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Mandell Creighton (5 July 1843 – 14 January 1901) was an Englishmarker historian and a prelate of the Church of England. A scholar of the renaissance papacy, Creighton was the first occupant of the Dixie Chair of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridgemarker, a professorship that was established around the time that the study of history was emerging as an independent academic discipline. He was also the first editor of the English Historical Review, the oldest English language academic journal in the field of history. Creighton had a second career as a clergyman in the Church of England. He served as a parish priest in Embleton, Northumberlandmarker, and later, successively, as Bishop of Peterborough and Bishop of London. His moderation, worldliness, and vigour drew praise from Queen Victoria and notice from politicians. It was widely thought at the time that Creighton would have become the Archbishop of Canterbury had his death, at age 57, not intervened.

Creighton's historical work received mixed reviews. He was praised for scrupulous even-handedness, but criticized for not taking a stand against historical excesses. For his part, he was firm in asserting that public figures be judged for their public acts, not private ones. His preference for the concrete to the abstract diffused through his writings on the Church of England as well. He believed that the church was uniquely shaped by its particular English circumstances, and advocated that it reflect the views and wishes of the English people.

Creighton was married to author and future women's suffrage activist Louise Creighton, and together the couple had seven children. The Creightons were greatly interested in the education of children and, between the two of them, wrote nearly two dozen school history primers. A man of complex intelligence and exceptional vigour, Mandell Creighton was emblematic of the Victorian era, both in his strengths and in his failings.

Early childhood, 1843–1857

Mandell Creighton was born on 5 July 1843 in the border countrymarker city of Carlisle, Cumbriamarker to Sarah (née Mandell) and Robert Creighton. His father, a carpenter, had built a successful cabinet-making and decorating business on Castle Street, the main thoroughfare in Carlisle. A year later another son, James, was born to the couple and in 1846, a daughter, Mary, who died before the year was out. In 1849, another daughter, Mary Ellen (Polly) was born and the following year Sarah Creighton died unexpectedly. Robert, who never remarried, and never spoke of his wife again, raised the children with help from his unmarried sister who came to live with the family for many years.
A self-made man, Robert Creighton constantly, and somewhat oppressively, exhorted his sons to work; however, he also imbued them with a sense of independence. This later allowed Mandell to make career choices that were unorthodox for his background. For his part, his brother James would join his father's carpentry business, enter local politics, be twice elected mayor of Carlisle, and later become a director of North British Railway. Polly, by contrast, considered her childhood to be "horridly unhappy." Not being able to complete her school education, she never acquired the sophistication that she so greatly valued. The family living quarters, above the shop, were spacious but spartan—there was little decoration and almost no books. As Robert, moreover, was given to losing his temper easily, the children grew up in a dreary and somewhat fearful "cultural vacuum." Years later Mandell Creighton's wife was to speculate that the absence of "family feeling" in her husband's childhood was very likely a result of not having a mother.

Creighton's education began in a nearby dame school, run by a stern headmistress, where his restlessness and mischief often brought him punishment. In 1852, he moved to the local cathedral school. There, under the influence of a charismatic headmaster, Revd William Bell, he began to read voraciously and to succeed academically. Other students came seeking his help in translating passages from their classical studies; they soon gave him the nickname "Homer" on account of his quickness at construing. In November 1857, he took the King's Scholarship examination for admission to the Durham Grammar Schoolmarker, located some two hundred miles away. As his Carlisle teachers had not prepared him for translation of Latin verse, he left that portion of the exam blank and was certain he had failed. The examiners, however, assessed his overall performance to be good and decided to accept him. In February 1858, the 15-year-old Creighton left Carlisle for Durhammarker.

Durham Grammar School, 1858–1862

The Durham Grammar School required its students to attend services in the eleventh century Durham Cathedralmarker on Sundays and holy days, and the high church ceremony there made a lasting impression on Creighton. It became a focus of his religious life and would later influence his choice of career. Durham's headmaster, Dr. Henry Holden, a classical scholar, and an educational reformer, soon began to take an interest in the new student. With Holden's encouragement, Creighton became a prize winner in classical subjects and in English and French. In his last year at Durham, he was promoted to head boy of the school, a position that appealed to his great desire to influence people, especially younger boys. Although he aimed to do this by setting an example with his high moral life, he didn't, in an era of universal corporal punishment, hesitate to use the rod. In a letter he wrote to a Durham school monitor after he had left the school, he advised, "Remember, never thrash a fellow a little, always hard: and it is always well that he be thrashed by more than one of the monitors ..."
Creighton was severely shortsighted, and in addition, suffered from double vision, which forced him to read with one eye closed. Since his visual handicap also limited his participation in vigorous sport, he enthusiastically took to walking. His tours of the countryside, often with companions, a pastime he was to indulge in for the rest of his life, covered over twenty miles a day, lasted several days, and gave him many opportunities to also exercise his abiding curiosity in the local botany and architecture. In the spring of 1862, Creighton applied unsuccessfully for a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxfordmarker; he next applied to Merton College, Oxfordmarker, for a "classical postmastership" (as the scholarships there are called). This he was able to secure and in October 1862, he arrived in Oxford. He continued to take great interest in the Durham Grammar School after leaving it. In a "perpetuated family myth," he is said, in 1866, to have walked from Oxford to Durham in three days to hear "school speeches."

