Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 681 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
WILLIAM OF WYKEHAM (1323-1404), English lord chancellor and bishop of Winchester. William de Wykham, as he is called in earlier, William Wykeham in later life, has been variously guessed to be the son of a freedman carpenter, and an illegitimate son of Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer (Notes and Queries, loth s. i. 222). In sober truth (Life by Robert Heete in Reg. Winch. Coll. c. 1430) he was born at Wickham, Hants, in 1323 or 1324, son of John, whose name was probably Wykeham, but nicknamed Long, who was " endowed with the freedom of his ancestors," and " according to some " had a brother called Henry Aas. His mother Sibyl was " of gentle birth," a daughter of William Bowate and granddaughter of William Stratton of Stratton, Hants. His education at Winchester, no doubt in the Great Grammar school or High school in Minster Street, was paid for by some patron unnamed by the biographer, perhaps Sir Ralph Sutton, who is named first by Wykeham among his benefactors to be prayed for by his colleges. That he was, as stated by Archdeacon Thomas Martin, the author of a Life of Wykeham, published in 1597, taught classics, French and geometry by a learned Frenchman on the site of Winchester College, is a guess due to Wykeham's extant letters being in French and to the assumption that he was an architect. After some unspecified secular employment, Wykeham became " under-notary (vice tabellio) to a certain squire, constable of Winchester Castle," probably Robert of Popham, sheriff of Hampshire, appointed constable on the 25th of April 1340, not as commonly asserted it John Scures, the lord of Wykeham, who was not a squire but a knight, and had held the office from 1321, though, from Scures being named as second of his benefactors, Wykeham perhaps owed this appointment to his influence. " Two or three years afterwards, namely after he was twenty," Wykeham " was transferred to the king's court," i.e. c. 1343. Wykeham has been credited (Gent. Hag. lxxxv. 189) with the living of Irstead, Norfolk, of the king's gift on the 12th of July 1349. But apart from the fact that this Wykeham is described in the grant as " chaplain," the probate of his will on the 8th of March 1376–1377 (Norwich Reg. Heydon, f. 139) shows that he was a different person (H. Chitty in Notes and Queries, loth ser. iv. 13o). Our Wykeham first appears in the public records in 1350 as keeper of the manor of Rochford, Hants, during the minority of the heir, William Botreaux. On the 12th of October 1352 Henry Sturmy of Elvetham, sheriff and escheator of Hants, and frequently a justice in eyre for the forests of Hants and Wilts, at Winchester, describes William of Wykeham as " my clerk " in a power of attorney dated at Winchester, to deliver seisin of lands in Meonstoke Ferrand, Hants, which he had sold to William of Edyndon, bishop of Winchester (Win. Coll. Lib. H. 249). On the loth of November (not December as Lowth, Life of Wykeham, 14) Edyndon, by a letter dated at London, appointed William of Wykeham, clerk (not " my clerk " as Kirby, Archaeol. 57, 11. 292, where the deed is also misdated 1353), his attorney to take seisin of lands in Meonstoke Tour, Hants, which he had bought from Alice de Roche, daughter of William of Tour (ibid. f. 250). These lands were afterwards bought by Wykeham and given to Winchester College. On the 14th of April 1353 (Claus. 29 E. III. M. 29 d) Wykeham served as attorney of John of Foxle, of Bramshill, Hants, son of Thomas of Foxle, constable of Windsor Castle, in acknowledging payment of a debt due from John of Dalton, sheriff of Somerset and of Hants. On the 15th of April 1356 schedules touching the New Forest and other forests in Hants and Wilts were delivered out of the Tower of London to William of Wykeham- to take to the justices in eyre (Claus. 30 E. III. m. 19 d). In the same year on the 24th of August Peteratte-Wode and William of Wykeham, clerk, were appointed keepers of the rolls and writs in the eyre for the forests of Hants and Wilts, of which Henry Sturmy was one of the justices. On the loth of May 1356 Wykeham first appears in the direct employment of the king, being appointed clerk of the king's works in the manors of Henley and Yeshampsted (Easthampstead) to pay all outgoings and expenses, including wages of masons and carpenters and other workmen, the purchase of stone, timber and other materials, and their carriage, under the view of one controller in Henley and two in Easthampstead. On the 8th of June Walter Nuthirst and Wykeham were made commissioners to keep the statute of labourers and servants in the liberty of the Free Chapel (St George's), Windsor. On the 3oth of October 1356 Wykeham was appointed during pleasure surveyor (supervisor) of the king's works in the castle of Windsor, for the same purposes as at