Thomas Jones (bishop)

For the Bishop of Willochra, see Tom Jones (bishop).
Memorial to Thomas Jones in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

Thomas Jones (ca. 1550 – 10 April 1619) was Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He was also Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral and Bishop of Meath and the patrilineal ancestor of the Viscounts Ranelagh.

Early life

Jones was a native of Lancashire and the son of Henry Jones, Esq. of Middleton. His brother, Sir Roger Jones, Alderman of London, was knighted at Whitehall. Thomas acquired a Master of Arts from Christ's College, Cambridge in 1573,[1] after which he relocated to Ireland. He married a widow, Margaret Purdon, who was also a sister-in-law of Archbishop Adam Loftus. The relationship to Loftus proved beneficial to Jones.[2] He has been referred to, uncharitably, as Loftus's "pale shadow"; a more balanced view is that the two men thought alike and worked harmoniously together.[3]

He was named Chancellor of St. Patrick's Cathedral and was elected Dean in 1581. While Dean, Jones granted questionable leases of church property including a particular 161-year lease of a coal mine which caused a later St. Patrick's Dean, Jonathan Swift, to rebuke Jones severely for his improvidence:

A lease of Colemine (i.e. a coal mine) made by that rascal Dean Jones, and the knaves or fools of his Chapter, to one John Allen, for eighty-one years, to commence at the expiration of a lease for eighty-one years, made in 1585; so that there was a lease for 161 years of 253 acres (1.0 km2), within three miles (5 km) of Dublin, for 2l. per annum, now worth, 150l.
Jonathan Swift[2]


When the Archbishop of Armagh, Thomas Lancaster, died in 1584, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland (and former Archbishop of Armagh), Adam Loftus, recommended Jones as a replacement, despite the criticism of his improvident leases. John Long was chosen for the position instead but, on 10 May 1584, at the written urging of Queen Elizabeth, Jones was named Bishop of Meath.[2][4] He was immediately called to the Privy Council of Ireland by the government of Lord Deputy John Perrot, a position he held for 20 years.[2][4]

In August 1591 Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, the effective leader of the old Gaelic nobility, and a man of very dubious loyalty to the English Crown, scandalised Dublin society by eloping with the English-born aristocrat Mabel Bagenal, whose family were his implacable enemies. Since Mabel wished for a Protestant marriage ceremony, and O'Neill, although he was himself a Roman Catholic, was happy to indulge her wish, Jones was summoned to Drumcondra Castle, where the couple had taken refuge, by their host Sir William Warren. The Bishop was persuaded, although, by his own account, only with great reluctance, to perform the marriage. According to his own version of events, he did so solely to protect Mabel's reputation.[5]

In April 1605, Adam Loftus died and King James I emphatically chose Jones to be Archbishop of Dublin, commencing the following November. He was also named prebendary of both Castleknock parish of St. Patrick's and the rectory of Trim in the Diocese of Meath:

Whereas, since the death of the late Archbishop, we have given an order for the supply of that See, because of same being a place so eminent within that kingdom; we took time to advise of a meet person for it; we have since upon conference with divers of our Council, found none more fit for the present time than the Bishop of Meath, in regard of his long experience in that kingdom, both in the ecclesiastical state as Bishop, and in the civil affairs as a Chancellor, wherefore we have made choice of him, and we are further pleased that he shall hold in commendam a prebend, which now he hath in possession, which he will nominate unto you.
King James I of England[4]

Lord Chancellor

In 1605, Jones was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland, a position he held for the rest of his life. He was staunchly anti-Catholic during the era of King James's Plantation of Ulster.[4][6] In 1611, he was part of a Protestant Council in Dublin "to prevent sectarianism and extirpate Popery." He attended the opening of the Parliament of Ireland in 1612, giving an important speech. During this period, he had eight Roman Catholics excommunicated and imprisoned for recusancy and then had them reimprisoned after Parliament released them soon afterwards.[4] Jones was a lord justice in 1613, received an honorary DD degree from the University of Dublin in 1614, and again served as lord justice in 1615. He and his son, Roger Jones, 1st Viscount Ranelagh, were involved in several disputes with Christopher St Lawrence, 10th Baron Howth, the most serious of which involved an affray in Thomas St. in Dublin in 1609 in which a man was killed. The Crown was anxious to resolve the feud, and in later years Jones and Lord Howth managed to resolve their differences. During his time as Lord Chancellor, Jones saw that Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin underwent extensive repairs.

In old age, according to Elrington Ball, Jones suffered a notable deterioration in character; he became fretful and querulous, and was quite unable to bear the robust criticism which all Irish public figures are expected to endure.[7] His enemies would spread malicious stories, such as a claim that he was a wizard, simply to enjoy the hysterical efforts Jones would make to refute them.[8] He grew ill very suddenly and died at his episcopal palace, St. Sepulchre's Palace in Dublin in 1619. He was buried in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin beside his wife, who had died four months earlier. Viscount Ranelagh, his only surviving son, had a monument and statue created with inscriptions for Thomas and his wife:[4]

Thomas Jones, Archiepiscopus Dublin. Primas et Metropolitanus Hiberniæ, Esujdem Cancellarius, necnon bis e Justitiariis unus. Obiit Decimo Aprilis, anno reperatæ salutis humanæ 1619.
Epitaph for Thomas Jones in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin[4]

The monument was restored in 1731 at the request of the then Dean of St. Patrick's, Jonathan Swift, despite his low opinion of Jones, quoted above.[4]


He had three children:


  1. "Jones, Thomas (JNS565T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. 1 2 3 4 O'Flanagan, James Roderick (1870). "Chapter XXII". The Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of Ireland. pp. 296–304. (HTML version).
  3. Ball, F. Elrington The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921 John Murray London 1926 Vol.1 pp.236–7
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1892). "Jones, Thomas (1550?–1619)". Dictionary of National Biography. 30. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 163–4.
  5. Ó Faoláin, Seán The Great O'Neill Mercier Press Cork 1942 Paperback reissue p.119
  6. McCormack, W. J. (2001). The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture. Blackwell Publishing. p. 312. ISBN 0-631-22817-9.
  7. Ball p.237
  8. Ball pp.237–8
Legal offices
Preceded by
In commission – last held by
Archbishop Adam Loftus
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Succeeded by
In commission – next held by
Adam Loftus, 1st Viscount Loftus
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