COSIN, Richard (c.1548-97), of Doctors' Commons, London; later of Cote and Ashton, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1548, s. of John Cosin of Newhall, co. Dur. by Margery, da. of Henry Pudsey of Bolton. educ. Skipton sch.; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1561, scholar 1563, BA 1566, fellow 1566; adm. pens. Gonville and Caius 1568, MA 1569, LLD 1580; adv. Doctors’ Commons. 1585. unm.

Offices Held

Chancellor, diocese of Worcester Jan.-Dec. 1583; dean of the arches and vicar-general, diocese of Canterbury Dec. 1583; master in Chancery extraordinary bef. 1588, master in Chancery Oct. 1588; member of ecclesiastical commission.1


Cosin’s father died at, or shortly after, the battle of Musselburgh 1547, leaving Cosin to be brought up by his stepfather, one Medhope. His relationship, which the Durham connexion makes likely, to Bishop Cosin has not been established.

By no means the ‘unprofitable’ student that he professed to be, Cosin was always interested in the affairs of Cambridge and of Trinity College in particular. While at the University, his tutor was Whitgift, to whom he owed his first ecclesiastical appointment and whom he served for the greater part of his life. As the archbishop’s principal administrative and legal adviser, Cosin was associated with Whitgift’s transformation of the high commission and other reforms in the ecclesiastical judicature. In 1583, together with Whitgift and Fabian Phillips, Cosin served in the visitation of Hereford diocese. He was also on the commission to visit the cathedrals of Lichfield and Coventry and, in 1584, Gloucester. Between 1583 and 1584 he was a commissioner to exercise jurisdiction in the diocese of Winchester. Bishop Watson died in January 1584 and his successor, Bishop Cooper, who was translated from Lincoln, was appointed some time that year, the actual date being unknown. On 25 Oct. 1584 Cosin was returned to Parliament for Downton, his first name being wrongly given as ‘Thomas’ on the return. It is possible that the election, normally influenced by the bishops of Winchester, took place during the vacancy in the see, but in any case, it may be explained by Whitgift’s influence. So may his return at Hindon, where the bishop of Winchester was normally patron. The borough authorities again did not know Cosin’s christian name, which was inserted in the return by a different hand. On 18 Dec. 1584 he was appointed to a committee considering appeals out of ecclesiastical courts and on 8 Mar. 1587 he was appointed, presumably to keep a watching brief for Whitgift, to the committee dealing with the motion for a ‘learned ministry’.2

As well as being an ecclesiastical judge, Cosin was a Chancery lawyer, dealing with testamentary problems and other matters related to ecclesiastical jurisdiction. He also wrote a number of treatises supporting Whitgift and defending the Church of England against presbyterian criticism. Shortly before his death, he purchased lands and houses in Cote and Ashton, Oxfordshire, and obtained a grant of the parsonage of Folkestone.

Cosin died at Doctors’ Commons 30 Nov. and was buried at Lambeth 7 Dec. 1597. By his will, proved 13 Dec. that year, he expressed belief in the ‘holy canonical scriptures as a perfect rule of faith and manners’. He bequeathed £5 in gold to Whitgift, beseeching him to favour his family and servants, and made a gift of plate to Doctors’ Commons. Trinity College, Cambridge, received numerous bequests, including £40 for a new chamber and £10 for two poor scholars. A portrait of Whitgift was given to the University. Provision was made for his numerous stepbrothers. His best friends, Walter Jones of Worcester, Dr. Brown, Dr. Farrand and Dr. Stanhope, each received a book. His executor and eldest stepbrother, Roger Medhope, was to be bound before the archbishop of Canterbury for due performance of the will’s intent, ‘both by law and equity’. Shortly after his death, William Barlow, later bishop of Lincoln, for whose education Cosin had paid, published a biography to which were appended tributes from other scholars.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: W.J.J.


  • 1. DNB; Vis. North (Surtees Soc. cxxxiii), ii. 142; Strype, Whitgift, i. 332; ii. 566; All Souls mss 139, ff. 130, 135; C. Monro, Acta Canc. 618; Strype, Aylmer, 91.
  • 2. PCC 111 Cobham; C219/29/170; Neale, Parlts. i. 163; D’Ewes, 34l, 413.
  • 3. APC, xiv. 60-1; xx. 10; CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 349; 1598-1601, pp. 526, 532; PCC 111 Cobham; DNB.