William Van Mildert – The Last Prince Bishop

William Van Mildert by Thomas Lawrence

By Thomas Lawrence [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William Van Mildert was born in London on the 6th November 1765 in Southwark, London, the son of Gin Distiller Cornelius van Mildert and his wife Martha. As you may have guessed from his name, he was from Dutch ancestors but his Great Grandfather would bring the family to London in 1670.

He gained a Bachelor of Arts degree form Queen’s College, Oxford in 1787 and upon receiving his Master of Arts in 1790 he became a curate in Essex. During his time in Essex he would meet a daughter of General Douglas and the pair fell in love. By 1795 Mildert had moved to Northamptonshire and the pair would marry just before Christmas.

Mildert’s career progressed through several chaplaincies and became known for his passionate lectures which were published in 1806.

Mildert became the Bishop of Llandaff in 1819, though despite being a rising star within the church, he declined the archbishopric of Dublin.

In 1826 Mildert became a ‘Prince Bishop’ when he accepted the palatine bishopric of Durham. As his predecessors did, Mildert effectively ruled the diocese with the power of the monarch, the Palatine County of Durham effectively being a country within a country.

In 1836, follow a minor illness Mildert collapsed, dying a week later. He had made it known that he wanted to be entombed in the chapel at Auckland Palace but he was laid to rest in a vault in front of the high altar at Durham Cathedral.

The bishopric was stripped of its palatine status making Mildert the last of Prince Bishops, a lineage which stretching back to 1071.

His legacy lives on and can be seen in shop names, road and company names, but probably most importantly in Van Mildert College, University of Durham, an academic institution he was instrumental in founding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.