FOWLER, Edward (1632-1714)

FOWLER, Edward (1632–1714)

cons. 5 July 1691 bp. of GLOUCESTER

First sat 6 Nov. 1691; last sat 21 June 1714

b. 1632, 3rd s. of Richard Fowler (d.1681), minister of Westerleigh, Glos. educ. College Sch. Gloucester; Corpus Christi Oxf., matric. 1650, BA 1653, BD 1681, DD 1681; Trinity Coll. Camb., MA 1656. m. (1) Ann (d. 19 Dec. 1696), da. of Arthur Barnardiston, master in chancery, 3s. (1 d.v.p.), 5da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) Elizabeth (d. 2 Apr. 1732), da. of Ralph Trevor, merchant of London, wid. of Hezekiah Burton, clergyman. d. 26 Aug. 1714; will 14 Dec. 1706-c. Apr. 1711, pr. 7 Oct. 1714.1

Chap. to Corpus Christi Oxf. 1653, to Amabel, dowager countess of Kent 1656, to William III and Mary II 1689.

Rect. Northill, Beds. 1656-c.1673, All Hallows Bread St London 1673-81; canon Gloucester 1676-91; reader in divinity St Paul’s Cathedral 1680; vic. St Giles Cripplegate 1681-1714.

Mbr. ecclesiastical commn. 1689,2 SPCK 1699,3 Welsh Trust, SPG 1701.4

Also associated with: var. residences in London incl. Warwick Lane, and Little Chelsea, London, 1707-14.

Likenesses: Oil on canvas by Sir G. Kneller, 1711, Northill Parish Church, Beds.; mezzotint by J. Smith aft. Kneller, 1717, NPG D31425.

Fowler was the son of a Gloucestershire clergyman who did not conform to the Church of England in 1662. The Presbyterianism of his family background (and marriage into the nonconformist Barnardiston family) informed his early education and ecclesiastical career and by 1653, he held the chaplaincy of his college because of his talents in extempore prayer.5 It also framed his politics, religious outlook and development into a Whig polemicist. The Cambridge Platonists contributed another strand to Fowler’s intellectual development; a close friend of Henry More (who proved influential in career terms), Fowler was a lifelong believer in fairies, ghosts, and supernatural entities. Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd earl of Shaftesbury, thought Fowler a ‘good Christian prelate’ but was struck by his ability to speak volumes about his belief in fairies.6 Fowler’s economic status is somewhat difficult to unravel. His finances were undoubtedly stretched by ‘numerous’ children and a poor bishopric (he claimed that financial constraints forced him to terminate his subscription to the SPG in 1708).7 Yet by the time of his death in 1714 he held shares in commercial undertakings, government securities and enough capital to bequeath some £3,500 in cash legacies.

Fowler’s first patron was Amabel, dowager countess of Kent, to whose son (Anthony Grey, 11th earl of Kent) he served as tutor, and who secured him a living through the Grocers’ Company.8 In 1662, unlike his father and his brother Stephen, he conformed to the Church of England and moved away from the religious orthodoxy of his roots. A prolific controversialist against Calvinism (especially against John Bunyan), Fowler became an advocate for the Restoration doctrine of holy living as the basis for political loyalty, although, an advocate of accommodation within the Church for Presbyterian Dissenters, he was branded as latitudinarian.9 His anti-Calvinist credentials impressed Gilbert Sheldon, archbishop of London, who in 1673 provided Fowler’s next career move to a City living. By 1676, through the intervention of Henry More and Anne, Lady Conway (wife of Edward Conway, 3rd Viscount Conway), he was promoted into the higher clergy as canon of Gloucester. 10 Apart from his required residencies, he spent his time in his London parish.11

