Section III, Mrs Mary Forbes, pp.497-8


Notes on a Devonshire funeral sermon in the seventeenth century

Trans. Devon. Assoc. vol. 14, (1882), pp. 493-515.


W. Pengelly

Prepared by Michael Steer

The paper, read at the Association's July 1882 Crediton meeting presents notes on a sermon delivered in 1656 at Bovey Tracey Church by Francis Moore, Curate of neighbouring Highweek, at the funeral of Mrs Mary Forbes, wife of Rev James Forbes, the Vicar. Forbes was chaplain to Charles I and expressed strong views on the Bloody Parliament of 1642. He was ejected during the Commonwealth (during which period his wife died and her monument was erected outside the church). Rev Forbes was re-instated after the Restoration in 1660. Mrs Forbes was the daughter of Thomas Gardyner, of Grove Place, in the Countie of Buckinghame, Esqre. The sermon would have been far over the heads of the majority of church goers at that time, and probably still. Google with the Archive Organization has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. The Internet Archive makes available, in its Community Texts Collection (originally known as Open Source Books), books that have been digitised by Google from a number of libraries. These are books on which copyright has expired, and are available free for educational and research use. This rare book was produced from a copy held by the Princeton University Library, and is available from the Internet Archive.



III Mrs Mary Forbes

In his eulogy of Mrs Mary Forbes, which occupies at least three pages of his sermon, the preacher said “Holiness and righteousness are the summe and tenour of the Covnant t’wixt God and Man; holiness to God and righteousness and just dealing toward Man. These two dutyes she had so learned from her two Husbands (the first being a Civilian, this last a Divine) that she proved a very perfect proficient in both (p. 31).

It may be presumed that the second husband, the “Divine”, was James Forbes, Chaplain to Charles I. who presented him to the living of Bovey Tracey in 1628. He lived through the Commonwealth Period and was buried in the chancel of his church in 1670. His wife died in 1655; and there is a granite monument to her memory, in the church yard, on the south side of the chancel (see Murray’s Hand Bookfor travellers in Devonshire, 9thed, p. 139.

The sermon as stated already, was dated 1656 – the year of its publication – thus harmonizing with the hypothesis that it was preached at the Funeral of Mrs Mary Forbes, wife of the Vicar of Bovey Tracey. 

Assuming that the preacher’s eulogy did not exceed the truth, Mrs Forbes was of good descent, beautiful in person, wise of speech, of good, not unfashionable attire, given to hospitality, courteous in her reception of all classes, an excellent neighbour, suitably deferential to her husband and ‘delighting in the power of godliness’.