Oxford undergraduate, 1862–1866

Creighton's postmastership of £70 a year was able to cover his tuition at Merton College, but not much more. For his other expenses, he had to rely on support from his father whose "manner made it difficult to ask for anything." For most of his time at Merton, he lived economically in attic rooms in the college; in his last year he moved off-campus to share some rooms with George Saintsbury, the future author and wine critic. Although Creighton's shortsightedness prevented his participation in cricket and soccer, he joined the college rowing team. His walking activity continued apace. Walking around Oxford for a few hours in the late afternoon was popular among many students; Creighton, however, organized longer walks, some lasting all day.

His reading also continued to flourish, and not just for his studies. Among writers and poets, he was particularly fond of Carlyle, Browning, Tennyson and Swinburne. He read so voraciously that he sometimes stayed at Oxford during his vacations in order to read without disturbance. He was also becoming politically aware; if pressed, he professed a liberalism based on the "sovereignty of the individual." He joined the Oxford Unionmarker, and although he seldom gave public speeches there, he was elected Union president. He especially honed his skills in informal conversations, conducted anywhere and everywhere, about topics great and small, what Gladstone later was to dub "Oxford's agony."
He came seriously to believe that it was the business of all individuals to influence others to the full extent of their abilities. He sought out others to influence and instruct. Consequently, among his Merton friends, he received the nickname "The Professor," or "P." In his second year, he and three other students became inseparable both during term time and during vacations, forming a group called "The Quadrilateral." Whether this group friendship found physical expression, is not known. Creighton did not form any close friendships with women during this time. In his final term, he wrote to a friend, that "ladies in general are very unsatisfactory mental food: they seem to have no particular thoughts or ideas ..."

Academically, his goal became the pursuit of an honours degree in literae humaniores, a classical studies curriculum that attracted the best students at Oxford. In the final examinations, in the spring of his fourth year, he received a first-class. He then immediately began studying in the School of Law and Modern History during the summer of 1866. Taking the examinations in that School in the Autumn term of 1866, he received a second class, his examiners being of the view that he had not mastered the details enough. However, since the literae humaniores degree was considered the more established one, he was asked by the classics professor, Benjamin Jowett, to apply for a college teaching fellowship. As it turned out, he did not have to; he had decided to accept holy orders, and his own college, Merton, offered him a clerical fellowship with tutorial duties on 22 December 1866.

Teaching and marriage, 1867–1874

During the second half of the 19th century, many academic reforms were instituted at Oxford universitymarker. Chief among these were the new responsibilities given to college tutors. These instructors, whose primary job was to give personalized instruction to undergraduates in order to prepare them for the university's examinations, were now also given lecturing duties within their respective colleges. Since the tutors were chosen from distinguished recent graduates, the new teaching staff was more youthful. Religious beliefs were also undergoing an upheaval. , Many Victorian intellectuals, who had been raised in Christian households, had, in their adult life, begun to experience religious doubt and were moving in secular directions. Creighton, in contrast, was slowly solidifying his religious beliefs. While his high church views had moderated somewhat, he never had any crisis of confidence. He had no interest in the new natural sciences, and was unmoved to read Darwin, regarding his writings as too much speculation. His friend Henry Scott Holland said that at "the close of the [1860s], it seemed to us at Oxford almost incredible that a young don of any intellectual reputation for modernity should be on the Christian side."

