Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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MANSELL , FRANCIS ( 1579 - 1665 ), three times principal of Jesus College, Oxford ;

one of the Mansels of Muddlescombe ( Kidwelly ), descendants of Francis Mansell , second son of Sir Edward Mansel (see under Mansel ) — the papers of this branch are at N.L.W. He was b. in 1579 (christened 23 March 1578/9 ), third son of the above Francis . From Hereford school , he went in Nov. 1607 to Jesus College , Oxford , graduated 20 Feb. 1608/9 , and proceeded D.D. in 1624 . He was elected Fellow of All Souls (though not on his first attempt in 1613 ). At the end of July 1620 he was made principal of Jesus by the vice-chancellor , despite opposition from some of the Fellows. Mansell ejected four of these; but (possibly deeming his place too hot to hold) resigned in 1621 , and was replaced by Eubule Thelwall (q.v. under Thelwall family ). But when Thelwall d. ( 1630 ) Mansell obtained the principalship without difficulty. He was, says E. G. Hardy , ‘ by far the most picturesque figure in the College history .’ Very authoritarian, he yet proved very sagacious; he greatly enlarged the college buildings , contributed liberally to its funds, and gathered in many donations. When the Civil War broke out, Mansell was in Wales , where he remained for years (while Oxford was under siege), assisting the royalist cause ; but when in 1647 the parliamentary visitors descended upon Oxford , he hurried there to stand his ground. In 1648 he and the Fellows were deprived, and he returned to Wales , living for a time at Llantrithyd Court, Glam. But in 1651 he was back in Oxford — in the same year (so greatly was he respected at Jesus ), he was allowed to occupy rooms in the tower above the college gate; there he remained during the principalship cf his two successors, until the Restoration restored him in his turn. But he was now an old man, with failing eyesight ; he resigned in seven months ( 1661 ), being succeeded by Leoline Jenkins (q.v.) ; but he continued to reside in college, and d. there 1 May 1665 ; ‘ a man of sternness indeed, and severity … but one who had gained in a singular degree the love and veneration of every member of his College ’ ( Hardy ). He left all his property to Jesus College .


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (by A. F. Pollard );
  • Hardy , Jesus College , 1899 (including selections from Leoline Jenkins 's biography of Mansell).


Emeritus Professor Robert Thomas Jenkins, C.B.E., D.Litt., Ll.D., F.S.A., (1881-1969), Bangor

Published date: 1959