Henley, with power to take workmen everywhere, except in the fee of the church or those employed in the king's works at Westminster, the Tower of Dartford, at the same wages as Robert of Bernham, probably Burnham, Bucks, who had been appointed in 1353, used to have, viz. 1s. a day and 3s. a week for his clerk. He was to do this under supervision of Richard of Teynton, John le Peyntour (the painter) and another. From this appointment it has been inferred that Wykeham was the architect of the " Round Table " at Windsor, which has been confused with the Round Tower, and a story which is first told by Archbishop Parker, writing thirty yearsafterwards (Antiq. Brit. Eccles. ed. 1729, p. 385), relates that Wykeham nearly got into trouble for inscribing on it, " This made Wickam," which he only escaped by explaining that it did not mean that Wykeham made the tower, but that the tower was the making of Wykeham. But Wykeham had nothing to do with building either the Round Tower or the Round Table. The Round Tower, called the High Tower in Wykeham's day, is the Norman Keep. It was being refitted for apartments for the king and queen a little before Wykeham's time, and his first accounts include the last items for its internal decoration, including 28 stained glass windows. The Round Table, a building 200 ft. in diameter for the knights of the Round Table, who preceded the knights of the Garter, had been built in 1344 (Chron. Angl. " Rolls " ser. No. 61, p. 17) when Wykeham had nothing to do with Windsor. The inscription, " This made Wykeham," did exist on a small square tower in the Middle Bailey formerly known as Wykeham Tower, now entirely rebuilt with the inscription recopied and known as Winchester Tower. But it could hardly be of sufficient importance to cause Wykeham to play the sphinx, and the story is apparently due to the Elizabethan love of quips. All that was built during the five years, 1356 to 1361, when Wykeham was clerk of the works, were the new royal apartments, two long halls and some chambers in the upper ward, quite unconnected with and east of the Round Tower, and a gateway or two leading to them, the order for building which was given on the 1st of August 1351 (Pipe Roll 30 Ed. III.). The accounts of Robert of Bernham, Wykeham's predecessor, who was a canon of St George's Chapel (Le Neve's Fasti, iii. 378), are extant, and from the payments of 1s. a day to Mr John Sponle, mason and orderer or setter-out (ordinator) of the king's works, and Geoffrey of Carlton "appareller " of the carpentry work, it is clear that they, and not Bernham, were the architects and builders. Canon Bernham was only the paymaster and overlooker to see that men and materials were provided and to pay for them. While in 1353–1354 £1440 and in 1355–1356 £747 was expended under the supervision of Robert of Bernham, in 1357–1358 £867 was spent by Wykeham, including Winchester Tower. In 1358–1359 the expenditure rose to £1254, while between the 6th of June 136o and the 12th of April 1361 it amounted to £2817. The chief items were a new Great Gate with two flanking towers, a belfry for St George's Chapel and houses in the Lower Bailey, probably for the canons, and in the Upper Bailey, probably for the royal household. On the 1st of November 1361 Wykeham was succeeded as clerk of the works by William of Mulsho, another canon of Windsor, who afterwards succeeded him also as dean of St Martin-le-Grand. Under Wykeham, William of Wynford, who appears in 1360 as " appareller " under Sponle, in 1361 became chief mason and ordinator, and he was probably what we should call the architect of the Great Gate, the rest of which was built under Wykeham's supervision. For wherever we find Wykeham building afterwards, we find Wynford as chief mason. When Wykeham was provost of Wells, Wynford was retained as architect on the 1st of February 1364–1365 at a fee of 40S. a year and 6d. a day when in Wells (Wells, Lib. Abb. f. 253). He was architect to Abingdon Abbey (at a fee of £3, 6s. 8d. and a furred robe) in 1375–1376 when the existing Outer Gate of the abbey was built (Abingdon Obed. Acc. Camd. Soc., 1892). He was chief mason for Wykeham's works at Winchester Cathedral and for Winchester College, where his portrait may be seen in the east window of the chapel, and where his contract with the clerk of the works, an ex-scholar of the college, for the building of the outer gate, is still preserved. The ascription to Wykeham of the invention of the Perpendicular style of medieval architecture is now an abandoned theory. In so far as he gave vogue to that style the credit must be given to William of Wynford, not to William of Wykeham. At all events he had very little to do with building Windsor Castle. How far he really was responsible for the other great castle attributed to him, that of Queenborough Castle in the Isle of Sheppey, cannot be tested, as the building accounts for it are only partially