Merton College at that time was suffering from student unrest stemming from a "leadership vacuum" in the teaching faculty. , Many fellows, whether resident or non-resident, had become distant presences. Since Creighton was popular with students, he was looked upon as someone who would exercise leadership. He succeeded to a degree. He did this by appealing to the students' "reason" and "common sense" and by simultaneously immersing himself among them. He was given more responsibilities; these, in their wake, brought promotions and salary increases. In four years of teaching, his salary had more than doubled. He joined forces with a Merton tutor to open collegiate lectures to students of other colleges and received Merton College's authorization. , Soon, the Association of Tutors was born, as well as an Oxford-wide series of lectures that any student could attend. , The lectures proved ominous in his choice of future research. He wrote later,
We worked out among us a scheme of lectures covering the whole field (of history), and were the pioneers of the 'Intercollegiate Lectures' which now prevail at both universities.
The needs of this scheme threw upon me the ecclesiastical, and especially papal history, which no one else took.
Creighton also continued his one-on-one instruction in his rooms. Among his two famous pupils were future statesman Lord Randolph Churchill and Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the hemophelic son of Queen Victoria.
Creighton spent many vacations in Europe. He fell in love with Italy, its scenery, its culture, and its people. This led naturally to a fascination with Renaissance Italy, which became his scholarly interest. He had also become an admirer of Walter Pater and the aestheticism movement. His rooms in Oxford were tastefully decorated with William Morris wallpaper and blue china. The furnishings brought admiration from friends as well as requests to view them from acquaintances. Creighton was now leading a life that was a far cry from his frugal student one. Upon his return from a vacation in Europe, in early 1871, he attended a lecture by art critic John Ruskin at the Sheldonian Theatremarker. , After the lecture, he noticed his friend and future author Humphry Ward talking to an unfamiliar young woman who was wearing a yellow scarf. Yellow was Creighton's favourite colour; the scarf aroused his interest enough for him to ask Ward about the woman, whose name was Louise von Glehn. Soon Ward invited Creighton and von Glehn to a Valentines Day lunch hosted in his rooms in Brasenose Collegemarker. Ward himself had some romantic interest in von Glehn though he had also been favouring Mary Arnold, the granddaughter of educator Thomas Arnold of Rugby Schoolmarker and niece of critic Matthew Arnold. In a few weeks, von Glenn found herself won over by Creighton's charm, and before she left Oxford at the end of the month, the two were engaged. They had agreed to be married the following winter; however, as Christmas approached, it was still not clear if Merton College would wave its requirement of celibacy for its teaching fellows. On Christmas eve, the college finally relented and elected four married fellows, one of whom was Creighton. von Glehn and Creighton were married on 8 January 1872 in her home town of Sydenhammarker, Kentmarker. They spent a week honeymooning in Paris before returning to Oxford for Creighton's new teaching term.

Like many Victorian era scholars, Mandell Creighton assumed that his wife would be an accessory in his academic pursuits, and that he would have the upper hand in their intellectual relationship. During their courtship, he had written to her:
The nuisance of married life (is that) strive as I may, or as you may, still the practical side of life must be much more prominent to me than to you.
I shall have a number of things to do; whereas you sphere will be all within my reach and knowledge, mine on the other hand will not in your reach entirely.

Creighton led a busy life both academically and socially; it was not unusual, for example, for the couple to be invited out to dinner on four separate nights in a week, invitations that they reciprocated by having what Louise called, "little dinners of six or eight without extra help." In the summer of 1873, the couple took their first trip together to Italy. It was during this trip that Creighton finalized the topic of his life's research: a study of the renaissance popes. During these years, there were additions to the family as well: a daughter was born to the couple in the autumn of 1872, and another in the summer of 1874. With a growing family and a clear research plan, Creighton now began to doubt the long-term viability of his Merton tutorial fellowship. He felt increasingly that his teaching duties were sapping his stamina for focused intellectual labour. Around this time an opportunity arose for a rural living in a remote parish in coastal Northumberlandmarker attached to Merton College. Although varying counsel was offered by Louise, by his married colleagues, by his unmarried colleagues, and even by his students, Creighton's mind was made up; when, in November 1874, Merton College finally offered the position of vicar of the parish of Embletonmarker, Creighton eagerly accepted.

Embleton vicar, 1875–1884

The village of Embletonmarker lies on the North Seamarker coast in Northumberlandmarker approximately mid-way between Edinburghmarker and Newcastle-upon-Tynemarker. The vicarage—then owned by Merton Collegemarker and consisting of a fortified pele tower built in the 14th century along with adjoining later additions—was a large establishment with many rooms for Creighton's growing family, their guests, and servants. The parish consisted of a handful of villages and approximately 1700 inhabitants, among whom were farmers, whinstone quarrymen, herring and haddock fishermen, women workers in fish curing yard, and railwaymen; there were also two noblemen at Fallodon Hallmarker and Howick Hallmarker nearby. With the help of a curate paid from his own funds, Creighton established a routine that enabled him to attend both to pastoral duty and to history writing. Although they missed Oxford society and its stimulation, the Creightons gradually adapted to their new surroundings. Mandell, and whenever possible, Louise, spent the afternoons visiting the homes of their parishioners, listening to them, giving advice, offering prayers and conducting services for the house bound, and, on occasion, even handing out home-made medical remedies. They found their parishioners to be reserved, proud, and independent, but lacking in morals. According to author James Covert, "Drunkenness barely surpassed graver vices of fornication and adultery." The Creightons, who were no teetotalers themselves, founded the local chapter of the Church of England temperance society and, in the process, displeased some locals. Louise organized meetings of the Mothers' Union as well as the Girls' Friendly Society, which aimed to empower girls—it encouraged them, for example, to stay in school until the age of fourteen.

