William Fulke (1538-1589)A Reformed Minister of the Gospel
Let us not be discomforted if God himself seems to wrestle with us, and to fight against us by sending us great troubles and temptations, for his purpose is in this a most noble combat, both to give us strength to overcome, and also the praise of the victory.
- Tvvo treatises written against the papistes the one being an answere of the Christian Protestant to the proud challenge of a popish Catholicke: the other a confutation of the popish churches doctrine touching purgatory & prayers for the dead: by William Fulke Doctor in diuinitie.
-  The vvoman of Canaan A comfortable sermon of faith in temptations and afflictions. Preached at Saint Buttolphes without Aldersgate in London, the 15. of February. 1573. By Maister William Fulke Doctor of Diuinity and Maister of Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge.
- [Anno. 1580] T. Stapleton and Martiall (two popish heretikes) confuted, and of their particular heresies detected. By D. Fulke, Master of Pembrooke hall in Cambridge. Done and directed to all those that loue the truth, and hate superstitious vanities. Seene and allowed
-  A sermon preached vpon Sunday, beeing the twelfth of March. Anno. 1581, within the Tower of London in the hearing of such obstinate Papistes as then were prisoners there: by William Fulke Doctor in Diuinitie, and M. of Penbroke Hall in Cambridge.
-  A sermon preached on Sundaye, being the .17. of March Anno. 1577. at S. Alpheges Church within Creplegate in London, by William Fulke doctor in diuinitie. Seene and allowed, accordyng to the order appoynted in the Queenes Maiesties Iniunctions
- [Anno. 1581] A reioynder to Bristows replie in defence of Allens scroll of articles and booke of purgatorie Also the cauils of Nicholas Sander D. in Diuinitie about the supper of our Lord, and the apologie of the Church of England, touching the doctrine thereof, confuted by William Fulke, Doctor in Diuinitie, and master of Pembroke Hall in Cambridge. Seene and allowed.
-  A sermon preached at Hampton Court on Sonday being the 12. day of Nouember, in the yeare of our Lord. 1570. VVherein is plainly proued Babylon to be Rome, both by Scriptures and doctors. Preached by VVilliam Fulke Bacheler of Diuinity, and fellow of S. Iohns Colledge in Cambridge.
-  A retentiue, to stay good Christians, in true faith and religion, against the motiues of Richard Bristow Also a discouerie of the daungerous rocke of the popish Church, commended by Nicholas Sander D. of Diuinitie. Done by VVilliam Fulke Doctor of diuinitie, and Maister of Pembroke hall in Cambridge.
- [Anno. 1573 pridie calendas Ianuarij] Prælections vpon the sacred and holy Reuelation of S. Iohn, written in latine by William Fulke Doctor of Diuinitie, and translated into English by George Gyffard
-  Meteors, or, A plain description of all kind of meteors as well fiery and ayrie, as watry and earthy, briefly manifesting the causes of all blazing-stars, shooting stars, flames in the aire, thunder, lightning, earthquakes, rain, dew, snow, clouds, sprigs, stones, and metalls / by W.F.
- [Anno. 1563] A goodly gallerye with a most pleasaunt prospect, into the garden of naturall contemplation, to behold the naturall causes of all kynde of meteors, as wel fyery and ayery, as watry and earthly, of whiche sort be blasing sterres, shooting starres, flames in the ayre &c. tho[n]der, lightning, earthquakes, &c. rayne dewe, snowe, cloudes, springes &c. stones, metalles, earthes &c. to the glory of God, and the profit of his creaturs.
- [Anno. 1583. Cum gratia & priuilegio] A defense of the sincere and true translations of the holie Scriptures into the English tong against the manifolde cauils, friuolous quarels, and impudent slaunders of Gregorie Martin, one of the readers of popish diuinitie in the trayterous Seminarie of Rhemes. By William Fvlke D. in Diuinitie, and M. of Pembroke haule in Cambridge. Wherevnto is added a briefe confutation of all such quarrels & cauils, as haue bene of late vttered by diuerse papistes in their English pamphlets, against the writings of the saide William Fvlke.
- [1580?] A godly and learned sermon, preached before an honourable auditorie the 26. day of Februarie. 1580
- [Anno. 1579] D. Heskins, D. Sanders, and M. Rastel, accounted (among their faction) three pillers and archpatriarches of the popish synagogue (vtter enemies to the truth of Christes Gospell, and all that syncerely professe the same) ouerthrowne, and detected of their seuerall blasphemous heresies. By D. Fulke, Maister of Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge. Done and directed to the Church of England, and all those which loue the trueth.
-  A confutation of a popishe, and sclaunderous libelle in forme of an apologie: geuen out into the courte, and spread abrode in diuerse other places of the realme. VVritten by VVilliam Fulke, Bacheler in Diuinitie, and felowe of S. Ihons Colledge in Cambridge.