Fowler’s background made him into a supporter of Protestant solidarity, who was prepared to tolerate nonconformity and engaged Dissenters back into the Church. He also had close connections with Presbyterian churchmen, including Richard Baxter, Whig politicians, including Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, and intellectuals, including John Locke and Roger Morrice. Moving to the large, poor and rapidly growing parish of St Giles Cripplegate in 1681 (in the gift of St Paul’s), he provoked the agents of Tory reaction who saw whiggery in his every move. He was the victim of considerable political malice and was blocked from further promotion.12 Yet he was provocative, expressing his visceral hatred of Catholicism by smashing ‘popish’ stained glass in Gloucester Cathedral. Gloucester corporation, enraged by one sermon preached in the summer of 1683, refused to attend the cathedral thereafter if the ‘seditious’ Fowler preached. He was even accused of assault. George Vernon wrote to William Sancroft, archbishop of Canterbury, in Fowler’s defence insisting that Fowler had been misrepresented and that ‘there was nothing in the sermon but what tended to the honour of our church and the security of the peace’. The bishop of Gloucester, Robert Frampton, thought Fowler difficult but loyal, though he was subsequently annoyed when Fowler dedicated the printed sermon to him without his permission. The following year, before Fowler’s anticipated return to Gloucester, Frampton begged Sancroft to counsel Fowler against further stirring. The corporation view was bolstered by Henry Somerset, duke of Beaufort, and in June 1684 the king sent Robert Spencer, 2nd earl of Sunderland, to Sancroft to complain that Fowler kept a seditious vestry in London and ‘discouraged the loyal party’.13 The government became suspicious of Fowler’s links with Philip Wharton, 4th Baron Wharton, and with Robert Ferguson the plotter.14 A case brought against him by some of his parishioners in what had become a deeply politically divided parish complained how he had harboured Dissenters in his parish. Although Fowler regarded it as vexatious, and it was highly political in nature, he was suspended by the Court of Arches for a short period of ten days from 9 Dec. 1685.15

During the reign of James II, Fowler was closely involved in the London clerical campaign against the king’s religious policies.16 He published a series of anti-Catholic tracts, and participated in meetings of the London clergy, and assisted the cause of the Revolution.17 Known to Gilbert Burnet, the future bishop of Salisbury, Fowler was named in Burnet’s list of clerics worthy of promotion.18 Underlining his political significance in the poorer areas of London outside the walls of the city, in the summer of 1689, he was one of three prominent spokesmen (with Charles Mordaunt, earl of Monmouth and later 3rd earl of Peterborough, and Thomas Firmin) to address the workers of Spitalfields who had massed together to present a petition to Parliament protesting against the bill for encouraging the wearing of woollens rather than silks. As a result of the efforts of Fowler and his colleagues the protesters dispersed peacefully.19 Close to John Tillotson, dean of St Paul’s from November 1689, and from 1691 archbishop of Canterbury, Fowler agitated for comprehension and was named to the ecclesiastical commission to review the Prayer Book in 1689. He proved the strongest advocate of comprehension on the commission. Failing in his mission to accommodate nonconformity within the Church of England, he turned his energies to moral reform, both at home and abroad, and to political theology.20 He became a key supporter of the societies for the reformation of manners, in which his connection with Firmin may have been significant. He would consequently incur the hostility of Thomas Tenison, who succeeded Tillotson as archbishop in 1695.21 He was employed as a polemicist by the regime in its quest for legitimacy, publishing two tracts on the ‘semi-official’ doctrine of conquest theory (that William III had obtained the throne by right of conquest in a just war).22 His efforts were rewarded in 1691 when he replaced the deprived Robert Frampton. Fowler was the only thoroughgoing Whig candidate at a time when Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, was chiefly responsible for ecclesiastical preferments. He owed his appointment to Burnet’s nomination as well as to being a member of Tillotson’s circle. His promotion was greeted warmly by Henry Grey, styled Lord Grey (later duke of Kent), grandson of Fowler’s old patron.23 Consecrated in July 1691 at St Mary-Le-Bow, he was dined afterwards at the Mercers’ Chapel (perhaps because his close friend, Thomas Firmin, was a mercer).24 Fowler held his Cripplegate living in commendam for life, and seems to have favoured London over Gloucester.25 Frampton did nothing to encourage the nonjuring schism in the diocese and Fowler procured for his predecessor a substantial living worth an annual £200, ‘better than the thirds of the bishopric’.26

At a call of the House on 2 Nov. 1691, Fowler was noted as absent, but he took his seat four days later, embarking on a parliamentary career in which he attended consistently (between 30 and 55 per cent of sittings) for every session until the accession of Queen Anne. Thereafter, his parliamentary career went into retreat; of the 13 sessions held during Anne’s 12-year reign, Fowler attended a total of only 58 days. During this first, 1691-2, session, Fowler was named to no committees.

