John Cosin

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John Cosin
Bishop of Durham
An engraving of a middle-aged white man in clerical robes and cap.
An engraving of Cosin as Bishop of Durham.
Diocese Diocese of Durham
In office 1660–1672
Predecessor Thomas Morton (before the Interregnum)
Successor Nathaniel Crew
Other posts Archdeacon of the East Riding (1625–1660)
Master of Peterhouse (1635–1643)
Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University (1639–1640)
Dean of Peterborough (November 1640–1660)
Master of Peterhouse (1660)
Consecration 1660
Personal details
Born (1594-11-30)30 November 1594
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Westminster, Middlesex, England
Buried 29 April 1672, Auckland Castle chapel
Nationality English
Denomination Anglican
Parents Giles Cosin
Spouse Frances (m. 1626–1642)
Children 3 sons & 2 daughters
Profession theologian, writer
Education Norwich Grammar School
Alma mater Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

John Cosin (30 November 1594–15 January 1672) was an English churchman.


He was born at Norwich, and was educated at Norwich School and at Caius College, Cambridge, where he was scholar and afterwards fellow.[1] On taking orders he was appointed secretary to John Overall, Bishop of Lichfield, and then domestic chaplain to Richard Neile, Bishop of Durham. In December 1624 he was made a prebendary of Durham, and on 9 September 1625[2] Archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire (until 1660).

In 1630 he received his degree of Doctor of Divinity (DD). He first became known as an author in 1627, when he published his Collection of Private Devotions, a manual stated to have been prepared by command of King Charles I, for the use of Queen Henrietta Maria's maids of honour. This book, together with his insistence on points of ritual in his cathedral church and his friendship with William Laud, exposed Cosin to the hostility of the Puritans; and the book was criticised by William Prynne and Henry Burton. In 1628 Cosin took part in the prosecution of a brother prebendary, Peter Smart, for a sermon against high church practices; and the prebendary was deprived.

On 8 February 1635 Cosin was appointed master of Peterhouse, Cambridge; and in 1640 he became Vice-Chancellor of the University. In October of this year he was promoted to the deanery of Peterborough. A few days before his installation the Long Parliament had met; and among the complainants who hastened to appeal to it for redress was the ex-prebendary, Smart. His petition against the new dean was considered; and early in 1641 Cosin was sequestered from his benefices. Articles of impeachment were presented against him two months later, but he was dismissed on bail. For sending the university plate to the king, he was deprived of the mastership of Peterhouse (13 March 1643).[3][4] He went to France, preached at Paris, and served as chaplain to some members of the household of the exiled royal family. At the Restoration he returned to England, was reinstated in the mastership (3 August 1660),[4] restored to all his benefices, and in a few months raised to the see of Durham – he therefore resigned from the Mastership of Peterhouse on 18 October 1660.[4] He was elected to that See on 5 November, which election was confirmed on 22 November;[5] he was duly consecrated a bishop on 2 December[6] and enthroned on 8 December 1660.[5]

Cosin was responsible for a style of church woodwork unique to County Durham, a sumptuous fusion of gothic and contemporary Jacobean forms. The font cover in Durham Cathedral is a splendid example of this, as are the displays in the churches at Sedgefield and elsewhere. The Cosin woodwork at Brancepeth has sadly been destroyed by fire.

At the convocation in 1661 Cosin played a prominent part in the revision of the prayer-book, and endeavoured with some success to bring both prayers and rubrics into better agreement with ancient liturgies. He administered his diocese successfully for eleven years; and used a large share of his revenues to promote the interests of the Church, of schools and of charitable institutions.

He died in London in 1672. He had married Frances (d. 25 March 1642), the daughter of Marmaduke Blakiston[7] on 15 August 1626 at St Margaret's, Durham.[6]


Though a classical high churchman and a rigorous enforcer of outward conformity, Cosin was uncompromisingly hostile to Roman Catholicism, and most of his writings illustrate this antagonism. In France he was on friendly terms with Huguenots, justifying himself on the ground that their non-episcopal ordination had not been of their own seeking, and at the Savoy conference in 1661 he tried hard to effect a reconciliation with the Presbyterians. He differed from the majority of his colleagues in his strict attitude towards Sunday observance and in favouring, in the case of adultery, both divorce and the remarriage of the innocent party.


Among his writings (most of which were published posthumously) are a Historia Transubstantiationis Papalis (1675), Notes and Collections on the Book of Common Prayer (1710) and A Scholastical History of the Canon of Holy Scripture (1657). A collected edition of his works, forming 5 vols of the Oxford Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology, was published between 1843 and 1855; and his Correspondence (2 vols) was edited by Canon Ornsby for the Surtees Society (1868–1870).

Styles and titles


  1. "Cosin, John (CSN610J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Appointment Record: Cosin, John (at York) in "CCEd, the Clergy of the Church of England database" (Accessed online, 8 September 2014)
  3. Walker, John (1863). Robert Whittaker (ed.). The sufferings of the clergy of the Church of England during the great rebellion. London. p. 169. Retrieved 26 January 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Roach, J.P.C. (ed.) A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3: The City and University of Cambridge. Chapter: The colleges and halls: Peterhouse; section: Masters of Peterhouse. Accessed 8 September 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 Horn, Joyce M.; Smith, David M.; Mussett, Patrick, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541–1857, 11, pp. 73–77CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Cosin, John". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/6372.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. The baptismal, marriage, and burial registers of the Cathedral church of Christ and Blessed Mary the virgin at Durham, 1609–1896. |access-date= requires |url= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Academic offices
Preceded by
Matthew Wren
Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Lazarus Seaman
Preceded by
Lazarus Seaman
Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Bernard Hale
Church of England titles
Title last held by
Thomas Morton
Bishop of Durham
Succeeded by
Nathaniel Crew
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Thomas Belasyse,
2nd Viscount Fauconberg
Lord Lieutenant of Durham
Succeeded by
in Commission