17-9.