NICHOLAS RIDLEY (c. 1500-1555), English bishop and martyr, was descended from an old Northumberland family. The second son of Christopher Ridley of Unthank Hall, near Willemoteswick, in that county, he was born in the beginning of the 16th century. From a school at Newcastle-on-Tyne he was sent about 1518 to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, being supported there by his uncle, Dr Robert Ridley (d. 1536), and specially distinguishing himself in Greek. Having graduated M.A. in 1526, he went to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and at Louvain, and on his return to Cambridge he was appointed junior treasurer of his college. In 1534 he was one of the university proctors, and he signed the decree of the university against the jurisdiction of the pope in England. About this time Ridley, who was now chaplain to the university, began to distinguish himself as an orator and a disputant, and to show leanings to the reformed faith. Having proceeded B.D. in 1 537, he was appointed by Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, one of his chaplains, and in April 1538 the same prelate instituted him to the vicarage of Herne in Kent. In 1540 he was chosen master of Pembroke Hall; in 1541 he became chaplain to Henry VIII. and canon of Canterbury. In 1543 he was accused of heretical teaching and practices, but he managed to allay the suspicions of the royal commissioners, although just after his exculpation he finally abandoned the doctrine of transubstantiation.
In 1547 Ridley was presented by his college to the Cambridgeshire living of Soham, and in September of the same year he was nominated bishop of Rochester. Edward VI. was now on the throne and the new bishop was in high favour. He was one of the visitors who were appointed to establish protestantism in the university of Cambridge; in 1548 he helped to compile the English prayer book; and in 1549 he was one of the commissioners who examined Bishops Gardiner and Bonner. He concurred in their deprivation and succeeded Bonner in the see of London. Having signed the letters patent settling the English crown on Lady Jane Grey, Ridley, in a sermon preached at St Paul's cross on the 9th of July 1553, affirmed that the princesses Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate and that the succession of the former would be disastrous to the religious interests of England. When Lady Jane's cause was lost, however, he went to Framlingham to ask Queen Mary's pardon, but at once he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London. From his prison he wrote in defence of his religious opinions, and early in 1554 he, with Cranmer and Latimer, was sent to Oxford to be examined. He defended himself against a number of divines, but was declared a heretic, and this was followed by his excommunication. He refused to recant, and in October 1 555 he was tried for heresy under the new penal laws, being degraded and sentenced to death. With Cranmer and Latimer he met his end at the stake in Oxford on the 16th of October 1555.
Ridley was a voluminous writer, but many of his writings have been lost. The Works of Nicholas Ridley D.D. were edited for the Parker 'Society by the Rev. Henry Christmas in 1841. His Life was written by Dr Gloucester Ridley in 1763, and there is a memoir of him in H. C. G. Moule's edition of the bishops' Declaration of the Lord's Supper (1895). See also John Foxe's Acts and Monuments (new ed., 1877); J. Strype's Memorials of Cranmer (new ed., Oxford, 1840); G. Burnet 's History of the Reformation (new ed., Oxford, 1865); J. A. Froude's History of England (1881 fol.); and J. Lingard's History of England (1854-55).
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