Since the vicarage was large—there were 19 rooms—every summer the Creightons had visitors, among them old friends from Oxford as well as relatives. Most at least stayed overnight; in one year 69 visitors were recorded in the family visitors' book. Creighton's own family was growing: four more children were born during the Embleton years, and all were home schooled, mostly by Louise. Creighton took great interest in the parish schools, served as examiner for other schools in the region, and began to crystallize his ideas on the education of children. He was also elected to local government bodies such as the Board of Guardians, which enacted poor laws in the region, as well as the local sanitary authority. In 1879, he accepted his first leadership position in the Church of England: he was appointed rural dean of the nearby town of Alnwickmarker, responsible for supervision of the clergy in neighbouring parishes. A little later he was appointed examining chaplain for the Bishop of Newcastle, Ernest Roland Wilberforce, and tasked with examining candidates for holy orders.

During their ten years in Embleton, the Creightons—he in his 30s and she, for most of this time, in her 20s—between the two of them, wrote 15 books. They both wrote history books for young people; Louise wrote an unsuccessful novel, and Mandell wrote the first two volumes of his magnum opus, The History of the Papacy in the Period of Reformation. In the Papacy volumes, Creighton advocated the view that the turbulence of the reformation was made inevitable by the Popes by their obstruction of the milder parliamentary reforms. The books were well received and commended for their even-handed approach. Lord Acton, who reviewed the books in the Academy and who was aware that the books were written over a few years in a northern vicarage far away from the centres of scholarship, wrote:
The history of increasing depravity and declining faith, of reforms earnestly demanded, feebly attempted, and deferred too long, is told by Mr. Creighton with a fullness of accuracy unusual in works which are the occupation of a lifetime.

Creighton also wrote dozens of book-reviews and scholarly articles. Among them were his first forays into the role of the Church of England in the life of the nation. Throughout the 19th century, the Church of England had suffered erosion of membership. In the mid-century, many scholars such as educator Thomas Arnold had asserted the identity of the church and the nation; however, as the century wound down, Creighton was among a small minority who were still asserting the same.

In 1884, Creighton was asked to apply for the newly created professorship of ecclesiastical history, the Dixie chair, at Cambridge Universitymarker and a concurrent fellowship at Emmanuel College, Cambridgemarker. His application proved successful, and on 9 November, 1884, he preached his last sermon at Embleton church. Later, he was to write, "At Embleton I spent ten years, and I have no hesitation in saying that they were the ten happiest years of my life." His parishioners, for their part, found it difficult to express their feelings openly; said one woman, "Well, if you ain't done no good, you've done no harm."

Cambridge professor, 1885–1891

Upon their arrival in Cambridge in late November 1884, the Creightons were swamped with invitations to social engagements. Creighton enjoyed making the rounds of the senior common room in various Cambridge colleges. Interaction with academic society after an interregnum of ten years led to new friendships, especially for Louise. One such new friend, who became a lifelong one, was Beatrice Webb. Although Creighton had already corresponded with fellow historian Lord Acton, he soon met him in person, as he did other Cambridge notables, such as Robertson Smith, the Hebrew and Arabic scholar, and Alfred Marshall, the economist. Old friends and relatives visited as well, even though the Creightons' Cambridge house was nowhere near as spacious as the Embleton vicarage.

At the time of Creighton's arrival in Cambridge a dispute had come to a head over the scope of the bachelor's honours examination, or the tripos, in History and Theology. The history tripos had been created by historian John Seeley who held that history was really political history, an essential part of the training of public servants, and had stated tersely, "history is the school of statesmanship." In opposition, reformers such as historian George Walter Prothero, as well as Henry Melvill Gwatkin, Creighton's successor to the Dixie chair, advocated a broader and more scientific approach to history. In spring 1885, the board of historical studies in Cambridge met to consider reforms. Although Creighton did not take active part in the discussions, he sided with the reformers, and a compromise was reached which stressed the need for students to read primary sources in their historical subject of interest.

Creighton lectured twice a week at the university, preparing extensively, but lecturing extemporaneously. He also preached in the Emmanuel Collegemarker Chapel. A colleague said of his preaching style, "He did not care for eloquence, indeed he despised it; what he aimed at was instruction, and for this he always looked more to principles than facts." He also lectured more informally to undergraduates at Emmanuel College once a week. He supported Cambridge's two new women's colleges, Newnhammarker and Girtonmarker, and taught informal weekly classes at Newnham. Two students from those classes, Mary Bateson and Alice Gardner, later became professional historians, both mentored by Creighton during their early careers.