Fowler arrived at the House 13 days into the start of the 1692-3 session in November 1692 and attended nearly 49 per cent of sittings. He was named to two committees, both on private bills, one of them (7 Jan. 1693) concerning the sale of the office of warden of the Fleet. In December 1692 and January 1693, he opposed both the committal and the passage of the place bill. The session ended on 14 Mar. 1693. During 1693 Fowler launched his attempt to deal with the arguments of Socinianism, which would embroil him in a lengthy pamphlet controversy.27 In November 1693, he again arrived 13 days into the autumn session and once more attended for 49 per cent of sittings. He was named to three committees, one on coin clipping, and two on private bills. On 22 Jan. 1694 he was ordered to preach the martyrdom sermon on the 30th and was thanked by the House the following day.

Fowler took his seat at the opening of the following session on 12 Nov. 1694. He attended 44 per cent of sittings and was named to six committees, including that to consider the order of procession for the funeral of the recently deceased Queen Mary. He was also named to the committee to consider a prohibition of trade with France, and to the committee for privileges. On 26 Nov. he was excused attendance from the House. He was back in the chamber by 10 Dec. to register his dissent from the order to reverse the judgment in the writ of error in the cause Phillips v. Bury.

In spite of his position in Gloucester, Fowler continued to expand his ministry at St Giles Cripplegate. He gave further support to the voluntary movement by permitting the church to be used by a group of devout laymen, led by Edward Stephens, a figure of some significance in the moral reform movement, who wanted to celebrate private communion.28 Fowler’s unorthodox policy in this instance brought him yet more criticism. Unabashed, he was far more concerned at the political threat from Socinians (‘many of whom are known to be no lovers of the present government’) and he formulated a set of queries in preparation for a coherent intellectual defence of the Church.29

By the spring of 1695 Fowler was suffering from poor health.30 He was nevertheless in the House on the third day of the first session of the new Parliament in November 1695. He attended this session for more sittings than any other (55 per cent of the time). This was probably because of the assassination plot and the threat to the king whose survival, he claimed in a sermon written on the occasion of the death of the queen, was vital to the safety of Protestants across Europe.31 He was named to eight committees. On 27 Feb. 1696, he signed the Association and on 20 Mar. he was ordered to preach at the service of thanksgiving for William’s escape from assassination. He also signed the ‘repugnance’ of 10 Apr. of the scaffold absolution by two nonjuring clerics of Sir William Parkyns and Sir John Friend. On 16 Apr. he preached the thanksgiving sermon, concentrating on ‘deliverance from a French invasion’; his text was the apt Psalm 86 (‘thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell’).32 The following day, he was thanked by the House and ordered to print his sermon.

Fowler missed the first three weeks of the session that began in October 1696 but was eventually present for 42 per cent of total sittings. He was named to seven committees, including the committee on the state of trade. On 23 Dec. he appears to have voted (as one might expect) in favour of the attainder of Sir John Fenwick (though at least one source indicated the contrary).33 He arrived ten days after the start of the 1697-8 session and attended nearly half of all sittings. He was named to 27 committees. On 15 Mar. 1698, Fowler was one of only six bishops to vote against committing the bill to punish Tory goldsmith Charles Duncombe.34 (Fowler may have known Duncombe: it was presumably his father, Alexander Duncombe, who was present at the sermon he gave on the occasion of the meeting of the Sons of the Clergy in 1692, and Duncombe’s later philanthropic activities in London were very much in line with Fowler’s established connections.)35 Following the second reading of the Gloucester highways bill on 20 Apr. Fowler was named to the committee. It was reported on 6 May by Charles Berkeley, 2nd earl of Berkeley.

In keeping with his concerns for Protestant unity Fowler maintained a keen interest in the plight of European Protestants. On 12 May 1698, he and Charles Powlett, duke of Bolton, seconded the proposal made by James Bertie, earl of Abingdon, for an address asking the king to intercede with the French ambassador on behalf of French Protestants, but the motion attracted little support and was dropped.36 During June he received two proxies: on 1 June from Richard Kidder, bishop of Bath and Wells, and on 10 June from Nicholas Stratford, bishop of Chester (both vacated at the end of the session). On 1 July he registered his protest against the second reading of the bill to establish the Two Million Fund and to settle the East India trade.

