Howley, Archbishop (biog)

William Howley (pronounced Hooley) (1766-1848) was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1828 until his death. He has been described as the last of the ‘Prince Archbishops’ – he controlled church income (the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were established in 1836), wore a wig and travelled in a carriage and six black horses. He was the only cleric to speak in Parliament against the 1832 Reform Bill. William as Bishop of London assisted at the baptism of Queen Victoria, but later as Archbishop informed her of the death of her uncle William IV and her accession in 1837. He officiated at her confirmation, crowning, and marriage. The coronation service (by which time William was 71 years old) was clearly under-rehearsed as the Archbishop rammed the ring on Victoria’s wrong finger and the service was delayed when it refused to come off.  William is better remembered for the donation of books he made to the cathedral library, with Benjamin Harrison, Archdeacon of Canterbury – these are known as the Harrison-Howley collection and comprise 16,000 volumes.  William also gave the elaborate new throne in 1844 which stands on the south side of the choir – designed in a style known by its detractors as ‘wedding cake’. William died aged 83 at Addington near Croydon and was buried there, so his memorial at Canterbury is strictly a cenotaph.

What to see:

  • the cenotaph (Image 1) was the first of Canterbury’s Victorian memorial to imitate the style of medieval tombs – it required the removal of a large cupboard of relics and a section of Prior Eastry’s screen (re-erected at the entrance to St Andrew’s chapel)
  • the work of Richard Westmacott junior, the effigy shows William lying on a rush pallet wearing his coronation cope (Image 2).  Woodman (1981) has described it as a ‘vacuous monument’ and complained that ‘its dismal design introduces a single bland note into the choir interior’.

Sources;  see standard cathedral sources