Chichele, Henry

, archbishop of Canterbury, and founder of All Souls college, Oxford, was born, probably in 1362, at Higham-Ferrars in Northamptonshire, of parents who, if not distinguished by their opulence, were at least enabled to place their children in situations which qualified them for promotion in civil and political life. Their sons, Robert and Thomas, rose to the highest dignities in the magistracy of London; and Henry, the subject of this memoir, was, at a suitable age, placed at Winchester school, and thence removed to New college, where he studied the civil and canon law. Of his proficiency here, we have little information, but the progress of his advancement indicates that he soon acquired distinction, and conciliated the affection of the first patrons of the age. From 1392 to 1407, he can be traced through . | various ecclesiastical preferments and dignities, for some at least of which he was indebted to Richard Metford, bishop of Salisbury. This valuable friend he had the misfortune to lose in the last mentioned year; but his reputation was so firmly established, that king Henry IV. about this time employed him on an embassy to pope Innocent VII. on another to the court of France, and on a third to pope Gregory XII. who was so much pleased with his conduct as to present him to the bishopric of St. David’s, which happened to become vacant during his residence at the apostolic court in 1408. In the following year he was deputed, along with Hallum, bishop of Salisbury, and Chillingdon, prior of Canterbury, to represent England in the council of Pisa, which was convoked to settle the disputed pretensions of the popes Gregory and Benedict, both of whom were deposed, and Alexander V. chosen in their room, who had once studied at Oxford.

On our founder’s return, he passed some months in discharging the functions of his diocese. In May 1410, he was again sent to France, with other negociators, to obtain a renewal of the truce between the two kingdoms; but this was not accomplished until the year following, nor without considerable difficulties. For nearly two years after this, we find him residing on his diocese, or paying occasional visits to the metropolis, which his high character as a statesman rendered no less necessary than grateful to his royal master.

On the accession of Henry V. he was again consulted and employed in many political measures, and appears to have completely acquired the confidence of the new sovereign, who sent him a third time into France on the subject of peace. The English were at this time in possession of some of the territories of that country, a circumstance which rendered every treaty of peace insecure, and created perpetual jealousies and efforts towards emancipation on the part of the French.

In the spring of 1414, Chichele succeeded Arundel as archbishop of Canterbury, which he at first refused in- deference to the pope but on the pontiff’s acceding to the election made by the prior and monks, he was put in complete possession, and soon had occasion to exert the whole of his talents and influence to preserve the revenues of the church, which the parliament had more than once advised the king to take into his own hands. The time was | critical; the king bad made demands on the court of France, wlrch promised to end in hostilities, and large supplies were wanted. The clergy, alarmed for the whole, agreed to give up a part of their possessions, and Chichele undertook to lay their offer before parliament, and as far as eloquence could go, to render it satisfactory to that assembly. It is here that historians have taken occasion to censure his conduct, and to represent him as precipitating the king into a war with France, in order to divert his attention from the church. But while it is certain that he strongly recommended the recovery of Henry’s hereditary dominions in France, and the vindication of his title to that crown, it is equally certain that this was a disposition which he rather found than created; and in what manner he could have thwarted it, if such is to be supposed the wiser and better course, cannot be determined without a more intimate knowledge of the state of parties than is now practicable. The war, however, was eminently successful, and the battle of Azincourt gratified the utmost hopes of the nation, and has ever since been a proud memento of its valour. During this period, besides taking the lead in political and ecclesiastical measures at home, Chichele twice accompanied the king’s camp in France.

After the death of Henry V. in 1422, and the appointment of Humphrey duke of Gloucester to be regent during the minority of Henry VI., Chichele retired to his province, and began to visit the several dioceses included in it, carefully inquiring into the state of morals and religion. The principles of Wickliffe had made considerable progress, and it was to them chiefly that the indifference of the public towards the established clergy, and the efforts which had been made to alienate their revenues, were attributed. Officially, therefore, we are not to wonder that Chichele, educated in all the prejudices of the times, endeavoured to check the growing heresy, as it was called; but from the silence of Fox on the subject, there is reason to hope that his personal interference was far more gentle than that of his predecessor Arundel. On the other hand, history has done ample justice to the spirit with which he resisted the assumed power of the pope in the disposition of ecclesiastical preferments, and asserted the privileges of the English church. In all this he was supported by the nation at large, by a majority of the bishops, and by the university of Oxford, nor at this time was more zeal | shown against the Lollards, or first protestants, than against the capricious and degrading encroachments of the court of Home. Among the vindications of Chichele’s character from the imputations thrown upon it by the agents of the pope, that of the university of Oxford must not be omitted. They told the pope, that “Chichele stood in the sanctuary of God as a firm wall that heresy could not shake, nor simony undermine, and that he was the darling of the people, and the foster parent of the clergy.” These remonstrances, however, were unsatisfactory to the proud and restless spirit of Martin V. but after he had for some time kept the terrors of an interdict hanging over the nation, the dispute was dropped without concessions on either side, and the death of this pope, soon after, relieved the archbishop from farther vexation.

