Jones, Thomas (1550–1619), Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin and lord chancellor of Ireland, was the younger son of Henry Jones of Middleton, Lancashire; nothing is known of his mother. He was educated at Christ's College, Cambridge (BA, 1570; MA, 1573) and went to Ireland in 1574, after ordination, where he became the protégé of Adam Loftus (qv), archbishop of Dublin, whose sister-in-law, Margaret, daughter of Adam Purdon of Co. Louth, he married. He was appointed to the chancellorship of St Patrick's cathedral in Dublin in 1577 and to the deanery in 1581. In that year Henry Wallop (qv) described him as one of only three preachers in the whole realm, and he was actively employed in endeavouring to convert catholics who were suspected of involvement in the Baltinglass and Nugent rebellions.
Through the influence of Loftus, who had become lord chancellor in 1581 and initially recommended him for the vacant see of Armagh, Jones was consecrated bishop of Meath on 12 May 1584 and appointed a member of the Irish council on 22 June. In 1586 he was among a group of clergy charged by the solicitor general, Roger Wilbraham, for non-payment of first fruits, and was forced to travel to England to defend himself. Although he served as an active member of the government of Sir John Perrot (qv), his conduct gave rise to criticism, which surfaced in 1589 after Perrot was replaced by Sir William Fitzwilliam (qv). Jones was accused of having neglected his diocese (and promised Secretary Walsingham that he would mend his ways), and was rebuked by the queen for a sermon in which he had implicitly criticised government policy by describing the recusant palesmen as idolaters, papists, and infidels and proposing severe measures against them. He was also alleged by Robert Legge, the deputy remembrancer, to have ‘endeavoured by means of untruth and an unworthy trick to obtain a pardon of his debts under the great seal’ (CSPI, 1588–92, 308). In the same year, as a commissioner in Connacht, he incurred Walsingham's displeasure by upholding complaints made against its governor, Sir Richard Bingham (qv), accusing him and his soldiers of undermining government efforts at pacification by their oppressive behaviour. In 1590–91 Jones was one of those involved in the intrigues that led to Perrot's being tried for treason. Catholics held him responsible for the execution in 1591 of a recusant schoolteacher, Michael Fitzsimons, whose lands at Forrowes in Meath he later secured.
Jones officiated at the clandestine marriage of Hugh O'Neill (qv) and Mabel Bagenal (qv) in 1591 and was for some time regarded as well disposed towards O'Neill, from whom he was suspected of accepting bribes and to whom he was suspected of supplying information. His frequent presence at Ardbraccan, Co. Meath, early in the Nine Years War suggests that he believed himself to have some immunity from molestation, but there is no doubt that he used his proximity to the rebels to provide intelligence to the government. He was a member of two commissions appointed to meet O'Neill, and by 1597 his first-hand experience of O'Neill's endless prevarication led him to suspect that O'Neill was expecting Spanish aid. He urged that O'Neill should be subdued by all possible means and recommended that armies be dispatched to Armagh, Connacht, and Lough Foyle. When O'Neill, in an appeal to the palesmen for their support late in 1599, issued a series of demands that included the full restoration of catholicism, Jones wrote a lengthy reply on behalf of the council in which he affirmed the God-given right of the sovereign to absolute obedience. When it transpired that the original appeal had never been distributed in the pale, the council withheld the answer.
In 1600 Jones's performance of his episcopal functions again came under critical scrutiny when it was reported that most of the parishes in his diocese were without clergy or churches suitable for worship. Although he insisted that the war was responsible for the condition of the churches, he was ordered to ‘give over his former profane way of life and to give himself more to preaching and travailing in the ways of his calling’ (CSPI, 1600, 273).
Jones's consistent advocacy of an actively anti-catholic policy found favour after the end of the Nine Years War and the appointment of Sir Arthur Chichester (qv) as lord deputy in 1605. The expulsion of catholic clergy by proclamation, and the enforcement of a mandatory requirement that corporation officers should attend the services of the reformed church, coincided with the twin appointments of Jones as archbishop of Dublin and lord chancellor on 8 November 1605 on the recommendation of Chichester, who declared that Jones provided him with his ‘best assistance’ (McCavitt, Chichester, 57). Although the policy proved unsustainable, Jones remained a trusted member of Chichester's inner circle and a constant opponent of moderation in religion, while his son Roger flourished under the lord deputy's patronage. Jones was appointed to the commission set up in 1609 to determine the extent and nature of the escheated lands in Ulster and to hear and settle the merits of all claimed titles. He was also listed as a potential undertaker. During this period he was involved in a protracted dispute arising from an accusation by Lord Howth (Christopher St Lawrence (qv)), that Sir Garret Moore (qv), a fellow councillor whose daughter was married to Jones's son, had known of O'Neill's plan to leave Ireland in 1607.
Jones did not wholly neglect his see: he is credited with having made repairs to Christ Church cathedral, including the restoration of its ruined steeple. He finally resigned as chancellor of St Patrick's in 1611. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Dublin in 1614 and served as lord justice in 1614 and 1615/16, but there are hints of failing energy, and perhaps approaching senility, in his later years. Certainly his death, which took place in Dublin on 10 April 1619, was awaited with some impatience. He was buried in St Patrick's cathedral.
Thomas Jones was survived by three of his children: Roger, who was created earl of Ranelagh in 1628; Margaret, who married Gilbert Domville, clerk of the hanaper; and Jane, who married Henry Piers of Tristernagh, Co. Meath, secretary to Lord Deputy Chichester.