Fowler’s visitation articles for his second triennial visitation were published in 1698.37 Fowler missed the first eight weeks of the winter 1698-9 session, the first of the 1698 Parliament. Having taken his place on 23 Jan. 1699 he attended 35 per cent of all sittings, during which he was named to nine committees. On 29 Mar. 1699 he registered his dissent from the committee resolution on the address to the king regarding the bishop of Derry. Fowler’s extra-parliamentary interests, once again, seem to have taken priority and he was busily engaged with promoting the work of voluntary societies to the annoyance of, among others, Archbishop Tenison, who ensured that Fowler was excluded from the traditional Easter Tuesday dinner at Lambeth.38 After the end of the session on 4 May, there is scant evidence of Fowler’s activities apart from his City sermon, on 26 June, to the societies for the reformation of manners.39

He missed the first three weeks of the 1699-1700 session but attended 46 per cent of total sittings and was named to six select committees. On 1 Feb. 1700, he was forecast as being a probable supporter of the bill to continue the East India Company as a corporation; three weeks later, he voted for an adjournment so that the House could go into a committee of the whole to discuss two amendments to it.

Fowler was present at the opening of the February 1701 Parliament, attended 48 per cent of sittings and was named to 12 select committees. On 17 June, he voted with the Whigs to acquit John Somers, Baron Somers, from charges of impeachment. The following day, he sat in the court of delegates when the sentence of suspension was read against Thomas Watson, of St Davids.40 Over the summer Maurice Wheeler, master of the cathedral school at Gloucester, encouraged his former student William Wake, the future bishop of Lincoln, to visit Gloucester on his way to Oxford. Wheeler assured Wake that he need have no concerns of rivalries between Fowler and his predecessor Frampton, as ‘they entertain common friends without any jealous reserve’. His depiction of relations between Fowler and his dean (William Jane) was less positive. According to Wheeler, the locals thought of them as ‘a couple of buckets in the same well, one up and t’other down; but with this difference, that the latter [Jane] sheds again something of what he draws, in charity and hospitality; but the other [Fowler] carries all off with him’.41

Before the assembly of the December 1701 Parliament, Wheeler wrote to Wake again, warning him of a forthcoming response to one of Fowler’s publications. Wheeler hoped Wake would let Fowler know about it ‘which may perhaps give his lordship the advantage of scand[alum] magna[tum]’.42 On 30 Dec. 1701, unusually, Fowler was present on the first day of the new parliamentary session. He was named to the committees for privileges and for the Journal and was thereafter present on 45 per cent of sittings. He was named to 11 select committees, ten of which were concerned with private bills. It seems likely that his uncharacteristic punctuality at the start of the session was due to his intention to petition the House for a private bill to make leases of diocesan property. Fowler was advised by a Mr Cocks (probably Charles Coxe rather than Sir Richard Cocks) to approach the queen directly about the bill so that the matter was not overlooked, as had happened previously under Charles II.43 Fowler’s petition was heard on 23 Feb. 1702, the bill was committed on 26 Feb. and Fowler was included in the committee nominations. The bill was reported by John Jeffreys, 2nd Baron Jeffreys, and on 17 Mar. Fowler was present when it received its third reading. On 7 May Charles Coxe returned the bill to the Lords unamended.44

With the accession of Queen Anne and the subsequent round of electioneering in the summer and autumn of 1702, Gloucester witnessed fiercely fought campaigns. The dean, Dr Jane, campaigned tirelessly for the election of John Grobham Howe for the city, with the consequence that the city reeked of alcoholic excess. The Gloucestershire county election resulted in a defeat for the Whig Sir John Guise, who promptly took up residence in Fowler’s episcopal residence in order to raise his public profile (which he did, speaking dismissively of the government of the Church by bishops).45 Fowler was clearly concerned at the political tenor of speeches in Gloucester and he sought clarification of an address given at the Gloucester assizes by Howe in which the Tory Member referred to Queen Anne’s earlier hardships at court in a manner that reflected negatively on William III.46

Although Fowler monitored political developments in his diocese, he does not seem to have involved himself directly in local politics, showing far more interest in the voluntary societies. In June 1702, it was commented that Fowler had absented himself from the diocese for a year, almost certainly because of the parliamentary elections, ‘an affair of such tumult and confusion, and which has already occasioned so much disquiet to him, that I believe he would now be glad to have no concernment therein.’ It was also thought ‘there may be other considerations besides, which perhaps may also render the journey less inviting.’47 Over the next six years he became heavily involved with the establishment of missionary outposts and schools in ‘pagan’ countries and administration of the proselytizing clergy.48