He was now advancing in years, and while he employed his time in promoting the interests of his province, he conceived the plan of founding a college in Oxford, which he lived to accomplish on a very magnificent scale. One benefit he conferred, about the same time, of a more general importance to both universities. During the sitting of one of the convocations in 1438, the universities presented a remonstrance, stating the grievances they laboured under from wars, want of revenues, and the neglect of their members in the disposal of church livings. Chichele immediately procured a decree that all ecclesiastical patrons should, for ten years to come, confer the benefices in their gift on members of either university exclusively; and that vicars general, commissaries and officials, should be chosen out of the graduates in civil and common law.

He had now held eighteen synods, in all of which he distinguished himself as the guardian of the church, and was eminently successful in conciliating the parliament and nation, by such grants on the part of the clergy as showed a readiness, proportioned to their ability, to support the interests of the crown and people. The most noted of his constitutions were those which enjoined the celebration of festivals; regulated the probates of wills; provided against false weights; and augmented the stipends of vicars. That which is most to be regretted was, his instituting a kind of inquisition against Lollardism.

In 1442, he applied to pope Eugenius for an indulgence to resign his office into more able hands, being now nearly eighty years old, and, as he pathetically urges, “heavy | laden, aged, infirm, and weak beyond measure.*


Robert Chichele, citizen and grocer, served the office of sheriff in 1402, and that of lord mayor twice, in 1411 and 1422. He died without issue, William served the office of sheriff in 1409, and his son, John, was chamberlam of London. He had a very numerous issue.

He intreats that he may be released from a burthen which he was no longer able to support either with ease to himself, or advantage to others. He died, however, before the issue of this application could be known, on the 12th of April 1443, and was interred with great solemnity in the cathedral of Canterbury, under a monument of exquisite workmanship built by himself. As a farther mark of respect, the prior and monks decreed that no person should be buried in that part of the church where his remains were deposited.

His character, when assimilated to that of the age in which he lived, is not without a portion of the dark sentiment, and barbarous spirit of persecution, which obstructed the reformation; but on every occasion where he dared to exert his native talents and superior powers of thinking, we discover the measures of an enlightened statesman, and that liberal and benevolent disposition which would confer celebrity in the brightest periods of our history.

The foundation of All Souls college is not the 6rst instance of his munificent spirit. In 1422, he founded a collegiate church at his native place, Higham-Ferrars, so amply endowed, that on its dissolution by Henry VIII. its revenues were valued at 156 This college consisted of a quadrangular building, of which the church only now remains, and is used as a parish church. To this he attached an hospital for the poor, and both these institutions were long supported by the legacies of his brothers Robert and William, aldermen of London *. He also expended large sums in adorning the cathedral of Canterbury, founding a library there, and in adding to the buildings of Lambeth palace ,

He built the great tower at the west end of the chapel, called the Loi­ lard’s Tower, at the top of which is a prison room. Before the reformation, the archbishops had prisons for ecclesiastical offenders, who, if persons of rank, were kept in separate apartments, and used to eat at the archbishop’s table. Lysons’s Environs, art. Lambeth, and Churtou’s Lives of the Founders, p. 189, et seqq.

Croydon church, and Rochester-bridge.

His first intentions with respect to Oxford ended in the erection of a house for the scholars of the Cistercian order, who at that time had no settled habitation at Oxford. This mansion, which was called St. Bernard’s College, was | afterwards alienated to sir Thomas White, and formed part of St. John’s college. The foundation of All Souls, however, is that which has conveyed his memory to our times with the highest claims of veneration. Like his predecessor and friend Wykeham, he had amassed considerable wealth, and determined to expend it in facilitating the purposes of education, which, notwithstanding the erection of the preceding colleges, continued to be much obstructed during those reigns, the turbulence of which rendered property insecure, and interrupted the quiet progress of learning and civilization.

At what time he first conceived this plan is not recorded. It appears, however, to have been in his old age, when he obtained a release from interference in public measures. The purchases he made for his college consisted chiefly of Berford hall, or Cherleton’s Inn, St. Thomas’s hall, Tingewick hall, and Godknave hall,- comprising a space of one hundred and seventy-two feet in length in the High street, ana one hundred and sixty-two in breadth in Cat, or Catherine street, which runs between the High street and Hertford college: to these additions were afterwards made, which enlarged the front in the High street. The foundation stone was laid with great solemnity, Feb. 10, 1437. John Druell, archdeacon of Exeter, and Roger Keyes, both afterwards fellows of the college, were the principal architects, and the charter was obtained of the king in 1438, and confirmed by the pope in the following year. In the charter, the king, Henry VI. assumed the title of founder, at the archbishop’s solicitation, who appears to have paid him this compliment to secure his patronage for the institution, while the full exercise of legislative authority was reserved to Chichele as co-founder.

