Calybute Downing

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Calybute Downing (1606–1644) was an English clergyman, a member of the Westminster Assembly. Also a civil lawyer, he is now remembered for political views, which moved from an absolutist position in the 1630s to a justification of resistance to authority by 1640, within a contractarian setting.[1]


He was son of Calybute Downing of Sherrington in Gloucestershire, and Elizabeth Morrison née Wingfield who married in Dec. 1604 at Tinwell, Rutland [ref.DE2271/1 Tinwell, Rutland]. He was baptised 27 Oct. 1605 St. Andrews, at Northborough, Northamptonshire . He became a commoner of Oriel College, Oxford, in 1623, and proceeded B. A. in 1626; he then left Oxford and would seem to have been curate at Quainton, Buckinghamshire, where on 2 December 1627 he married Margaret, the daughter of Richard Brett the rector. In 1630, having entered Peterhouse, Cambridge, he proceeded M.A., and in 1637 LL. D.[2]

In 1632 he was made rector of Ickford, Buckinghamshire, and about the same time of West Ilsley, Berkshire, and was an unsuccessful competitor against Gilbert Sheldon for the wardenship of All Souls' College, Oxford. In 1637 he resigned West Ilsley for the vicarage of Hackney, London. According to Anthony Wood, he aimed at a chaplaincy to Thomas Wentworth, and so wrote in favour of episcopacy. In 1640, preaching before the Artillery Company of London on 1 September, he stated that for defence of religion and reformation of the church it was lawful to take up arms against the king. A Letter from Mercurius Civicus to Mercurius Rusticus (1643) comments that Downing on this occasion was acting for Puritan leaders to test opinion, and that after preaching the sermon he went to the house of Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick at Little Lees, Essex. Wood adds that he became chaplain to Lord Robartes's regiment in the Earl of Essex's army.

On 31 August 1642 he preached a fast sermon before the House of Commons; and on 20 June 1643 he was appointed by parliament one of the licensers of books of divinity. In 1643 he took the Solemn League and Covenant and was made one of the Westminster Assembly; he sided with the Independents. He resigned Hackney in 1643, and died suddenly in 1644.


He published at Oxford in 1632 A Discourse of the State Ecclesiastical of this Kingdom in relation to the Civil; dedicated to William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Salisbury as from his chaplain. A second edition appeared in 1634.

He published also:

  • A Discoverie of the False Grounds the Bavarian party have layd, to settle their own Faction and to shake the Peace of the Empire, considered in the Case of the Deteinure of the Prince Elector Palatine, his Dignities and Dominions, with a Discourse upon the Interest of England in that Cause, 1641; this is dedicated to the House of Commons.
  • Considerations towards a Peaceable Reformation in Matters Ecclesiastical, 1641.
  • The Cleere Antithesis, or Diametrall Opposition betweene Presbytery and Prelacy; wherein is apparently demonstrated whether Government be most consonant and agreeable to the Word of God, 1644.


  1. J. P. Sommerville, Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640 (1986), p. 37, p. 68 and p. 74.
  2. "Downing, Calibute (DWNN623C)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain[ "Downing, Calybute" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>