extant. The account from the 1st of November 1361 to 1362 shows Simon of Bradstede, clerk of the works, then expending £1773, of which £loci was received by the hands of William of Wykeham at the exchequer, and that from 1369 shows Bernard Cokles, clerk of the works, expending £2306. The chief evidence cited in support of the theory that Wykeham owed his advancement to his skill as an architect is the remark in a tract Why Poor Priests have no benefices that " Lords will not present a clerk able of cunning of God's law and good life and holy ensample . . . but a kitchen clerk or a fancy clerk or wise in building castles or worldly doing, though he cannot well read his psalter." This tract has been attributed to Wycliffe, but without adequate authority, and it is thought to be of later date, and if Wykeham is meant by the castle-building clerk it only shows that popular repute is no guide to fact. That Wykeham, who was clearly an extremely good man of business, should, when clerk of the works, have played a considerable part in determining what works should be done and the general character of the buildings with which he was connected, we may believe; but to think that this attorney and notary, this keeper of the king's dogs (loth Aug. 1356, Devon's Issues of the Exchequer, 163) and of the king's forests, this carrier of rolls and paymaster at the exchequer, was also the architect of Windsor and Queenborough Castles, of Winchester Cathedral and College, is to credit Wykeham with a superhuman combination of knowledge, of training and of functions. That he gave great satisfaction to the king when once he was appointed surveyor at Windsor in 1356 is unquestionable. He is first called king's clerk on the 14th of November 1357, when he was given 1s. a day, beyond the wages he was already receiving for his offices at Windsor and elsewhere, " until peacefully advanced to some benefice." Ecclesiastical benefices were the chief means by which, before the Reformation, the civil servants of the crown were paid for services which, being clerical, were also ecclesiastical, and for which the settled stipends were wholly inadequate. In his accumulation of benefices Wykeham seems to have distanced all his predecessors and successors, except perhaps John Maunsell, the chancellor of Henry III., and Thomas Wilsey, the chancellor of Henry VIII., the latter being a pluralist not in canonries and livings but in bishoprics. Wykeham's first benefice was the rectory of Pulham, the richest in Norfolk, worth £53 a year, or some £1600 of our money, to which he was presented on the 3oth of November 1357• But this was not a " peaceful " advancement, for it was only in the king's patronage by reason of the temporalities of the see of Ely having been seized into the king's hands the year before, on account of the bishop being implicated in certain murders and robberies, which he denied, contesting the king's action in the papal court. On the 16th of April 1359 the king gave Wykeham a pension of £20 a year from the exchequer until he could obtain peaceful possession of Pulham. On this, and what may have been a similarly contested presentation to the canonry and prebend of Flixton in Lichfield cathedral on the 1st of March 1359, repeated on the 22nd of August 136o, and supported by a mandate to the new bishop on the 29th of January 1361, Wykeham's latest biographer (George Herbert Moberly, Life of Wykeham, 1887, 2nd ed., 1893) has built an elaborate story of Wykeham's advancement being opposed by the pope because he was the leader of a national party against papal authority in England. The baselessness of this is clear when we find that Wykeham had obtained from Innocent VI., on the 27th of January 1357, an indulgence to choose his own confessor (Cal. Pap. Reg.), and on the 8th of July 1358 (Cal. Pap. Pet. i. 331) asked arid obtained a papal provision to this very church of Pulham on the ground that it had passed to the pope's patronage by the promotion of -its former possessor to the see of London. In spite of papal and royal authority, it is doubtful whether Wykeham obtained peaceful possession of Pulham till again presented to it by the king on the loth of July 1361 after the bishop of Ely's death. The difficulty as to the prebend of Flixton was no doubt something of the same kind. Between bishop, pope and king the next vacant prebend in every great church was generally promised two or three deep before it wasvacant, and the episcopal and chapter registers are full of the contests which ensued. Wykeham's civil offices rapidly increased. On the Ides (15th) of March 1359 a French fleet sacked Winchelsea, carrying off the women and girls. On the loth of July 1359 Wykeham was made chief keeper and surveyor, not only of Windsor, but of the castles of Dover, Hadley and Leeds (Kent), and of the manors of Foliejohn, Eton, Guildford, Kennington, Sheen (now Richmond), Eltham and Langly and