In spring 1885, Creighton accepted an offer, from prime minister Gladstone, of residentiary canon at Worcester Cathedralmarker. Since the residency requirement of three months could be met during Cambridge vacations, the Creighton family settled into an annual routine of six moves between Cambridge and Worcestermarker, a distance of over 100 miles. The Worcester experience led Creighton to think about how the relationship of competition between a cathedral and its diocesan parish churches could be turned into one of cooperation, a subject on which he would write scholarly articles. By providing an introduction to the grim realities of city life, Worcester, moreover, awakened Creighton's social consciousness. He joined the Worcester Diocesan Penitentiary Association and was moved by the plight of prison inmates. In a sermon at the Sanitary Congress of Worcester in 1889, he spoke eloquently about the effect of harsh physical life on moral life,
... the unwholesome air of the factory, the crowded workshop, the ill-ventilated room, all those things rob the body of its vigour, how they must also act upon the soul!
... uncleanliness, hatred, variance, drunkenness, revelling.
Do not these things, think you, come largely from, and are they not greatly affected by, the physical conditions under which life is lived?

At the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Harvard Universitymarker in November 1886, Creighton, accompanied by Louise, represented Emmanuel College—founder John Harvard's alma mater. During the extended visit, they met prominent American men of letters, including the historian of the American west, Francis Parkman; historian of art, Charles Eliot Norton; president of Harvard, Charles W. Eliot; first president of Johns Hopkins University, Daniel C. Gilman; supreme court justice, Oliver Wendel Holmes; and poet and critic James Russel Lowell. On November 8, 1886, Creighton received an honorary degree from Harvard.

In February 1887, volumes 3 and 4 of Creighton's History of the Papacy were published by Longmans. These volumes narrowed the focus to specific popes, chiefly, Sixtus IV, Alexander VI, and Julius II. In his trademark style of maintaining historiographical balance and considering individuals to be mired in their historical eras, Creighton did not single out anyone for especial condemnation, even Alexander VI, whose "exceptional infamy" Creighton felt was "largely due to the fact that he did not add hypocrisy to his other vices." Earlier in 1885, Creighton had agreed to become the first editor of a new journal, the English Historical Review. Now, he requested Lord Acton to review his two volumes for the journal. Acton wrote a review, which was not only hostile, but, in Creighton's view, also obscure. In the following weeks, there were contentious exchanges between the two men, polarizing eventually into their two views of history, Acton's normative approach versus Creighton's more relativist one. It was in one of these exchanges that Acton penned three memorable sentences, one of which was to become an oft-quoted modern dictum, "Historical responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority." Acton's attack, however, did lead Creighton to rethink his own position somewhat. In an 1895 paper, he would write that the papacy, "which had been established for the promotion of morality" had in fact "provided the means for the utmost immorality."

Bishop of Peterborough, 1891–1896

Mandell Creighton in the garden of the palace in Peterborough, 1893

In December 1890, Creighton received a letter from Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister, offering an appointment to the residenciary canonry of Windsormarker in exchange for his appointment at Worcester. Since a Windsor appointment indicated the personal preference of the British sovereign, and since the Creightons were wary of court culture, the letter gave them pause. However, after some hesitation, Creighton accepted. No sooner had he and his family reconciled to moving back and forth between their Cambridge home and Windsor Castlemarker six times a year, Creighton received another letter from Salisbury offering appointment as Bishop of Peterborough, an office which had become available upon the translation of its incumbent William Connor Magee to York. Creighton was chosen because his love for ritual had created an impression among others that he had a high church outlook; the Peterborough diocese had many high churchmen, and it was felt that Creighton would be a good fit. In fact, Creighton was doctrinally quite broad church; his moderate views would later make him popular with Queen Victoria.

For Creighton, the Peterborough appointment, which he felt he felt duty-bound to accept, meant the effective end of his academic life. There is indication that the Creightons were depressed at the prospect of leaving Cambridge; in the case of Louise, the depression was to last long. Creighton felt that his life from then on would become one of offering easy comfort to others. In a letter to an old college friend, he wrote, "No man could have less desire than I for the office of bishop. Nothing save the cowardliness of shirking from responsibility and the dread of selfishness led me to submit ..."