Fowler clearly diverged from many of his episcopal colleagues on the lay campaign for moral reform, yet he retained their support in the proposed annexation to his impoverished see of the mastership of the Savoy (for which he was recommended by Tenison, and for which Fowler claimed he had William III’s promise). Despite his formerly hostile response to Fowler, even John Sharp, archbishop of York, had warmly espoused Tenison’s proposal first made in the early summer of 1700 that Fowler be appointed master of the Savoy.49 In February 1702, Thomas Grey, 2nd earl of Stamford, together with Tenison, Henry Compton, bishop of London, Burnet, William Lloyd, bishop of Worcester, John Moore, bishop of Norwich, and John Williams, bishop of Chichester, had signed a recommendation to the king. In the event the institution was dissolved later that year by its visitor, the lord keeper, leaving Fowler disappointed.50

Fowler was at Tunbridge Wells over the summer when he was one of those present at the unexpected death of his former pupil, Anthony Grey, 11th earl of Kent. He was then one of those deputed to break the news to Kent’s daughter, who was lodging nearby.51 Fowler was again late for the start of the new Parliament on 20 October. He missed the first month of business but in the course of the whole session attended half of all sittings. On 1 Jan. 1703, Fowler was correctly forecast by Nottingham as an opponent of the occasional conformity bill. During the debates, Fowler voted for the wrecking amendment proposed by Somers (to apply the occasional conformity bill only to those subject to the Test Act).52 In the same month (on 25 Jan.), Fowler was named to the committee on the Gloucester poor bill which received its third reading on 28 Jan. after being reported by Compton.

Fowler may have maintained a long-term association with the Wharton family. On 8 Feb. 1703 he was at the House to hear the petition of the lord mayor and aldermen of London wanting legal representation in the case of Wharton v. Squire. Fowler conversed on the matter with the former Member for London, Sir Robert Clayton. Clayton assured Fowler that City politicians (who usually enjoyed close relations with Whig grandees) regretted the involvement of the London aldermen in opposition to Thomas Wharton, 5th Baron (later marquess of) Wharton.53 Fowler’s role in this dispute is unclear, but it is possible that Clayton, acting as a mediator between the City and Wharton, used Fowler as his route to the Whig magnate.54

Fowler was (as was apparently habitual with him) late in returning to diocese over the summer of 1703. During the recess, he indulged in assembling anecdotal evidence on the occult, receiving details from his diocese of a man who claimed to have conjured up 18-inch female companions and had subsequently gone into a terminal decline.55 The case became notorious and highlighted Fowler’s idiosyncratic attitude towards the supernatural. His political views remained broadly Whig, but ill health and an increasing measure of political detachment seems to have disrupted Fowler’s parliamentary career. Before the session (and again on 26 Nov. 1703), Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, forecast that Fowler would again oppose the occasional conformity bill. In the event, Fowler attended the session for only ten per cent of sittings. The occasional conformity division of 14 Dec. predictably fell out on party lines; it was noted in a contemporary publication that Fowler’s proxy was used to oppose the bill; the proxy book itself is missing for that session. He finally returned to the House on 20 Jan. 1704 on which day he joined with Humphrey Humphreys, bishop of Hereford, in moving for the House’s thanks to be offered to the queen for her role in suppressing ‘the lewdness and irreligion of the playhouses’.56 In March he was successful in securing the queen’s agreement to present the living of Standish to his nephew. According to one account the parish had been held ‘illegally’ by Frampton, who had in turn presented it to his curate, John Kemble; according to Maurice Wheeler, Frampton had been ‘misled by a company of spiteful knaves’ into making the appointment and had been a loser by his naivety.57 Fowler did not attend the autumn 1704 session, but registered his proxy in favour of John Hough, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, on 22 Nov. (it was vacated at the end of the session). On 23 Nov. his absence was excused at a call of the House.

Fowler’s indirect influence on the county election was made apparent in a list compiled in May 1705, noting at least two parishes in which he wielded interest through the incumbents (one of them being his nephew).58 The new Parliament opened on 25 Oct. 1705 but Fowler was again absent. He attended only on 4 Feb. 1706 to take the oaths, missing the debate on the ‘Church in danger’ on 6 Dec. 1705. Age and illness are plausible reasons for his absence. By the winter of 1706 he appears to have been in constant pain and in 1707 he gave ‘serious’ illness as his explanation.59 Yet ample evidence exists of his publishing, preaching, bureaucratic and polemical activities outside of Parliament. In mid March 1706 he was said to have been ‘implacably provoked’ by a recent publication by Dr William Sherlock, and was composing a reply.60