their parks, with power to repair them and to pay for workmen and materials. On the loth of February 136o, when another French invasion was feared, the bailiff of Sandwich was ordered to send all the lead he had to Wykeham for the works at Dover. In April the sheriffs of four batches of counties were each ordered to send forty masons to Wykeham at Windsor This secular activity was rewarded by presentation to the deanery of St Martin-le-Grand, with an order for induction on the 21st of May, on which day he was commissioned to inquire by a jury of men of Kent into the defects of the walls and tower of Dover (Pat. 34 E. III. pt. i. M. 12). On the 15th of August he was directed to hand over £40 given him for the purpose, to a successor, the treaty of Bre'tigny having been made meanwhile and confirmed at Calais with Wykeham as one of the witnesses on the 24th of October. In January 1361 building work at Windsor was vigorously resumed, and again the sheriffs were ordered to contribute their quotas of 40 freestone masons and 40 cementarii to Wykeham's charge. On the 13th of February, on the joint petition of the kings of England and of France, the pope " provided " Wykeham to a canonry and dignity at Lincoln, notwithstanding his deanery and a prebend at Llandaff. On the 2nd of April four commissioners were appointed to superintend the construction of the new castle ordered in the Isle of Sheppey, which when finished was called Queenborough, the purchases and payments, not the works, being under the beloved clerk, Wykeham. In this year came the second visitation of the Black Death, the Second Plague, as it was called, and carried off four bishops and several magnates, with many clerics, whose vacated preferments were poured on Wykeham. The bishop of Hereford being dead, on the 12th of July 1361, the king presented Wykeham to a prebend in Hereford cathedral, and on the 24th of July to one in Bromyard collegiate church; the bishop of St David's being dead, prebends in the collegiate churches of Abergwilly and Llandewybrewi were given him on the 16th of July. On the lrth of August the pope, on the king's request, provided him with a prebend in St Andrew's Auckland collegiate church. This Mr Moberly curiously misrepresents as action against Wykeham. He in fact never obtained possession of it, probably because the pope had already " provided " it to Robert of Stretton, a papal chaplain, who, however, asked in January 1362 for a canonry at Lincoln instead, because he was "in fear and terror of a certain William of Wykeham." On the 24th of September 1361 the king gave Wykeham a prebend in Beverley Minster, on the 1st of October the prebend of Oxgate in St Paul's (which he exchanged for Tattenhall on the loth of December), on the 22nd of November a prebend in St David's cathedral, on the loth of December a prebend in Wherwell Abbey, Hants. So far the Patent Rolls. The Salisbury records show him also adrnitted to a prebend there on the 16th of August, which he exchanged for other prebends on the 9th and 15th of October. All these clerical preferments Wykeham held when he was a simple clerk, who had no doubt undergone the " first tonsure," but was not even ordained an acolyte till the 5th of December of this golden year. He added to his civil offices during the year that of clerk (oficiurn cirogrofie) of the exchequer on the 24th of October. On the 9th of October he acted as attorney to the king in the purchase of the manor of Thunderley, Essex. Next year, 1362, he entered holy orders, being ordained subdeacon on the 12th of March and priest on the 12th of June; and adding to his canonries and prebends one in Shaftesbury Abbey on the 15th of July and another in Lincoln cathedral on the loth of August. Wykeham meanwhile was acting as keeper of the forests south of Trent and as a trustee for Juliana, countess of Huntingdon. Next year, 1363, he was made a canon of the collegiate church in Hastings Castle on the 3rd of February, and of the royal chapel of St Stephen's, Westminster, then newly founded, or re-founded, on the 21st of April He obtained the archdeaconry of Northampton on the 26th of April, and resigned it on the 12th of June, having been promoted to that of Lincoln, the richest of all his preferments, on the 23rd of May. On the 31st of October he was made a canon of York, and on the 15th of December provost of the fourteen prebends of Combe in Wells cathedral, while at some date unknown he obtained also prebends in Bridgenorth collegiate church and St Patrick's, Dublin, and the rectory of Menheniot in Cornwall. On the 5th of May 1364 he became privy seal, and in June is addressed by the new pope, Urban V., as king's secretary. On the 14th of March 1365 he was given 20S. a day from the exchequer " notwithstanding that he is living in the household." He was so much the king's factotum that Froissart (i. 249) says " a priest called Sir William de Wican reigned