Temple, Sir William (1555–1627), philosopher and provost of TCD, was born in Warwickshire, England, son of Anthony Temple. Educated at Eton, William entered King's College, Cambridge, where he was a fellow, graduating BA (1578) and MA (1581). Although initially studying law, he soon became interested in philosophy and between 1580 and 1584 published a number of works defending the French philosopher Pierre de la Ramée (Petrus Ramus). Ramist philosophy challenged the preexisting dominance of Aristotelian logic in European academia, and was in England associated with religious puritanism. He became master at Lincoln grammar school in 1581, and began work on an edition of Ramus's Dialectics which was published in 1584, is believed to be the first book printed by Cambridge University Press, and became a popular textbook.
From academic to official Having established his reputation as one of the foremost Ramist scholars in Europe, he became secretary to Sir Philip Sidney (October 1585), accompanying Sidney to the Low Countries on his appointment as governor of Flushing. Although unable to devote himself as fully to his scholarly labours as before, he continued to publish Ramist works intermittently up to 1611. After Sidney's death (October 1586), Temple received an annual pension of £30 in his dead master's will. Thereafter he served as secretary to William Davison, principal secretary, and then to Sir Thomas Smith (qv), clerk of the privy council.
Around 1594 he attached his fortunes to Robert Devereux (qv), 2nd earl of Essex and a royal favourite, entering parliament three years later as MP for Tamworth. In 1599 Essex was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland and charged with suppressing a dangerous rebellion there; Temple landed as part of the earl's entourage at Howth in April. While Essex campaigned in various parts of the country that summer, Temple remained in Dublin, from where he relayed news of military developments in Ireland to the royal court and bemoaned the failure of the queen to appreciate the difficulties her viceroy faced in Ireland. He almost certainly accompanied Essex on his sudden and ignominious return to England in the autumn.
In February 1601 he was heavily implicated in his patron's failed coup attempt and was arrested in its immediate aftermath. As a precursor to the attempted seizure of power, he had spread reports around London of a non-existent plot to murder Essex. Moreover, shortly before his execution Essex had claimed that Temple was among those of his adherents who had encouraged him in his treasonous designs. However, another party to this plot testified that he believed Essex had deceived Temple, and Temple himself resolutely denied any knowledge of Essex's plans when interrogated. By 26 February he had been put under close confinement at the Gatehouse prison and indicted for treason, with arraignment proceedings pending. At this point the government seemed set on his execution but the chief royal minister, Sir Robert Cecil, spared him and he escaped with a £100 fine. In gratitude he offered his services to Cecil, who, however, continued to regard him warily; an attempt to secure employment under Edward Zouche, lord president of Wales, appears to have failed and he resided obscurely in England for nearly a decade. By late 1608 Cecil was trying to find some work for him and probably helped arrange his appointment as provost of TCD in November 1609. On arriving in Dublin, he pretended that he had never visited the city before, as he did not want to draw attention to his past support for Essex.
Provost of TCD That said, the Essex connection appears to have played a part in his otherwise surprising recall from the political margins. During his time as Essex's secretary he had on behalf of his master performed some clandestine services for King James VI of Scotland, who was then hoping to succeed to the English throne with Essex's help. He would undoubtedly have liaised with James's main agents in London, James Fullerton and James Hamilton (qv), both of whom also happened to be Trinity fellows. By 1609 Hamilton was a leading landowner in Ulster while Fullerton was an adviser to James VI, who had succeeded as James I of England and Ireland in 1603. Under Fullerton's influence, James was set on endowing the previously under-resourced college with large tracts of land in Ulster in order to provide it with the means to train protestant clergymen and thereby further the progress of the reformation in Ireland. Temple's experience as secretary to a string of leading English statesmen suggested he had the acumen to manage the college's soon-to-be considerable property and finances. More significant was his intellectual pedigree, which made him ideally suited to overseeing a Trinity curriculum dominated by Ramist precepts. As disciples of Andrew Melville, the leading Ramist thinker in Scotland, Fullerton and Hamilton appear to have played a determining role in recruiting Temple for the provostship. Indeed, Temple was merely the latest and most celebrated of a succession of Ramist ideologues who found refuge in Trinity from an increasingly hostile intellectual climate in England.
He proved an able administrator – his record-keeping is of a far higher standard than that of his predecessors and successors – and also drew up the first set of statutes for the college, which was formally accepted by the fellows in March 1611. These statutes were based heavily on those used in Cambridge, which served to strengthen further the preexisting links between the two institutions. Strongly puritan, they described the use of the surplice in church service (which appears to have been a particular bugbear of Temple) as superstitious, and restricted its use in Trinity to students who were in or who aspired to be in holy orders; they also permitted lay preaching in the college chapel. In this regard, the statutes faithfully reflected the views not just of Temple but also of the students and academic staff under him.