Despite the ministry’s need of Whig votes in the Lords and taking a house in Little Chelsea (‘for better air and more quiet’) in May 1707, Fowler did not attend the following two sessions.61 From Chelsea he issued 26 visitation articles to his clergy, repeating those issued previously with the exception of an enquiry as to whether preachers prayed by name for the queen and for Princess Sophia.62 The visitation itself, however, was undertaken by commission, he explaining in a charge to his clergy that he was unable to do so himself by reason of ‘a grievous malady, wherewith I have been afflicted ever since my last [visitation] and for some time before’, which had been so severe ‘as to disable me to attend on my duty in the House of Lords: where I have been but once for these three years, and then merely to qualify myself to make a proxy’. He dismissed the distinction between low and high churchmanship, though he condemned ‘an uncharitable and forward spirit towards all dissenting people’.63 In September of that year he sought the assistance of Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, over the presentation of the living of Devynock. The local archdeacon (Griffith) had petitioned for it but Fowler was reluctant to give way, wishing to offer it to his nephew instead, ‘because it is like to be the last [opportunity], I shall have of expressing my love to him, by means of a grievous malady which is dispatching me apace into the other world’. Fowler hoped Harley would ensure his nephew was compensated if the archdeacon’s request were allowed.64

Fowler was able to attend the winter 1707 session on one day only (4 December). In January 1708 it was reported that he had ‘lately made a very narrow escape from death … a fever attended with apoplectic symptoms: the next invasion of which … will not be withstood’.65 Wake recorded visiting the ‘poor bishop of Gloucester’ in March.66 Fowler once again survived, to be listed as a Whig in an assessment of Lords’ affiliations that year. He attended the winter 1708 session for a single day, 10 Mar. 1709. He managed to respond in print to the Letter Concerning Enthusiasm by the third earl of Shaftesbury, but he once more failed to attend the 1709-10 session that witnessed the impeachment of Henry Sacheverell.67 On 27 Feb. 1710 he was included in a list of nine bishops absent from the day’s proceedings. His was reported to be sick of ‘a severe and incurable distemper, and a very importunate messenger of death’ that he himself regarded as a warning of his imminent demise.68

In April 1710 the Whig corporation of Gloucester issued a condemnation of Sacheverell and refused to join in the Tory celebrations that greeted a visit to the city by Henry Somerset, 2nd duke of Beaufort; Fowler would almost certainly have supported their stance.69 The 1710 visitation was again undertaken by commission; Fowler issued another charge to his clergy in which he described himself as being in a ‘languishing condition’, and lamented the political and religious divisions of the times.70 After the dissolution of Parliament on 21 Sept. 1710 and reconstruction of the administration, Fowler was recorded by Harley as a certain opponent of his new ministry. Fowler did not attend the following session and failed to register his proxy. Affairs within the diocese also remained tense and Maurice Wheeler noted that as far as the selection of representatives for convocation went, the local clergy would ‘oppose any man the bishop likes’.71

Fowler’s health was sufficiently recovered by November 1711 for him to enjoy ‘a tankard at noon’, but the issue that eventually drove him to the House in December was the prospect of peace with the French.72 He arrived on the first day of the session to vote against the Tory peace proposals. His only day at the House that session, 7 Dec., proved eventful. He took the oaths after daily prayers, listened to the Queen’s Speech, and took part in the division on the ‘No Peace without Spain’ address. He was named to the committee to draw the address, but one contemporary noted that Fowler collapsed in the chamber during the proceedings.73 The following day he entered his proxy in favour of arch-Whig Charles Trimnell, bishop of Norwich (vacated on 20 Apr. 1712). Fowler did not return to the House again that session. He was forecast as an opponent of the right of James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], to sit in the House under his British title as duke of Brandon, but in the event he was absent from the vote, as was Trimnell.

Fowler survived his collapse, but was unable to return to the House. With the Whig leadership eager to maintain their voting bloc in the House, when Trimnell was absent for a short period, Fowler’s proxy was re-registered on 20 Apr. 1712 in favour of Hough (vacated on 25 May), again on 25 May in favour of Burnet, (vacated 6 June), and yet again on 6 June with John Moore (finally vacated at the end of the session on 8 July).