in England . . . by him everything was done and without him they did nothing." In fact, as privy seal he was practically prime minister, as Thomas Cromwell was after-wards to Henry VIII. On the 7th of October 1366, William Edingdon, the treasurer of England and bishop of Winchester, died; on the 13th of October Wykeham was recommended by the king to the chapter of monks of St Swithun's cathedral priory and elected bishop. A long story has been made out of Pope Urban V.'s delay in the recognition of Wykeham, which has been conjectured to have been because of his nationalist proclivities. But little more than the ordinary delays took place. On the 1st of December the king, " for a large sum of money paid down," gave Wykeham, not only the custody of the temporalities of the see, but all the profits from the day of Edingdon's death. On the 11th the pope granted him the administration of the spiritualities. The papal court was then moving from Avignon to Rome, and on the 14th of July 1367 the bull of " provision " issued at Viterbo. Wykeham was in no hurry himself, as it was not till the loth of October 1367 that he was consecrated, nor till the 9th of July 1368, after the war parliament which met on the 3rd of June had been dissolved on the loth of June, that he was enthroned. Meanwhile he had been made chancellor on the 17th of September 1367—thus at the age of forty-three he held the richest ecclesiastical, and the best-paid civil, office it the kingdom at the same time. The war in France was disastrous, how far through Wykeham's fault we have no means of knowing. When parliament again met in 1371, the blame was laid on the clerical ministers, under the influence of Wycliffe. He had been born in the same year as Wykeham, and like him had profited by papal provisions to prebends in 1361, but had since led an attack on papal and clerical abuses. Parliament demanded that laymen only should be chancellor, treasurer, privy seal and chamberlain of the exchequer. On the 8th of March 1372 Wykeham resigned the chancellorship, and Bishop Brantingham_ of Exeter the treasurership, and laymen were appointed in their places, though Sir Robert Thorp, who became chancellor, was master of Pembroke Hall at Cambridge, and as much a cleric as Wykeham had been when he was dean of St Martin-le-Grand and surveyor of Windsor Castle. As soon as he became bishop Wykeham had begun his career as founder. In 1367 (Pat. 41 E. III. pt. 2, M. 5) he purchased the estates of Sir John of Boarhunt, near Southwick, with which he endowed a chantry in Southwick Priory for his parents. Next year he began buying lands in Upsomborne, Hants, which he gave to Winchester College, and in Oxford, which he gave to New College. On the 1st of September 1373 he entered into an agreement (Episc. Reg. iii. 98) with Master Richard of Herton " gramaticus " for ten years faithfully to teach and instruct the poor scholara, whom the bishop maintained at his own cost, in the art of grammar, and to provide an usher to help him. Mean-while the war with France was even more unsuccessful under the lay ministry and John of Gaunt. In the parliament of 1373 Wykeham was named by the Commons as one of the eight peers to treat with them on the state of the realm. In the parliamentwhich met on the 12th of February 1376, Lord Latimer and Alice Perrers, the king's mistress, a lady of good birth, and not (as the mendacious St Albans chronicler alleged) the ugly but persuasive daughter of a tiler, were impeached, and Wykeham took a leading part against Latimer, even to the extent of opposing his being allowed counsel. At the dissolution of parliament a council of nine, of whom Wykeham was one, was appointed to assist the king. But on the 8th of June the Black Prince died. Alice Perrers returned. John of Gaunt called a council on the 16th of October to impeach Wykeham on articles which alleged misapplication of the revenues, oppressive fines on the leaders of the free companies, taking bribes for the release of the royal French prisoners, especially of the duke of Bourbon, who helped to make him bishop, failing to send relief to Ponthieu and making illegal profits by buying up crown debts cheap. He was condemned on one only, that of halving a fine of £8o paid by Sir John Grey of Rotherfield for licence to alienate lands, and tampering with the rolls of chancery to conceal the transaction. Wykeham's answer was that he had reduced the fine because it was too large, and that he had received nothing for doing so. Skipwith, a judge of the common pleas, cited a statute under which for any erasure in the rolls to the deceit of the king roo marks fine was imposed for every penny, and so Wykeham owed 960,000 marks. Wykeham was convicted, and on the 17th of November his revenues were seized and bestowed on the 15th of March 1377 on the young prince Richard, and he was ordered not to come within 20 M. of the king. He " brake up household . . . sending also to Oxford, whear upon almose and for God's sake he found 70 scoliers, that they should depart to their frendis for he could no longer help or finde them " (Clzron. Anngliae, lxxx.). But when convocation met in 1377 the bishops refused to proceed to business without Wykeham, and he was fetched back from Waverley Abbey. He was exempted, however, from the general pardon issued on the occasion of Edward III.'s jubilee. But on the 13th of June the prince restored his temporalities, on condition of his maintaining three galleys with 5o men-at-arms and 50 archers for three months, or providing the wages of 300 men. The St Albans monk says that this was obtained by a bribe to Alice Perrers. Meonstoke Perrers, part of the endowment of Winchester College, was certainly bought on the 12th of June 138o from Sir William Windsor, her husband, whose name seems to be derived from Windsor, near Southampton water. As Hampshire people they may have helped Wykeham. But as Wykeham was of the party of the Black Prince and his widow Joan of Kent, no dea ex machina was needed. On the 21st of June 1377 Edward III. died. Wykeham was present at the coronation of Richard II. on the 19th of July, and on the 31st of July full pardons were granted him under the privy seal, which at the request of Richard's first parliament were ratified under the great seal on the 4th of December 1377. Wykeham at once took an active part in the financial affairs of the new king, giving security for his debts and himself lending 500 marks, afterwards secured on the customs (Pat. 4 Rich. II. pt. i. m. 4). He then set to work to buy endowments for Winchester and New Colleges. On the 30th of June he obtained licence in mortmain and on the 26th of November issued his charter of foundation of " Seynt Marie College of Wynchestre in Oxenford " for a warden and 7o scholars to study theology, canon and civil law and arts, who were temporarily housed in various old halls. On the 5th of March 138o the first stone was laid of the present buildings, which were entered on by the college on the 14th of April 1386. The foundation of Winchester was begun with a bull of Pope Urban VI. on the 1st of June 1378, enabling Wykeham to found " a certain college he proposed to establish for 70 poor scholars, clerks, who should live college-wise and study in grammaticals near the city of Winchester," and appropriate to it Downton rectory, one of the richest livings belonging to his bishopric. The bull says that the bishop " had, as he asserts, for several years administered the necessaries of life to scholars studying grammar in the same city." On the 6th of October 1382 the crown licence in mortmain was issued, on the loth-13th of October the site was conveyed, and on the loth of October 1382 " Sancte Marie collegium " or in vulgar tongue " Seinte Marie College of Wynchestre by Wynchestre " was founded for a warden and " 70 pore and needy scholars studying and-becoming proficient in grammaticals or the art and science of grammar." The first stone of the buildings was laid on the 26th of March 1388, and they were entered on by the scholars on the 28th of March 1394, not, as supposed at the quincentenary celebration in 1893, in 1393. While the new buildings were being erected, the college remained in the parish of " St John the Baptist on the Hill " of St Giles, supplying scholars to New College then as since. A reference to this in a letter of Wykeham's of the 8th of April 1388 has given rise to the creation of an imaginary college of St John the Baptist at Winchester by the Rev. W. Hunt ( Die. Nat. Biog. sub. " Chicheley "). The foundation was on the model of Merton and Queen's colleges at Oxford, to which grammar schools were attached by their founders, while fellows of Merton were the first wardens of both of Wykeham's colleges. Both were double the size of Merton, and the same size as the Navarre college of the queen of France and Navarre, founded at Paris in 1304, which also contained a school. But each of Wykeh am's colleges contained as many members as the French queen's. The severance of the school which was to feed the college exclusively, placing it not at Oxford, but at Winchester, and constituting it a separate college, was a new departure of great importance in the history of education. Ten fellows and 16 choristers were added in 1394 to the 70 scholars, the choristers attending the school like the scholars, and being generally, during the first three centuries of the foundation, promoted to be scholars. The original statutes have not come down to us. Those which governed the colleges until 18J7 were made in 1400. They state that the colleges were provided to repair the ravages caused by the Black Deaths in the ranks of the clergy, and for the benefit of those whose parents could not without help maintain them at the universities, and the names of the boys appointed by Wykeham and in his