Soon after, Temple departed for London. He remained there from June 1611 to March 1612, during which time he persuaded the king to make permanent an annual subsidy of £388 paid by the crown to Trinity. Combined with the royal grant of some 20,000 acres of land in Ulster, this gave the college an annual income of £1,100 and facilitated a rapid expansion in academic staff and students from four fellows and twenty-eight scholars in 1609 to sixteen fellows and seventy scholars in 1623.
In 1613–14 Temple established the institutional framework within which this growth would occur by setting down the various academic and administrative offices, the duties and incomes of these offices, the maintenance to be given to students, and the proportion of academics to students. One of the Trinity fellows, Luke Challoner (qv), presented a more ambitious alternative proposal involving the maintenance of fewer fellows and more students, but Temple's vision was implemented instead. Royal officials questioned Temple's reluctance to admit more students, but he pointed out with justification that although Trinity had received a great deal of land in Ulster, most of it was undeveloped and would not begin to yield a significant income for some years; therefore it was more prudent to expand at a slower speed. Moreover, the maintenance of only a small number of fellows would leave the academic staff overworked and unable to develop their own learning. The relatively large amount of fellows maintained by Trinity, and the youth of some of them, led him to introduce a distinction between senior and junior fellows, the latter being effectively excluded from the running of the college. This innovation created a lasting institutional rivalry between the provost and senior fellows on the one hand and the junior fellows on the other.
Controversies over property and defending the college charter However, the junior fellows were far from being his only critics, due to mounting unease over his financial probity. Unlike his clerical predecessors, he could not, as a layman, augment his salary as provost of £100 a year with a paid theological lectureship. Instead he was appointed a master of the court of chancery (January 1610), a position he held until his death and for which he received an annual salary of £26. This income was not enough to satisfy his needs, and he remained in financial difficulties for the rest of his life. His corrupt efforts to resolve these difficulties tarnished his stewardship of Trinity and attracted the fierce criticism of his academic colleagues, especially with regard to his leasing of college property. In particular, his proposal in 1610 to lease a large Ulster estate in perpetuity to his old associate Hamilton, a significant benefactor both of the college and (presumably) of Temple personally, for a rent of £600 a year aroused intense opposition. The fellows objected to the leasing of college property in perpetuity, and claimed with good cause that the true long-term value of the land was twice that of the proffered rent. This outcry forced Temple to desist and give Hamilton a thirty-year lease of the property in 1614 instead.
Adding to these complaints from within was the increasingly hostile scrutiny from without by the king's conservative church advisers in London, although they were alarmed principally by Trinity's ambiguous attitude towards the established church. After becoming chancellor of Trinity in 1612, Archbishop George Abbot of Canterbury was shocked at the puritan nature of the college statutes. In February 1614 Abbot rebuked Temple for not wearing the surplice and for not using the Book of Common Prayer during church services in Trinity's chapel, and relayed the king's command to him and his colleagues to do so in future. Temple defended his conduct and stressed that as a layman he was under no obligation to wear the surplice, but complied grudgingly with this order and also revised the college statutes to make them more acceptable to Abbot.
This only temporarily mollified Abbot, who embarked on a campaign designed to bring Trinity firmly under royal control. In this he sought to exploit the anomalous situation whereby TCD also enjoyed some of the privileges normally held by a university, such as the right to confer degrees and the right to elect MPs to parliament; indeed, Temple sat as MP for Dublin University in the 1613–15 Irish parliament. When Trinity had been founded in 1592 it had been assumed (wrongly) that private endowments would lead to the establishment of further colleges, at which point the university could be delineated as a separate entity. Temple agreed that it was necessary to issue separate charters for the college and the university, as he believed that the current situation – whereby the college could confer a degree without being subject to any form of outside supervision – could undermine academic standards. But he was not prepared to do so on the terms outlined by Abbot in February 1615: namely, that Trinity would have to surrender its existing charter before a separate university charter could be issued. He and his fellows raised a host of objections to this demand, which they believed was designed to deprive them of certain privileges enshrined in that charter, particularly the right to draft college statutes and the fellows’ right to elect a new provost. While they were prepared to amend the existing charter, they were in no way prepared to surrender those two privileges.