Fowler did not attend the parliamentary session that assembled on 9 Apr. 1713, although he was nevertheless included in a forecast in June as an opponent of the eighth and ninth articles of the French commercial treaty. His prolonged absence from Parliament now became a factor in planning business (and levels of Whig support) in convocation.74 Missing the start of the February 1714 session, and absent from the debates and divisions of the schism bill, Fowler again attended on a single day, 21 June, to take the oaths. This was his final appearance in the House. On 23 June he registered his proxy in favour of Whig John Tyler, bishop of Llandaff (vacated at the end of the session).

Age and failing health may have been only part of the reason behind Fowler’s lack of parliamentary activity in the last years of his life. It is possible that Fowler, for whom Protestant unity had always been a shibboleth, found the internecine religious politics of the early eighteenth century unedifying. Disputes between high and low churchmen threatened the Protestant solidarity that Fowler considered the basis of national security. He failed to attend the brief session that met in the wake of the queen’s death in August. He did not long outlive the queen, dying at Chelsea on 26 Aug. at the age of 82.

Fowler had suffered bouts of ill health since at least 1682 and started to make his will in 1706.75 Changing family and financial circumstances (not least the loss of his eldest son Nathaniel in 1710) forced him to amend it on several occasions.76 He had profited from the financial initiatives of his time: an investor in government securities and in the Wine Adventure, he was credited with some £156 in the list of Adventurers.77 He bequeathed his annuities and shares to his five surviving children (one of whom, a linen-draper, married the daughter of James Chadwick). Fowler’s legacy to the Church was to secure the impropriation of Newport, Monmouthshire ensuring that the minister enjoyed an annual stipend of £10 for the duration of the lease.78 Fowler was buried in Hendon churchyard; a memorial tablet was erected at a later date inside the church.79