time show that " poor and indigent " meant the younger sons of the gentry, and the sons of yeomen, citizens of Winchester or London, and the middle classes generally, who needed the help of exhibitions. The time which elapsed between the foundation and completion of the colleges may be attributed to Wykeham's pre-occupation with politics in the disturbed state of affairs, due to the papal schism begun in 1379, in which England adhered to Urban VI. and France to Clement VII., to the rising of the Commons in 1381, and the wars with France, Scotland and Spain during John of Gaunt's ascendancy. Then followed the constitutional revolution of the lords appellant in 1388. When Richard II. took power on himself, on the 3rd of May 1389, he at once male Wykeham chancellor, with Brantingham of Exeter again as treasurer. Wykeham's business capacity is shown perhaps by the first record of the minutes of the privy council being kept during his term of office, and his promulgation in 1390 of general orders as to its business. At least one occasion is recorded in the minutes on which Wykeham, on behalf of the council. took a firm stand against Richard II. and that in spite of the king's leaving the council in a rage. Peace was made with France in August. On the meeting of parliament in January 1390 Wykeham resigned the great seal; and asked for an inquiry into the conduct of the privy council, and on being assured that all was well resumed it. He now showed that he had not by his charities wronged his relations by settling on his great-nephew and heir Thomas Wykeham, whom he had educated at Winchester and New College, Broughton Castle and estates, still held by his descendants in the female line, the family of Twisleton-Wykeham=Fiennes (peerage of Saye and Sele). In July 1391 he obtained a papal bull enabling him to appoint at pleasure coadjutors to do his episcopal business. On the 27th of September 1391, Wykeham finally resigned the chancellorship. For three years after there are no minutes of the Council. On the 24th of November 1394 Wykeham lent the king the sum of £f000 (some £30,000 of our money), which same sum or another £f000 he promised on the 21st of February 1395to repay by midsummer, and did so (Pat. 18, Rich. II. pt. ii. M. 23, 41). The murder of the duke of Gloucester, Richard's uncle, in 1397, was followed next year by the assumption of absolute power by Richard. Wykeham was clearly against these proceedings. He excused himself from convocation in 1397, and from the subservient parliament at Shrewsbury in 1398. The extraordinary comings and goings of strangers to Winchester College, just opposite the gates of the bishop's palace at Wolvesey in 1399, suggest that he took part in the revolution of Henry IV. He appeared in the privy council four times at the beginning of Henry's reign (Prot. P.C. i. loo). On the 23rd of July 1400 he lent Henry IV. £500 for his journey towards Scotland, and in 1402 another £Soo, while a general loan for the war with France and Scotland on the 1st of April 1403 was headed by Wykeham with £f000, the bishop of Durham lending loon marks (£666, 135. 4d.); and no one else more than £Soo. Meanwhile on the 29th of September 1394 he had begun the recasting of the nave of the cathedral with William Wynford, the architect of the college, as chief mason, and Simon Membury, an old Wykehamist, as clerk of the works. On the 24th of July 1403, he made his will, giving large bequests amounting to some £1o,000 (£3oo,000 of our money), to friends and relations and every kind of religious house. On the 16th of August 1404, he signed an agreement with the prior and convent for three monks to sing daily three masses in his beautiful chantry chapel in the nave of the cathedral, while the boys of the almonry, the cathedral choir-boys, were to say their evening prayers there for his soul. He died on the 27th of September 1404, aged eighty. His effigy in the cathedral chantey and a bust on the groining of the muniment tower at Winchester college are no doubt authentic portraits. The pictures at Winchester and New College are late 16th-century productions. Three autograph letters of his, all in French, and of the years 1364-1366, are preserved, one at the British Museum, one at the Record Office, a third at New College, Oxford. A fourth letter imputed to Wykeham at the British Museum is shown alike by its contents and its handwriting not to be his. See Thomas Martin, Wilhelmi Wicami (1597) ; R. Lowth, Life of Wykeham (1736); Mackenzie E. C. Walcott, William of Wykeham and his Colleges (1852); T. F. Kirby, Annals of Winchester College (1892) ; G. H. Moberly, Life of Wykeham (1887) ; A. F. Leach, History of Winchester College (1899); and the Calendars of Patent and Close Rolls. Edward III. and Richard II. (A. F. L.)
End of Article: WILLIAM OF WYKEHAM (1323-1404)
WILLIAM THE BRETON (c. 1,6o–c. 1225)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.