Dopping, Anthony (1643–97), Church of Ireland bishop of Meath, was born 26 March 1643, son of Anthony Dopping (d. 1649), clerk of the pleas and the exchequer and MP for Bandon in the 1640 parliament, and his second wife Margaret, sister of William Domvile (qv), later Charles II's attorney general. Anthony Dopping senior was originally from Frampton, near Gloucester, and had come to Ireland earlier in the century, buying an estate in Co. Meath in 1636.
Education and early career Dopping was educated at St Patrick's cathedral school and from 1656 at TCD. He graduated BA in 1660 and MA in 1662, the same year becoming a fellow of the college, and subsequently BD (1669) and DD (1672). He resigned his fellowship in 1670 to become vicar of St Andrew's in Dublin and was later made chaplain to the duke of Ormond (qv), who as lord lieutenant had him appointed bishop of Kildare in 1679. Ormond was responsible for his translation in February 1682 to Meath, the most senior bishopric after the four metropolitan sees and one which invariably brought with it membership of the Irish privy council.
James II's reign An enthusiastic exponent of the prevailing doctrine of divine right, in 1685 Dopping sent an address from his clergy and himself to James II (qv) two months after the king's accession, promising ‘to maintain and defend the prerogative of your crown and sceptre and the necessity of obedience to your majesty against all the enemies of both’ (Gilmore, 60). He was at the same time aware of the dangers facing the established church in Ireland under a catholic monarch, having cautioned his clergy in March to remember Christ's admonition to ‘be wise as serpents and harmless as doves’ (ibid., 62). They should avoid confrontation with catholic priests but keep their churches locked least they be seized. In February 1686 he was perfunctorily rebuked by the loyally anglican lord lieutenant, the earl of Clarendon (qv), when the king complained of anti-catholic rhetoric in a sermon Dopping had preached at Christ Church on 31 January. Clarendon assured James that Dopping was ‘a very dull preacher’ (Correspondence, i, 282) and that there would be no repetition.
In the aftermath of James II's flight to France in December 1688, Dopping, Bishop William Sheridan (qv) of Kilmore, and Lords Longford (qv) and Granard (qv) told the 2nd duke of Ormond (qv) that they had prevailed on Bishop William Moreton (qv) of Kildare to travel to London to give an account of the condition of protestants in Ireland. The outcome of this mission is unclear, with Moreton remaining in England till after the Williamite war and apparently accepting the new monarchs without demur. For their part Dopping and two of his co-signatories, Longford and Granard, remained in Ireland, sat in James II's Irish parliament, but publicly switched allegiance to the Williamite side as the war progressed.
Three days after James II entered Dublin (27 March 1689), Dopping, the most senior churchman in Dublin, led a delegation of clergy to wait on the king and assure him of their resolution ‘to continue firm to that loyalty which the principles of our church oblige us to’ (Gilmore, 75). Dopping went on to ask for liberty in the future to represent grievances, to which James assented. This meeting was the beginning of an understanding, if not a collaboration, between bishop and monarch which lasted throughout the parliamentary session of May and June, and well into 1690. In the house of lords, in which four Church of Ireland bishops sat, Dopping led the opposition to a number of bills, but most memorably to the bill for repealing the acts of settlement and explanation, on whose passing he and the protestant peers registered their protest in the journal. The non-juring clergyman Charles Leslie (qv) later wrote that the king encouraged Dopping and the other protestant peers in their opposition, and had given Dopping a copy of his objections to the repeal bill in advance of Dopping's speech. The text of Dopping's speech was later published in William King (qv), State of the protestants of Ireland (1691).
Throughout the Jacobite period, as protestant laity and clergy waited on events, Dopping's counsel was sought by fellow bishops. For example, Bishop Edward Wetenhall (qv) asked in April 1689 if he should attend James's parliament, while Bishop Thomas Otway (qv) wondered if he should contribute to a forced loan to finance James's army. And certainly Dopping's influence on the king, if not on the king's officials, was apparent on some at least of those occasions when he complained about catholics seizing protestant churches. James's proclamation of 13 December 1689 ordering the return of churches in Kilkenny, Callan, and Wexford came just a week after Dopping had presented him with four petitions complaining of church seizures. At the time and in retrospect Dopping saw this period of protestant suffering as God's judgement for sin: ‘we have found that the hand of God has been heavy upon us’ (Gilmore, 69). For his part William King was unstinting in his praise for what Dopping had contributed to the welfare of protestants in 1689–90.
Critic of policy After the battle of the Boyne (1 July 1690) Dopping again led a delegation of Church of Ireland clergy, this time to William III (qv) in his camp at Finglas near Dublin, where he excused, on grounds of prudence and self-preservation, collaboration with James II's government; when he sought William's protection for the established church, the king, clearly mindful that it was his presbyterian subjects who had declared for him unambiguously, promised protection for ‘the protestant religion’ but failed to mention the church. It was left to William King to redeem the church's position when he preached some days later in St Patrick's cathedral at the service of thanksgiving for victory at the Boyne. In November 1691, with the war finally over, Dopping pressed to be the preacher at the service of thanksgiving and then used the occasion to launch a robust attack on the defeated catholics, and by implication on the articles of Limerick. The dismayed lords justices urged his immediate suspension from the privy council, to which William agreed on 10 December (the suspension was lifted in September 1692). In retrospect the thanksgiving sermon, taken with his earlier acquiescence in the Jacobite government, may reasonably be regarded as having irretrievably damaged Dopping's prospects for future promotion. When an archiepiscopal vacancy was in prospect in 1693, Thomas Coningsby (qv), a signatory of the articles of Limerick which Dopping had so roundly attacked, wrote to the earl of Nottingham, secretary of state, that ‘a more improper man . . . cannot be found’ (CSPD, 1693, 122).