A few weeks before his consecration as bishop at Westminster Abbeymarker in late April 1891, Creighton fell ill with muscular rheumatism. Soon after his enthronement at Peterborough Cathedralmarker in mid-May 1891, Creighton fell ill again, this time with influenza. Each time, the recovery was prolonged. The Peterborough diocese, comprising 676 parishes and the cities of Leicestermarker and Northamptonmarker, offered a vast ecclesiastical challenge. Creighton met it in the manner he had employed in Embleton: he proceeded to visit every corner. Travelling by train to distant parishes, staying overnight with the parish priests, and conducting services in their churches, Creighton spent very little time at home with his family during the first year. However, his immersion among the clergy, his treatment of them as equals, and his efficiency in attending to their questions, led to his increasing popularity. The experience also helped him to work out his doctrinal stance. Although he was personally liberal, he came firmly to believe that to be English was to be Anglican, and led him to regard dissenters as having lost their way, and Roman Catholics as disloyal.

He also became determined to better understand the working-classes of his diocese. The Leicester boot and shoe trade strike of 1895, which began in March as a lockout of 120,000 workers by employers, gave him just such an opportunity. Creighton wrote an open letter to his clergy, impressed them of the gravity of the situation, and urged them to work impartially to facilitate communication between the sides. According to author James Covert, "Creighton's tactic was to serve as conduit for all bargaining parties, sharing information and feelings derived from his local clergy, who, being on the spot, possessed insights and sympathies that needed to be known and expressed." By April's end, a compromise was reached for which Creighton garnered much credit as well as a growing reputation as a statesman.

A year earlier, in 1894, the fifth, and as it would turn out, the last, volume of his History of Papacy in the Period of Reformation, titled The German Revolt, 1517–1527, which covered the history up to the Sack of Rome in 1527, was published by Longman. Creighton had found little time to devote to the writing, and the critics generally expressed disappointment in the product. Although he had originally planned to continue the history up to the final session of the Council of Trent in 1563, Creighton did not now feel up to the task. As the volumes did not cover the period claimed in their title, the publisher, in 1897, brought out a second edition titled, A History of the Papacy from the Great Schism to the Sack of Rome, 1378–1527 reflecting the reduced scope. Creighton, nonetheless, remained a popular lecturer. During his Peterborough years, he gave a number of lectures, most published later in book form, their titles reflecting his diverse intellectual interests. Among his addresses were the Hulsean Lectures at Cambridge in the winter of 1893–94 on "Persecution and Tolerance," the 1895 Rede Lecture at Cambridge on "The Early Renaissance in England," the 1896 Romanes Lecture at Oxford on "The English National Character," and his 1896 address at Westminster Abbeymarker on "Saint Edward the Confessor."

In 1896, Creighton represented the Church of England at the coronation of Czar Nicholas II in Moscow. Creighton was chosen after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson begged off citing ill-health, and offered the same excuse of Randall Davidson, the Bishop of Winchester, who as Prelate of the Garter was the usual official standby. His selection as ostensible third in line led to much speculation and controversy in church circles. A lover of pageantry, Creighton wore a bishop's coronation cope, borrowed from Westminister Abbeymarker, and carried his own mitre and pastoral staff for the event. Upon his return, he wrote a glowing account of the coronation in Cornhill Magazine, which after gaining the attention of Queen Victoria, brought a letter from her requesting several copies for the royal family.

Bishop of London, 1897–1901

Cartoon of Mandell Creighton, the newly appointed Bishop of London, in Vanity Fair, April 1897.
On 28 October 1896, a few days after the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward White Benson, Creighton received a letter from the British prime minister, Lord Salisbury, asking if he would accept the office of the Bishop of London, which had become vacant. There were rumours at the time that the offer had come with the promise of the archbishopric of Canterbury eventually. In January 1897, Creighton was translated to the See of Londonmarker in a ceremony at St Paul's Cathedralmarker.

Among prelates, Creighton was sometimes regarded with suspicion, even considered too scholarly or too frivolous, however, his star had risen rapidly in government and court circles, in part, due to his worldliness. Although ecclesiastical higher office had been thrust upon him and disrupted his academic career, Creighton now felt comfortable about the prospects of rising to its pinnacle, holding out hope for a return to scholarly endeavours at the end. There were other perks too: at a stroke, his annual salary had doubled to £10,000, a comfortable sum in those days. The large rambling Fulham Palacemarker, the Creightons' new residence, proved popular with their immediate and extended family and their numerous visitors.

One of Creighton's first efforts after becoming Bishop of London was to support the passage of the Voluntary School Bill of 1897. Some thirty years earlier, the Elementary Education Act of 1870 had established non-denominational elementary schools, also called board school, which were funded by local rates taxes. Religious school, also called "voluntary schools" had, however, not received this support. The bill asked for extension of taxpayer support to the voluntary schools. In March 1897, Creighton addressed the House of Lordsmarker in support of the bill, which was eventually passed by both houses of parliament. Creighton felt strongly that all religious instruction be denominational. In a letter to the London district school boards, he wrote, "We only ask that the wishes of the parents be consulted about [religious] education of their children, and that every child in England should receive instruction in the religious beliefs of the denomination to which his parents belong." Around this time, Creighton also helped return the logbook of the ship Mayflower back to the United States. The logbook had remained in the library at Fulham Palace since the American Revolution, having been brought there by some loyalist. For his effort, Creighton was made an honorary member of the American Antiquarian Societymarker.

