Thomas Herring

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Thomas Herring
Archbishop of Canterbury
Installed 1747
Term ended 1757
Predecessor John Potter
Successor Matthew Hutton
Personal details
Born 1693
Walsoken, Norfolk
Died 23 March 1757
Alma mater Jesus College, Cambridge

Thomas Herring (1693 – 23 March 1757) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1747 to 1757.

Early life and education

He was the son of John Herring, rector of Walsoken in Norfolk, who had previously been vicar of Foxton, near Cambridge, and his wife, Martha Potts.[1] He was educated at Wisbech Grammar School and later Jesus College, Cambridge.[2] At Cambridge, he was a contemporary of Matthew Hutton, who succeeded him in turn in each of his dioceses. He received his MA in 1717 and was a fellow at Corpus Christi College from 1716 to 1723.[3]


Herring became a close friend of Philip Yorke, the Solicitor General, who would later, as Lord Hardwicke, serve for many years as Lord Chancellor, and as such, was able to advance quickly. In 1728 he became Doctor of Divinity and a chaplain to George II, and in 1737 he was appointed Bishop of Bangor.

Archbishopric of York

In 1743 he became Archbishop of York. On 23 September 1745, during the Jacobite rising, Herring gave a rousing sermon which, as Paul Langford notes, "captured the patriotic imagination as nothing previously had. It was to remain long in the collective mind of patriotic Protestantism".[4] At a speech at York Castle on 24 September, Herring said:

...these Commotions in the North are but Part of a Great Plan concerted for our Ruin—They have begun under the Countenance, and will be supported by the Forces of France and Spain, our old and inveterate, (and late Experience calls upon me to add, our savage and blood-thirsty) Enemies—A Circumstance that should fire the Indignation of every honest Englishman. If these Designs should succeed, and Popery and Arbitrary Power come in upon us, under the Influence and Direction of these two Tyrannical and Corrupted Courts, I leave you to reflect, what would become of every Thing that is valuable to us! We are now bless'd with the mild Administration of a Just and Protestant King, who is of so strict an Adherence to the Laws of our Country, that not an Instance can be pointed out, during his whole reign, wherein he made the least Attempt upon the Liberty, or Property, or Religion, of a single Person. But if the Ambition and Pride of France and Spain, is to dictate to us, we must submit to a Man to govern us under their hated and accursed Influence, who brings his Religion from Rome, and Rules and Maxims of his Government from Paris and Madrid.[5]

Horace Walpole said this speech "had as much true spirit, honesty and bravery in it as ever was penned by an historian for an ancient hero".[6] When Lord Hardwicke, the Lord Chancellor, repeated the speech's contents to King George II, the King ordered that the speech be printed in the Gazette. After Hardwicke enquired whether he should send Herring a message containing the King's admiration of "his zeal and activity", the King said this was not enough: " must also tell the Archbishop that I heartily thank him for it".[7]

Herring organised Yorkshire into resistance against the Jacobites by raising volunteers and money. Herring's behaviour during the rebellion had demonstrated that he was "a resolute Whig, a brave Briton, and a commanding prelate".[8] Herring supported the Walpoleon Whigs because he viewed the Protestant Succession embodied in the House of Hanover as essential to Britain: "Let us remember that, next under God, Union at Home, and Loyalty and Affection to the King and his Royal Family, are our great and sure Defence".[9] He was also deeply suspicious of France as a Roman Catholic nation and a threat to the British nation.[10]

Archbishopric of Canterbury

In 1747, he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. There he generally followed the lead of his friend the Lord Chancellor, and frequently came into disputes with the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of State. Herring, like his immediate predecessor, had taken a generally Hanoverian side through the Bangorian controversy and stood against the convocation.

Herring is generally credited as being the author of "A New Form of Common Prayer", published anonymously in 1753 in response to John Jones' "Candid Disquisitions" (1749). However, as a conciliator he eschewed controversy and rejoiced that he was "called up to this high station, at a time, when spite, and rancour, and bitterness of spirit are out of countenance; when we breathe the benign and comfortable air of liberty and toleration."[11]

He died in 1757 and was buried in Croydon Minster in Surrey.


  2. "Thomas Herring (HRN710T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. A biographical dictionary of America by the Rev. John L. Blake, 1788–1857]
  4. Paul Langford, A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727–1783 (Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 202–3.
  5. Thomas Herring, A Sermon Preach'd at the Cathedral Church of York. September, the 22d, 1745: On Occasion of the present Rebellion in Scotland (York, 1745), pp. 28–29.
  6. W. A. Speck, The Butcher. The Duke of Cumberland and the Suppression of the 45 (Welsh Academic Press, 1995), p. 55.
  7. Speck, p. 56.
  8. Reed Browning, ‘Thomas Herring, the Court Whig as Pastor’, Political and Constitutional Ideas of the Court Whigs (Louisiana State University Press, 1982) p. 90.
  9. Browning, p. 100.
  10. Browning, pp. 104–5.
  11. Letter to William Duncombe, quoted by E. Carpenter in "Cantuar" p243 -Mowbray, Oxford, 1988.

Further reading

  • R. Garnett, 'Correspondence of Archbishop Herring and Lord Hardwicke during the Rebellion of 1745', English Historical Review, XIX (1904), pp. 529–31.
  • Aldred W. Rowden The Primates of the Four Georges (London, 1916), pp. 167–229.
Church of England titles
Preceded by
Charles Cecil
Bishop of Bangor
Succeeded by
Matthew Hutton
Preceded by
Lancelot Blackburne
Archbishop of York
Preceded by
John Potter
Archbishop of Canterbury