Church reform An immediate casualty of Dopping's removal from the privy council was an initiative he took earlier in November 1691, when he persuaded the lords justices to forward to Whitehall a letter he had drafted on clerical pluralities and non-residence; the objective was to have the letter forwarded in the king's name to the aged and inactive primate, Michael Boyle (qv). Nothing came of the move, and with Dopping no longer on the council the matter was dropped. In attacking the problem of pluralities and non-residence Dopping was acting as part of a small group of reform-minded bishops (principally William King, Narcissus Marsh (qv), Samuel Foley, and Nathaniel Foy (qv)) who sought robust support from an often reluctant government for church reform. It was appropriate that Dopping should have taken the initiative, as his record as bishop was one of assiduous attention to the welfare of his own diocese and the Church of Ireland more generally. As bishop of Meath he was assiduous in conducting visitations, which allowed him to seek informed reasons for the church's manifest weakness. In 1696 he published in Latin a tract on visitations clearly intended for a clerical readership (Tractatus de visitationibus episcopalibus). Well armed with statistics he could identify in 1697 dilapidated churches, lack of clergy, insufficient clerical stipends and ‘want of protestants’ (Archiv. Hib., xxii, 163) as central to the church's problems in Meath. In 1694 he and William King were commissioned by Queen Mary to inquire into the neglected state of the diocese of Down and Connor under Bishop Thomas Hackett (qv). The outcome was the removal not only of Hackett but of a number of the senior clergy of the diocese. Like his fellow reformers, but unlike most of his episcopal colleagues, he was not prepared to be complacently satisfied with the benefits of establishment in a country where members of the established church were a minority of the protestant population, itself accounting for less than 30 per cent of the population as a whole. So far as dissenters were concerned, he could contemplate toleration for religious practice but not for their participation in public life. Indeed, the corollary of toleration must be, as in England already, a law to impose a sacramental test: ‘if the dissenters in Ireland be established upon the same foot of indulgence with their brethren in England, the church party should be established upon the same foot of security with the Church of England’ (The case of the dissenters of Ireland consider'd in reference to the sacramental test (1695), 3).
He believed firmly in the church's duty to catechise the catholic population, including evangelisation through Irish. In 1685 he helped raise subscriptions for the project of Robert Boyle (qv) to publish the bible in Irish, and though he appeared to vacillate on the issue over the next decade, in October 1693 he wrote that church and state should be ‘heartily endeavouring the conversion of the natives’ and recommended ‘sending missionary preachers to preach to them in the Irish tongue’ (Gilmore, 183). But four years later he feared that preaching in Irish would ‘too much encourage the Irish to continue in their own language’, his change of attitude reflecting wider anxieties among reforming clergy about the use of Irish.
Irish parliament In 1692 Dopping published Modus tenendi parliamenta in Hibernia . . . out of an antient record. To which is added the rules and customs of the house, gathered out of the journal books from time of Edward the Sixth by H.S.E., C.P. The Irish ‘modus’ was a medieval tract of disputed provenance which made the workings of parliament in Ireland appear to be in every way similar to the powers and procedures of parliament in England. According to Dopping's preface, ‘the news of an approaching parliament in this kingdom has invited me to the publication of this antient record’, the manuscript of which he had been bequeathed by Sir William Domvile, ‘my ever honoured uncle’. His only aim was ‘to stir up the endeavours of the learned searchers into antiquity to find out the true original and date of this record’. But the fact that Dopping and his publisher should, on the eve of an Irish parliament's meeting, include with the ‘Modus’ a manual of parliamentary procedure by Henry Scobell (d. 1660), clerk of the English parliament under the commonwealth, suggests at the least that the exercise was an implied assertion of the Irish parliament's antiquity and comparability with the English parliament. The ‘Modus’ had already been used to similar effect in the 1613–15 parliament and would be used in 1698 by Dopping's brother-in-law, William Molyneux (qv), in his Case of Ireland's being bound . . . , just as it was cited by Domvile, Dopping's uncle and Molyneux's father-in-law, in his unpublished ‘Disquisition’ of 1660.
Family Dopping married (c.1670) Jane Molyneux, William's older sister. Their children included Samuel Dopping (1671–1720), MP for Armagh 1695–9, 1703–14, and for TCD 1715–20, and Anthony Dopping (1675–43), bishop of Ossory 1741–3. Dopping died 25 April 1697 and was buried in St Andrew's, Dublin, where he had been vicar in the early 1670s. His correspondence (in three volumes) is in Armagh Public Library, as is his diary for 1685–90; TCD has three volumes of his sermons and his paper on church reform.