One of the few Masters, before the late 20th century, to have been elected from outside the College. Richard Holdsworth was a Fellow of St. John’s from 1613.
He held the living of St. Peter-le-Poer in London, which by College order he was allowed to keep after his election; he was also Archdeacon of Huntingdon and a prebendary of Lincoln. During the Civil War he was a loyalist, sending £100 to the King on behalf of the College in 1642. He was a chaplain to Charles I and made attempts to attend on him during his imprisonment. Holdsworth was arrested in 1643, imprisoned in the Tower of London and subsequently ejected from his office.
He was a well-known preacher, but very little of his work was published or preserved. His library, of more than 10,000 books, was bequeathed to Emmanuel, but after some negotiations most of it went to the University; Emmanuel received some duplicate volumes. He compiled ‘Directions for Students in the Universitie’, defining a four-year course of study in detail.
He died in 1649.