Sensing Temple's vulnerability, one of his senior fellows, Anthony Martin (d. 1650), brought a series of charges against him in London of corruption, religious nonconformity, and general misgovernment of the college. In May 1616 he went to England, both to defend himself from these charges and to maintain the integrity of the original Trinity charter. Prior to his departure he outlined his achievements as provost, including the fact that in his time the college had provided forty ministers for the Church of Ireland, and drew attention to the 1616 visitation of Trinity, which found no evidence of puritanism and noted that the surplice and the Book of Common Prayer were used in college church services. The latter point probably did not impress Abbot, who thought the existing visitors far too sympathetic to Trinity's puritan bent and sought to have more reliably conservative visitors appointed instead. Temple was aided by the fact that most of his Trinity colleagues rallied around him at this juncture in the interests of preserving their threatened autonomy from royal interference. Abbot did not take Martin's accusations seriously, regarding them as based on a personal grudge, but he did try to use them to intimidate Temple into surrendering the charter. This he refused to do; no further action was taken, and the proposal to issue separate college and university charters lapsed. Temple returned to Dublin in May 1617, having successfully defended both himself and Trinity.
Nonetheless, his leasing of college property to dubious land speculators and to family members, including his wife, continued to alarm his colleagues, and at their behest the Irish government issued in late 1617 an act of state forbidding the extension of current leases of Trinity's Ulster estates. Subsequently the fellows complained to the government that Temple violated the college statutes regulating the appointment of fellows, dismissed college officers and replaced them with his own cronies, refused to draft a statute preventing the leasing of college land for more than twenty-one years, and attempted to circumvent the act of state forbidding extensions to leases of Ulster properties. Temple furiously denied these charges, but it is a significant commentary on his worldliness that after his death a number of obviously unsuitable candidates sought the position of provost purely for the purposes of self-enrichment.
Final years and legacy as provost By virtue of his codification of college statutes in 1611 and the administrative structure he laid down in 1613–14, Temple's influence over the subsequent development of Trinity endured until well into the nineteenth century, but in other respects his term of office was singularly undistinguished. With the notable exception of James Ussher (qv), who predated Temple, the college produced no outstanding students or academics. Indeed, in 1618 the college was forced to pay an outsider to undertake its theological lecture in Christ Church, as none of the fellows were capable of doing so. There are mitigating circumstances for this: Trinity fellows were only permitted to remain in the college for seven years, as they were expected to find positions in the church, while many of the fellows were much younger than their English counterparts because Trinity often admitted students in their early teens. This set-up was not designed to nurture brilliant theologians and scholars. A more fundamental criticism of Temple's tenure as provost would be to note that the college was intended to act as a protestant seminary, and its record in this regard was also disappointing. Although Trinity did produce increasing numbers of parish clergy for the Church of Ireland, its output remained modest. Moreover, most of these graduates, being English, were unwilling to reside in predominately Irish-speaking parts of the country, and often ended up receiving a ministry within the Pale. This development made a mockery of Trinity's pretensions to function as a national institution and as the driving force behind the religious and cultural transformation of Irish society.
Probably the most significant failure of his tenure was Trinity's lack of Irish-speaking graduates who could then evangelise their fellow countrymen in their own tongue. In 1620 the king expressed his frustration at the predominately English character of Trinity in a strongly worded missive in which he called for Irish-speakers to be guaranteed a place in Trinity for two to three years. Temple rejected this by citing the lack of Irish-speaking protestants and (more revealingly) by pointing out that this would hurt the career prospects of Trinity's existing (and largely English) students. Although he paid lip service to the official policy of encouraging native Irish admissions to Trinity by introducing special scholarships for native students, in practice he undermined the thrust of this initiative by using a very elastic definition of Irishness, enabling him to bestow these scholarships on the Irish-born but non-Irish-speaking sons of English administrators and clergy. As a result only twenty of the college's seventy students were Irish in 1623. Nothing was done during his tenure to revive the teaching of Irish, and he and most of his colleagues appear to have regarded the destruction of Gaelic language and culture as an essential prerequisite for the conversion of the native Irish. Such attitudes were an inevitable consequence of the exclusivist, culturally insular puritan mentality fostered within the college by Temple and his predecessors.
His final years were characterised by continued squabbling with his colleagues over the management of the college's property, royal exasperation at the poor return on its sizeable investment, and bitter dissension between the senior and junior fellows. Unsurprisingly, this academic fractiousness did little for student discipline, and Trinity's scholars became notorious for their rowdiness. Nonetheless, he retained his position and was knighted on 4 May 1622 for his public service. In September 1625 he was described as being ill and he came under pressure to resign, but it was not until January 1627 that he indicated his willingness to step down. Before he could do so, he died at Trinity College on 15 January 1627 and was buried in the old chapel near the provost's seat. At the time of his death he owed £450 to the college, which was repaid with difficulty by his family.
He married (by April 1599) Martha, daughter of Robert Harrison of Derbyshire; they had two sons and three daughters. His eldest son, Sir John Temple (qv), was master of the rolls in Ireland and the author of an influential polemic on the 1641 rebellion, while his second son, Thomas Temple, was FTCD, rector of Old Ross in the diocese of Ferns, and later a successful puritan minister in London.