Francis Cheynell was born in Oxford and died in Preston in September 1665. He was the son of a physician who was formerly a Fellow of Corpus Christi College. After his father's death, his mother was remarried, to Robert Abbot, later Bishop of Salisbury. Hence Cheynell was well connected. He was educated at Merton College, Oxford, where he took his BA and MA, and succeeded as Fellow there. In 1632 he was presented to a valuable living in Banbury, where he then took up residence. He was a zealous Calvinist and was soon in conflict with Laud, who, as Chancellor of the University of Oxford, may have been instrumental in preventing him from receiving his BD, even though he had satisfied all the requirements for the degree. In 1641 he became an avowed Presbyterian and, when civil war began, he took the Parliamentary side. This cost him his living. His home and his library were plundered. During the period of the Commonwealth, he returned to Oxford, first as one of a party of Visitors empowered to reform the University, and later as President of St John's College (a position once held by Laud) and Lady Margaret Professor. During this period he also took his BD and DD. His inquisitorial zeal, combined with a violent and unstable temperament, made him enemies even among those who should have been his friends. In 1650 he was forced to resign his University positions. He continued as rector of Petworth. Shortly before the Restoration he was deprived of his living, perhaps for reasons of mental health, although this is uncertain. He retired to a family estate in Preston, where he died.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.