-  A comfortable sermon of faith, in temptations and afflictions Preached at S. Botulphes wythout Aldersgate in London, the .xv. of Februarye. 1573. By Maister VVilliam Fulke, Doctor of Diuinitie.
-  A briefe confutation, of a popish discourse: lately set forth, and presumptuously dedicated to the Queenes most excellent Maiestie: by Iohn Howlet, or some other birde of the night, vnder that name Contayning certaine reasons, why papistes refuse to come to church, which reasons are here inserted and set downe at large, with their seuerall answeres. By D. Fulke, Maister of Penbroke Hall, in Cambridge. Seene and allowed.
-  Antiprognosticon that is to saye, an inuectiue agaynst the vayne and vnprofitable predictions of the astrologians as Nostrodame, [et]c. Translated out of Latine into Englishe. Whervnto is added by the author a shorte treatise in Englyshe, as well for the vtter subuersion of that fained arte, as also for the better vnderstandynge of the common people, vnto whom the fyrst labour seemeth not sufficient
Biography of William Fulke:
William Fulke D.D. (1538–1589), a notable puritan divine, was born in London as the son of Christopher Fulke, a prosperous citizen. Historically, it’s believed he attended St. Paul’s School. During his tenure there, he notably competed against Edmund Campion, and was bested in the competition for a distinguished silver pen prize offered to city schools.
In 1555, Fulke embarked on his academic journey at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He successfully achieved his B.A. in January 1557–8 and furthered his academic credentials with an M.A. in 1563. Guided by his father’s wishes, he initially pursued a legal career at Clifford’s Inn. However, after a six-year stint, he found himself increasingly disenchanted with legal studies. This prompted a return to Cambridge, where he passionately delved into mathematics, languages, and theology. He had already penned a few minor works on astronomical subjects (see below).
Despite his academic pivot, which was met with his father’s disapproval, Fulke’s 1564 fellowship election at the college provided him with a semblance of financial independence. This newfound freedom allowed him to intensively study the scriptures and oriental languages, areas that were somewhat underappreciated at Cambridge during that era (Strype, Annals, ii. i. 154). By 1565, he had ascended to the position of principal lecturer of his college. In the ensuing years, he was appointed as a preacher and Hebrew lecturer, and by 1568, he had secured his B.D. degree.
Fulke’s association with Thomas Cartwright (1535–1603), a leading puritan figure at Cambridge, became a significant aspect of his academic and religious journey. He actively engaged in the ‘vestiarian’ controversy, a fervent debate surrounding the religious significance of the surplice. His influential sermons and personal advocacy led many students to reject the surplice, causing significant unrest within the university. The escalating situation compelled the chancellor, Cecil, to intervene. As a consequence of this controversy, Fulke faced expulsion from the college.
However, the unwavering support from the puritan community ensured Fulke’s swift reinstatement in 1566–1567. Around this period, he was embroiled in another controversy, this time concerning allegations of endorsing an incestuous marriage. This led him to voluntarily resign his fellowship. Yet, after a hearing with Bishop Cox of Ely, he was acquitted of the charges and reinstated in 1569 (Strype, Parker, i. 556).
Despite these challenges, Fulke’s reputation remained largely unscathed. In fact, he came close to being elected as the master of the college, a position of significant prestige. Leicester, a staunch supporter of the puritan cause, subsequently appointed Fulke as his chaplain. He also secured for Fulke two prominent livings in Essex and Suffolk (Rymer, Fœdera, xv. 728). With Leicester’s influence, Fulke received his D.D. degree in 1572.
Throughout the 1570s and 1580s, Fulke remained at the forefront of theological discussions. He was an ardent defender of Protestantism and frequently challenged the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. His writings, while known for their sharp and sometimes abrasive tone, were also recognized for their scholarly depth and clarity.
Fulke’s life came to an end on 28 Aug. 1589. He was interred in Dennington, where a monument, commissioned by Dr. Thomas Wright, stands in his honor. Fulke had two marriages in his lifetime and left behind a legacy that included two sons and four daughters. His generosity is also remembered through a silver-gilt cup that he bequeathed to his college, a token that remains with the society to this day.