By 1898, Creighton was increasingly occupied with a debate over ritual practice in the diocese of London, and, more generally, in the Church of England. Upon his arrival in London, he had discovered that low church clergy in his diocese were being provoked by the ritual practices of some high churchmen, practice which indicated Roman Catholic influence. The controversy had begun in the wake of the Oxford Movement, which had created a Catholic revival within the Anglican church, prominent among which were the Anglo-Catholics. One of the radical low churchmen, the evangelical cleric, John Kensit, had protested that Creighton himself had on occasion worn a cope and carried a mitre, and requested that he take a more definite public stance against high church rituals, such as the use of candles and incense. Creighton, who preferred to work behind the scenes, did engage many high church clergy. Although he seemed to subscribe to a broad branch theory, that the real Catholic church was collection of national churches, which included the Church of England, the Church of Rome, and the Eastern Orthodox Church, he was firm about asserting Anglican doctrine—that liturgical practice, beyond that involving, what he termed, "permissible liberty," conform to that in the Book of Common Prayer. In a circular letter to his clergy, he wrote:
It is absolutely necessary that nothing should be done which affects the due performance of the Church as laid down in the Book of Common Prayer, and that any additional service which are used should conform entirely to the spirit and intention of the Prayer Book.
However, this still did not seem to satisfy Kensit and his more strident evangelical supporters, who threatened to create more public disruption. Eventually, the Church of England's two archbishops, of Canterbury and York, held a hearing in Lambeth Palacemarker, and, in August 1899, ruled against the use of candles and incense, a seeming victory for the low church forces. The wider doctrinal conflict, though, was to continue beyond both the Victorian and Edwardian ages.

Throughout this time, Creighton conducted the endless business that came with his large diocese. In one year, he was recorded to have given 294 formal sermons and addresses. He made trips to Windsormarker and Sandringhammarker to conduct services for Queen Victoria. In 1897, he organized a special service of thanksgiving outside St Paul's in commemoration of her diamond jubilee. His prominent office, moreover, brought other responsibilities. He was elected to the Privy Council; he became a trustee of the British Museummarker, the National Portrait Gallerymarker, and a host of other organizations.

His health was now worrying his family and friends. Starting in 1898, he had begun experiencing bouts of stomach pain. By 1899, these had increased in severity, and by the summer of 1900, his doctors suspected a stomach tumour. He was operated twice in December 1900, however, the surgeries were not successful. In early January he experienced two severe stomach haemorrhages and his condition rapidly declined. Mandell Creighton died on Monday, 14 January 1901, aged 57.


On Thursday, 17 January 1901, after an elaborate service in St Paul's Cathedralmarker attended by royalty, politicians, academics, and ordinary people, Creighton's body was interred in the crypt by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was the first time in 280 years that a Bishop of London was buried in St Paul's. Obituaries in newspapers and scholarly journals from that time hailed him as one of England's great historians as well as a prelate of remarkable integrity. The Quarterly Review, for example, remarked, "It is certainly rare to find so much intellectual force and so high a standard of conduct combined in one man."

Today, Creighton's reputation as a historian is considered the more enduring one. Creighton's work is seen as part of an era in British historiography; many of the milestones of Creighton's academic life, such as founding of the English Historical Review in 1886, with himself as the first editor, are those of the era as well. According to historian Philippa Levine:
The Review was the culmination of a series of related developments central to the asserting of the primacy of the professional historian.
In 1884 a highly distinguished trio of men had all been rewarded with academic preferment: Mandell Creighton became the first Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge, E.
Freeman succeeded his friend Stubbs in the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Oxford and the legal historian Frederick Maitland became reader in English Law at Cambridge.
The following year the reform of the Historical Tripos in Cambridge and the division of Oxford's arts faculty into the three areas of literae humaniores, oriental languages and modern history declared that history had finally won academic respect as an autonomous area of study.