According to this charter, the society was to consist of a warden and twenty fellows, with power in the warden to increase their number to forty, and to be called The warden and college of the souls of all the faithful deceased, Collegium Omnium slnimarum Fiddium defunctorum de Oxon. The precise meaning of this may be understood from the obligation imposed on the society to pray for the good estate of Henry VI. and the archbishop during their lives, and for their souls after their decease; also for the souls of Henry V. and the duke of Clarence, together with those of all the dukes, earls, barons, knights, esquires, and other subjects of the crown of England, who had fallen | in the war with France; and for the souls of all the faithful deceased.

Sixteen of the fellows were to study the civil and canon laws, and the rest, philosophy and the arts, and theology. But the most remarkable clause in this charter, when compared to former foundations, is that which gives the society leave to purchase lands to the yearly value of 300l. a sum very far exceeding what we read of in any previous foundation, and which has more recently been increased to 1050l. by charters from Charles I. and George II. Another charter of very extensive privileges was granted soon after the foundation by Henry VI.; and this, and the charter of foundation, were confirmed by an act of parliament 14 Henry VII. 1499.

It was not till within a few days of his death that the archbishop gave a body of statutes for the regulation of his college, modelled after the statutes of his illustrious precursor Wykeham. After the appointment of the number of fellows, already noticed, he ordains that they should be born in lawful wedlock, in the province of Canterbury, with a preference to the next of kin, descended from his brothers Robert and William Chichele*. To the society were also added chaplains, clerks, and choristers, who appear to have been included in the foundation, although they are not mentioned in the charter.

For the more ample endowment of this college, the founder purchased and bestowed on it the manor of Wedon and Weston, or Wedon Pinkeney in Northamptonshire. King’s college, Cambridge, became afterwards possessed of a part of it, but All Souls has, besides the advowsort of the churches belonging to it, the largest estate, and the lordship of the waste. The founder also gave them the manors of Horsham, and Scotney, or Bletching-court in Kent, and certain lands called the Tariffs or Friths in

* This part of the founder’s statutes puted and disputable claims. In 1776, has occasioned much litigation, as the on an application to Cornwallis, archfarther the time is removed from his bishop of Canterbury, as visitor, he age, the difficulty of ascertaining con- decreed that the number of fellows to sanguinity becomes almost insupera- be admkted on claim of kindred should ble. According- to the “Stemmata be limited to twenty. In 1792, on the Chicheleana,” published in 1765, the claim of kindred by a person, when the collateral descendants of our founder number of twenty happened to be cornwere then to be traced through nearly plete, the matter was re-heard, and the twelve hundred families; but this, former archbishop’s decree ratified and which seems at first to administer faci- confirmed, lity, is in fact the source of many | disWapenham, Northamptonshire with the suppressed alien priories of Romney in Kent; the rectory of Upchurch the priory of New Abbey near Abberbury, in Shropshire of St. Clare in Carmarthenshire, and of Llangenith in Glamorganshire. Wood says, that king Edward IV. took into his hands all the revenues of this college and these priories, because the society had sided with Henry VI. against him; but it appears by the college archives, that the king took only these alien priories, and soon restored them, probably because he considered it as an act of justice to restore what had been purchased from, and not given, by the crown. Besides these possessions, the trustees of the founder purchased the manors of Edgware, Kingsbury, and Malories, in Middlesex, &c.; and he bequeathed the sums of 134l. 6s. Sd. and a thousand marks, to be banked for the use of the college *.

These transactions passed chiefly during the building of the college, which the aged founder often inspected. In 1442, it was capable of receiving the warden and fellows, who had hitherto been lodged at the archbishop’s expense in a hall and chambers hired for that purpose. The chapel was consecrated, early in the same year, by the founder, assisted by the bishops of Lincoln (Alnwick), Worcester (Bourchier), Norwich (Brown), and others who were suffragans. The whole of the college was not finished before the latter end of 1444, and the expense of building, according to the accounts of Druell and Keys, may be estimated at 41 56l. 6s. 3jd The purchases of ground, books, chapel furniture, &c. amounted to 4302l. 3s. Sd. The subsequent history of this college is amply detailed in our authorities. 1


Chalmers’s Hist, of Oxford.Life of Chichele by Duck, and a better one by Spenser, 1783, 8vo. Biog.Brit. Wood’s Colleges and Hall*, and Annals. Batesiae Vitae, p. 1.