Fulke’s works are: 1. ‘An Almanack and Prognostication,’ licensed by the Stationers’ Company 1560. 2. ‘Antiprognosticon contra inutiles astrologorum prædictiones,’ London, 1560, 8vo. Translated into English by G. Painter, London, 1560, 12mo. 3. ‘A Goodly Gallerye, with a most pleasant prospect into the garden of naturall contemplation, to behold the naturall causes of all kynde of Meteors,’ London, 1563, 12mo. ‘Dedicated by William Fulce to Lord Robert Dudley.’ 4. ‘Οὐρανομαχία, hoc est, astrologorum ludus,’ London, 1571, 1572, 1573, 4to, an astronomical game after the manner of chess. Dedicated to William Lord Burghley, chancellor of the university. 5. ‘A Confutation of a Popishe and sclanderous Libelle,’ London, 1571, 1573, 1574, 8vo. 6. ‘A Sermon preached at Hampton Court, 12 Nov. 1570, wherein is plainly prooved Babilon to be Rome, both by Scriptures and Doctors,’ London, 1572, 1579, 16mo. 7. ‘A comfortable Sermon of Faith. Preached at St. Botulphes, wythout Aldersgate in London, the xv. of February, 1573,’ London, 1573, 12mo. 8. ‘In Sacram Divi Johannis Apocalypsim prælectiones,’ London, 1573, 4to. 9. ‘Two Treatises written against the Papistes,’ London, 1577, 8vo. 10. ‘A Sermon preached on Sondaye, being the 17th of March, anno 1577, at S. Alphage’s Church within Cripplegate in London,’ London, 1577, 12mo. 11. ‘Metromachia, sive Ludus Geometricus,’ London, 4to. n.d. and 1578. 12. ‘Gulielmi Fulconis Angli ad epistolam Stanislai Hosii Varmiensis episcopi de expresso Dei verbo Responsio,’ London, 1578, 12mo. 13. ‘Ad Thomæ Stapletoni Responsio,’ London, 1579, 8vo. 14. ‘D. Heskins, D. Sanders, and M. Rastel, accounted (among their faction) three pillers, and Archpatriarches of the Popish Synagogue (utter enemies to the truth of Christes Gospel and all that syncerely profess the same), overthrowne and detected of their severell blasphemous heresies,’ London, 1579, 8vo. 15. ‘Stapletonii fortalitium expugnatum,’ London, 1580, 12mo. Translated with this title: ‘T. Stapleton and Martiall (two Popish Heretikes) confuted,’ London, 1580, 12mo. 16. ‘A Sermon at the Tower on John xvii. 17,’ London, 1580, 8vo; 1581, 16mo. 17. ‘A Godly and learned Sermon, preached before an honourable auditorie, the 26th day of Februarie, 1580’ (anon.), London, 1580, 16mo. On 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. 18. ‘Conferentia cum pontificiis in castro Wisbicensi, 4 Oct. 1580,’ London, 1580, 8vo. 19. ‘A Retentive to stay good Christians in the true faith and religion, against the motives of Rich. Bristow,’ London, 1580; reprinted, Cambridge, 1848, 8vo. 20. ‘A Rejoynder to Bristow’s Replie,’ London, 1581, 8vo. 21. ‘A Sermon preached upon Sunday, being the twelfth of March, anno 1581, within the Tower of London: In the hearing of such obstinate Papistes as then were prisoners there,’ London, 1581, 12mo. 22. ‘A briefe Confutation of a Popish Discourse,’ by John Howlet (was written by Robert Persons, S.J.), London, 1581, 4to. 23. ‘Two Conferences with Edmund Campion in the Tower, 23 and 27 Sept. 1581, London, 1583, 4to. 24. ‘A Defense of the sincere and true Translations of the holie Scriptures into the English tong,’ London, 1583, 8vo; 1617, 1633, fol. 25. ‘De successione ecclesiastica, contra Thomæ Stapletoni librum,’ London, 1584, 8vo. 26. ‘A brief and plain Declaration, containing the desires of all those Ministers who seek Discipline and Reformation of the Church of England,’ 1584. This work was written by Fulke, although the name of Dudley Fenner appears upon the title-page. 27. Recommendatory epistle prefixed to John Stockwood’s translation of Serranus’s ‘Commentary upon Ecclesiastes,’ 1585. 28. ‘An Apologie of the Professors of the Gospel in Fraunce.’ 29. ‘A Confutation of a Treatise made by William Allen in defence of the usurped power of Popish Priesthood,’ Cambridge, 1586, 8vo. 30. ‘The Text of the New Testament of Jesus Christ, translated out of the vulgar Latine by the Papists of the traiterous Seminarie at Rhemes. With a Confutation of all such Arguments, Glosses, and Annotations as contein manifest impietie, of heresie, treason and slander against the Catholike Church of God,’ London, 1589, fol. Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. 31. ‘Answer of Drs. William Fulke and John Still to certain propositions of one Shales on the authority of the Fathers,’ manuscript in State Paper Office. 32. ‘Notes upon Antoninus’s “Itinerary.”’
[Wren’s MS. Lives of the Masters of Pembroke Hall; Strype’s Annals, Life of Parker as quoted; Fuller’s Church History, v. 79; Cooper’s Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 57–61.]