Creighton is considered to be one of the first British historians with a distinctly European outlook. According to historian R. J. W. Evans, Creighton's magnum opus, History of the Papacy in the Period of the Reformation "constitutes one of the first great attempts to introduce the British to explicitly modern and European history." However, Creighton and his peers, left a heterogeneous legacy. On the one hand, Creighton was a painstakingly balanced scholar; even his critic Lord Acton would use "sovereign impartiality" to describe Creighton's strength. Creighton saw himself as interested in actions, in contrast to Lord Acton, whom he saw as interested in ideas. Although he did not personally consider the popes to be guiltless (for example, amidst writing the third papacy volume, he wrote, in a letter to a friend, that working on the Borgias was like "spending one's day in a low police court"), Creighton was emphatic that public men be judged for their public and not private acts. In an essay, "Historical ethics," published after his death, he wrote that he "liked to stand upon clear grounds which can be proved and estimated. I do not like to wrap myself in the garb of outraged dignity because men in the past did things contrary to the principles which I think soundest in the present." On the other hand, Creighton, like his historian peers, also "embodied some of the cultural and social assumptions of men in their position." According to historians Robert Harrison, Aled Jones, and Peter Lambert, "Their emphasis on the Englishness of Britain's key institutions, for instance, effectively excluded non-English ethnic groups from the 'chief part,' as Creighton had put it, of history's subject."

The emphasis on concreteness and reality would remain a feature of his career as a prelate. Creighton saw the Church of England, not as an abstract entity existing independently in space and time, but as rooted in England, its people, and their history. In the words of historian Kenneth Robbins, "It was an unashamed acknowledgment on (Creighton's) part that the form, structure, ethos and doctrine of that church had been fashioned in the circumstances of English history." Similarly, Creighton saw the living church as an embodiment of the current yearnings of the English people. "(The) general trend of the Church," he wrote, "must be regulated by (the English people's) wishes. The Church cannot go too far from them." Consequently, Creighton could imbue the church with Victorian self-assessments and aspirations. "The function of the Church of England," he was comfortable saying, "was to be a church of free men. The Church of Rome was the church of decadent peoples: it lives only in the past, and has no future ... The Church of England has before it the conquest of the world." As a natural corollary of this outlook, Creighton was explicitly against the separation of church and state. In his way of thinking, church and state were two aspects of the nation as seen from two vantage points. Any attempt at legislating a separation would, in addition, have caused social disruptions in late-Victorian Britain: many higher clergy had ties of education and friendship with prominent public men.

During his lifetime Creighton had received honourary doctorates from a number of institutions, among them Oxfordmarker, Cambridgemarker, Harvardmarker, and Trinity College, Dublinmarker. A few years after his death, the Creighton lecture was established at King's College, Londonmarker. The lecture series celebrated its centenary in 2007.


Creighton was a man of complex, and sometimes baffling, intelligence. At Cambridge, some colleagues were perplexed by his personality: when teaching or transacting academic business during the day he displayed a shrewd, canny intelligence, however, at social gatherings in the evenings he was consistently outrageous and flippant, to the attendant delight of his students. His relationship with Louise too was not easily characterized. For example, in the months after the Peterborough appointment, husband and wife would frequently quarrel, sometimes bitterly, as a niece would later recall. But they could be surprisingly affectionate as well: during this same time, a nephew espied Louise locked in passionate embrace with the Bishop in the latter's study. He could be stern with his seven children, on one occasion tying a daughter to a table's leg with a rope to aid her in recognizing her folly. However, he often romped around the house with them, engaged in horseplay, and made up nonsensical stories—all of which, many years later, they would consider the highlights of their childhood.

Controversy seemed to trail him during his prelacies as well. He loved pageantry, creating speculation that he had high church views, however, when a high church priest protested that incense was needed for curing souls, Creighton burst out, "And you think that souls like herring cannot be cured without smoke?" His moderate views—equally against radical evangelical and conservative Anglo-Catholics—endeared him to Queen Victoria. However, Creighton's work ethic was anything but moderate: he seldom refused offers of additional responsibility, confessing more than once to both an abiding fatalism about being saddled with more responsibility and guilt about shirking from it. Perhaps recognizing this, the canon of St Paul's, while welcoming Creighton to the diocese of London in 1897, ominously remarked, "It is a frightful burden to lay on you: I hope you will use up everybody except yourself."

Throughout his life, Creighton went on long walks ("rambles"). When the children grew older, the family game of choice became field hockey; many visiting clergy in Fulham Palacemarker found themselves unable to refuse Creighton's enthusiastic invitations to join in. The Creightons were inveterate travelers, spending many vacations in Italy. During their six years in Peterborough, for instance, they made nine foreign trips. Creighton was also a life-long chain smoker. When author Samuel Butler, who had little sympathy for churchmen, received a letter in 1893 inviting him to visit the Creighton family in Peterborough, he was immediately put at ease when he discovered some tobacco that had been thoughtlessly left in the envelope by the Bishop of Peterborough.


Cited secondary sources

Further reading

Works of Mandell Creighton

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