CREIGHTON, Robert (1593-1672)

CREIGHTON, Robert (1593–1672)

cons. 19 June 1670 bp. of BATH AND WELLS

Never sat.

b. 1593, s. of Thomas Creighton and Margaret Stuart. educ. Westminster; Trinity, Camb. BA 1618, Fell. 1619, MA 1621; incorp. Oxf. 1628; DD 1643. m. Frances (c.1615–83), da. of William Walrond of Ile Brewers, Som. sis of Amos Walrond. 3s. 1da. d. 21 Nov. 1672; will 17 Nov., pr. 31 Dec. 1672.1

Chap. to Charles I, 1645.

Preb. Caistor, Lincoln 1632–70, Taunton, Wells 1632–60; treas. Wells 1632–60; rect. Huggate, Yorks. 1641, St Burian’s, Cornw. 1642–5, 1660-?, Uplowman, Devon 1664–70; vic. Greenwich 1642, Cheddar, Som. 1665–70; dean, Wells 1660–70.

Regius prof. Greek, Camb. 1625–39; public orator, Camb. 1627–39.

Also associated with: Dunkeld, Perth, Scotland.

Likenesses: oil on canvas, Bishops’ Palace, Wells, Som.

Distantly related to the crown by kinship to the Stuart earls of Atholl, the court favourite Robert Creighton was an ardent royalist during the civil wars. Imprisoned and sequestered, he eventually joined the king at Oxford as one of his chaplains, thereafter escaping to join the court in exile.2 At The Hague, with his expertise in classics and ‘a great deal of combative orthodoxy’ going to waste, he became tutor to the son of Sir Ralph Verney, whose admiration for Creighton was such that he once wrote that if it were in his power he would make Creighton pope.3 He was also set to work by Edward Hyde, later earl of Clarendon, on a History of the Council of Florence. Creighton, uncomfortable in exile, complained that he would have been ‘better used among … cannibals than at the Hague’ but praised his benefactors, including the ‘miraculous good man’ William Sancroft, later archbishop of Canterbury.4 A prominent figure in exile, he debated with Jesuits, ministered to assembled royalty, and prefaced his Council of Florence with historical precedents for the Church of England.

In May 1660 he was still at The Hague, engrossed in his studies, but soon returned to become dean of Wells, a post that had been projected for him in Hyde’s planning lists for the restored Church.5 In June he petitioned for the Cornish living from which he had been ejected and secured an order from the House of Lords to protect the profits until the legal position had been decided.6 Over the next decade he disbursed over £2,000 on public and charitable projects and spent liberally on the cathedral.7 He was a popular preacher at court, Evelyn finding him ‘a most eloquent man’ with ‘extraordinary’ talent.8 In March 1662 Samuel Pepys was similarly swayed with his comic skill when Creighton protested that the returning ‘poor Cavalier’ was treated worse than a Newgate prisoner.9

As a royal chaplain, Creighton habitually delivered ‘honest’ and ‘severe’ sermons, vilifying Dissenters and ‘puritan’ lay magistrates and lamenting the bishops’ lack of effective authority. In January 1661 he even criticized the king, suggesting that is was ‘below the majesty of a king to appear in common playhouses’. He even called into question English courage in the face of Dutch aggression.10 In 1669, as dean of Wells, he was involved in a jurisdictional dispute between William Piers, bishop of Bath and Wells,and the cathedral chapter, during which he castigated the prebends’ ‘sullen stubborness’ while blaming the elderly and absentee Piers ‘for leaving his church in this confusion’. His role in the dispute did not endear him to Gilbert Sheldon, then bishop of London, who resented the adverse publicity generated by such open quarrels in the Church.11

With Creighton long regarded as the natural successor to Piers, in the summer of 1670 the king assented to his election as bishop of Bath and Wells, the first Scotsman to hold an English bishopric. The king also presented Creighton’s son and namesake to his father’s former Devonshire rectory and authorized the new bishop to pay his first fruits over four years.12 Creighton almost immediately became involved in another local dispute, this time with William Piers, his predecessor’s son, who had sublet his canonical house with the tacit approval of his father. So disgraceful did Creighton consider such conduct that he was convinced ‘Dr Piers’ example will do more mischief than all the wicked times of usurpation’.13

In his late seventies and suffering from the ‘tearing vigorous disease’ which he attributed to drinking ‘strong old Rhenish’ wine when in exile in Cologne, Creighton never took his seat in the Lords. On 7 Oct. 1670 he gave his proxy to his fellow royalist exile Benjamin Lany, of Ely.14 On 17 Nov. 1672, he made a nuncupative will; among other bequests, he left his library to his son Robert (who followed in his father’s footsteps as a royal chaplain, precentor of Wells, and scourge of Dissenters) and the diamond ring presented to him by the queen of Sweden to his daughter, Katherine, married to Francis Poulett, son of John Poulett, Baron Poulett. Creighton died on 21 Nov. 1672 and was buried in Wells cathedral, where a ‘ponderous’ marble tomb and effigy of Creighton’s own design were erected.15


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/340.
  • 2 VCH Som. ii. 48; Walker Revised, 96.
  • 3 Verney ms mic. M636, E. to Sir Ralph Verney, 30 Dec. 1667.
  • 4 Harl. 3783, f. 236; CCSP, iv. 85, 101, 130, 180, 321, 424, 439, 464–5; v. 1.
  • 5 Bodl. Clarendon 72, f. 106; Eg. 2542, ff. 267, 270.
  • 6 HMC 7th Rep. 105, 129; LJ xi. 149.
  • 7 Bodl. Tanner 140, f. 5; Tanner 150, f. 45; HMC Wells, ii. 495.
  • 8 Evelyn Diary, iii. 304, 623–4.
  • 9 Pepys Diary, iii. 42–43.
  • 10 Lansd. 986, ff. 96–97; Rawdon pprs. 138.
  • 11 Tanner 140, ff. 8, 31, 34, 36.
  • 12 CSP Dom. 1670 and Addenda 1660–1670, pp. 195, 246, 306, 342.
  • 13 Bodl. Add. C305, ff. 27, 29, 31; Tanner 140, f. 23.
  • 14 Bodl. Add. C305, f. 27.
  • 15 S.H. Cassan, Lives of the Bishops of Bath and Wells, ii. 72.