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/542.
  • 2 Cardwell, 411.
  • 3 Church of England c.1689-c.1833 ed. Walsh et al. 174.
  • 4 CSP Dom. 1700-2, p. 358.
  • 5 Ath. Ox. iv. 612.
  • 6 Lansd. 987, ff. 218-9.
  • 7 Bodl. Tanner 31, f. 225; LPL, SPG ms 8, ff. 53, 57.
  • 8 LPL, ms 941, 92.
  • 9 Cal. of the Corresp. of Richard Baxter ed. N. Keeble and G. Nuttall, ii. 116, 120, 122, 124, 294; J. Bunyan, Defence of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith (1672); Church Hist. lvii. 457, 459; E. Fowler, The Principles and Practices of Certain Moderate Divines of the Church of England (1670); Evelyn Diary, iv. 286-7.
  • 10 Conway Letters ed. M.H. Nicolson, 423-4.
  • 11 Tanner 34, f. 125; Tanner 143, f. 136.
  • 12 EHR, cix. 576-85; Tanner 34, ff. 114, 125, 156; E. Fowler, A Sermon Preached before the Judges … on Sunday Aug. 7. 1681, (1681), preface; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, pp. 158, 198.
  • 13 EHR, cix. 584; CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 326; Tanner 34, ff. 114, 125, 154, 156, Tanner 147, ff. 186, 187, Tanner 32, ff. 73, 143; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. ii. 487.
  • 14 CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, pp. 378-9, 386.
  • 15 EHR, cix. 588-94; Tanner 31, f. 225; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iii. 69.
  • 16 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. iii. 51, 52, 164.
  • 17 Ibid. iv. 260.
  • 18 Ibid, 374; Add. 32681, ff. 317-18.
  • 19 G. de Krey, Fractured Society, 57-58.
  • 20 Church of England c.1689-c.1833, 157; Morrice, Ent’ring Bk. v. 221, 222, 226, 227, 235; Lathbury, Hist. of Convocation, 325; E. Fowler, Sermon preach’d at Bow Church, April the xvith 1690 (1690), passim; Boyle Corresp. vi. 270.
  • 21 Rose, England in the 1690s, p. 189; [E. Fowler], Vindication of an undertaking of certain gentlemen in order to the suppression of debauchery and profaneness (1692).
  • 22 HJ, xx. 569-70, 572, 583; [E. Fowler], Answer to the Paper Delivered by Mr Ashton at his Execution (1691).
  • 23 Beds. Archives, L30/2/11.
  • 24 Lansd. 987, ff. 218-9; Wood, Life and Times, iii. 366.
  • 25 Nicolson, London Diaries, 688.
  • 26 Tanner 26, f. 57.
  • 27 E. Fowler, Certain Propositions, by which the Doctrine of the H. Trinity is so explain’d, according to the Ancient Fathers, as to speak it Not Contradictory to Natural Reason (1693).
  • 28 LPL, ms 930, no. 35.
  • 29 LPL, ms 933, no. 37.
  • 30 Hart, Life and Times of John Sharp, 315.
  • 31 E. Fowler, Discourse of the great Disingenuity of Repining at Afflicting Providences (1695), preface, 17, 42.
  • 32 State Trials, xiii. 413; Add. 70081, newsletter, 18 Apr. 1696; E. Fowler, A Sermon Preached before the House of Lords … Upon Thursday the Sixteenth of April 1696 (1696).
  • 33 eBLJ (2007), article 4.
  • 34 CSP Dom. 1698, p. 145; Beinecke Lib. OSB mss fc 37, box 1, no. 48, Yard to Manchester, 15 Mar. 1698, Osborn collection, Blathwayt mss, box 19, [Vernon to Blathwayt], 19 Mar. 1698.
  • 35 A Sermon Preached at the Meeting of the Sons of the Clergy, in St Mary-le-Bow Church (1692); HP Commons, 1690-1715, iii. 937-43.
  • 36 HMC Downshire, i. 776.
  • 37 Articles of Visitation and Enquiry… in the second Triennial Visitation of the Right Reverend Father in God Edward Lord Bishop of Gloucester (1698).
  • 38 Hart, 179, 256.
  • 39 E. Fowler, Sermon Preach’d … to the Societies for Reformation of Manners. June 26. 1699 (1699).
  • 40 Bodl. Rawl. B 380, f. 211.
  • 41 Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 23/134.
  • 42 Wake mss 23/135B.
  • 43 Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/D/8.
  • 44 HP Commons, 1690-1715, iii. 774.
  • 45 Ibid. ii. 206, 219.
  • 46 Surr. Hist. Cent. 371/14/D/8.
  • 47 Wake mss 23/138.
  • 48 LPL, SPG ms 1. ff. 138-9, 143-4; 7, ff. 232, 269; 8, ff. 6, 53, 57; 10, f. 26; 12, ff. 80-82.
  • 49 LPL, ms 942, f. 161; Glos. Archives, D3549/6/1/G11.
  • 50 CSP Dom. 1700-2, p. 497; VCH London, i. 546-9.
  • 51 LPL, ms 941, f. 92.
  • 52 Nicolson, London Diaries, 137-8.
  • 53 Ibid. 200.
  • 54 HP Commons, 1690-1715, iii. 606-12.
  • 55 Wake mss 23/143; Add. 32096, f. 54.
  • 56 Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 45, f. 17; Add. 70075, newsletter, 20 Jan. 1704.
  • 57 Add. 61612, f. 49; Wake mss 23/146.
  • 58 Wake mss 3, ff. 311-12.
  • 59 E. Fowler, Charge of the Bishop of Gloucester (1707), 3-4; Wake mss 23/163, 165.
  • 60 Glos. Archives, D3549/6/1/S17; D3549/6/1/W22; Bodl. Rawl. Letters 4, f. 73; Wake mss 23/156.
  • 61 Wake mss 23/173.
  • 62 HMC Var. Coll. vii. 68.
  • 63 E. Fowler, Charge of the Bishop of Gloucester (1707).
  • 64 Add. 70227, Fowler to Harley, 10 Sept. 1707.
  • 65 Wake mss 23/176.
  • 66 LPL, ms 1770 (Wake diary), f. 58v.
  • 67 E. Fowler, Reflections upon a Letter concerning Enthusiasm (1709).
  • 68 State Trial of Dr Henry Sacheverell ed. B. Cowan, 46; Add. 15574, ff. 65-68; Wake mss 23/201.
  • 69 HP Commons, 1690-1715, ii. 219.
  • 70 E. Fowler, Charge of the bishop of Gloucester, deliver’d to the clergy of his diocese (1710); Wake mss 1, f. 252.
  • 71 Wake mss 23/209.
  • 72 Ibid. 23/225.
  • 73 Pittis, History of the Present Parl. (1711), 7.
  • 74 Carpenter, Tenison, 308.
  • 75 Tanner 143, f. 136.
  • 76 Lansd. 987, ff. 218-19.
  • 77 BL, OIOC, Home Misc/2, p.163.
  • 78 HP Commons, 1690-1715, iii. 503-6; PROB 11/542.
  • 79 VCH Mdx. v. 33-37.