Waynflete, William Of

, the illustrious founder of Magdalen college, Oxford, was the eldest son of Richard Patten, or Harbour, of Waynflete in Lincolnshire, by Margery, daughter of sir William Brereton, knight; and had for his brother John Patten, dean of Chichester, but the precise time of his birth is no where ascertained. According to the custom of his day, he took the surname of Waynflete from his native place. He was educated at Winchester school, and studied afterwards at Oxford, but in what college is uncertain. The historian of Winchester is inclined to prefer New college, which is most consistent with the progress of education at Wykeham’s school. Wood acknowledges that although his name does not occur among the fellows of New college, nor among those of Merton, where Holinshed places him, unless he was a chaplain or postmaster, yet “the general vogue is for the college of William of Wykehasn.” Wherever he studied, his proficiency in the literature of the times, and in philosophy and divinity, in which last he took the degree of bachelor, is said to have been great, and the fame he acquired as schoolmaster at Winchester, with the classical library he formed, is a proof that he surpassed in such learning as was then attainable.

Of his preferments*


Dr. Chandler has recovered some particulars which are more authentic than what Wood furnished. It appears by these that in 1420, April 21, he occurs as an unbeneficed acolyte, under the name of William Barbor: in 1420, Jan. 21, William Barbor be came a subdeacon by the style of William Waynflete of Spalding: March 18, of the same year, he was ordained deacon, and in 1426, Jan. 21st, presbyter, on the title of the house of Spalding.

in the church, we have no account, that is not liable to suspicion. Wood says that he was rector of Wraxall in 1433, which is barely possible, although at this time he was master of Winchester school; and that he was rector of Chedsey in 1469, which is highly improbable, because he had then been twenty years bishop of Winchester. It is, however, more clearly ascertained | that about 1429 he was appointed head master of Winchester school, where he displayed great abilities as a teacher. In 1438, he was master of St. Mary Magdalen hospital near Winchester, which is supposed to have suggested to him the name and patroness of his foundation at Oxford.

In 1440, when Henry VI. visited Winchester for the purpose of inspecting the discipline, constitution, and progress of Wykeham’s-school, on the model of which he had begun to found one at Eton, he procured the consent of Waynflete to remove thither, with thirty- five of his scholars and five fellows, whose education our founder superintended until December 21, 1442, when he was appointed provost of that celebrated seminary. On the death of cardinal Beaufort in 1447, he was advanced to the see of Winchester, which he held for the long space of thirty-nine years, during which he amply justified the recommendation of the king, being distinguished “for piety, learning, and prudence.” His highness honoured with his presence the ceremony of his enthronement.

His acknowledged talents and political sagacity procured him the unreserved confidence of his royal master, who appears to have treated him with condescending familiarity, employed him in some affairs of critical importance, and received throughout the whole of his turbulent reign abundant proofs of his invariable loyalty and attachment. In 1450, when the rebellion of Jack Cade burst forth, Waynflete, who had retired to the nunnery of Holywell, was sent for by the king to Canterbury, and advised the issuing a proclamation offering pardon to all concerned in the rebellion, except Cade himself; in consequence of which the rebels dispersed, and left their leader to his fate. Soon after, when Richard, duke of York, took up arms, the king sent our prelate, with the bishop of Ely, to inquire his reasons for so alarming a step. The duke replied, that his only view was to remove evil counsellors from his highness, and particularly the duke of Somerset. Waynflete and his colleague having made this report, the king ordered the duke of Somerset to be imprisoned, and received the duke of York with kindness, who on his part took a solemn oath of future allegiance and fidelity; which, however, he violated at the battle of Northampton in 1460. In October 1453, Waynflete baptised the young prince of Wales by the name of Edward, afterwards "Edward IV. | In October 1456, he was appointed lord high chancellor in the room of Bourchier, archbishop of Canterbury; and the following year he sat in judgment with the archbishop and other prelates, upon Dr. Reginald Pecocke, bishop of Chichester, who had advanced some doctrines contrary to the prevailing religious opinions. On this occasion the court was unanimous in enjoining Pecocke to a solemn recantation, and confinement to his house; his writings also were ordered to be burnt; but the archbishop, according to Mr. Lewis’s account, took a far more active share in this business than the chancellor.

Waynflete resigned the office of chancellor in the month of July 1460, about which time he accompanied the king to Northampton, and was with him a few days before the fatal battle near that place, in which the royal army was defeated. Waynflete’s attachment to Henry’s cause had been uniform and decided, yet his high character and talents appear to have protected him. Edward IV. treated him not only with respect, but with some degree of magnanimity, as he twice issued a special pardon in his favour, and condescended to visit his newly-founded college at Oxford, a favour which to Waynflete, embarked in a work which required royal patronage, must have been highly gratifying. The remainder of his life appears to have been free from political interference or danger, and he lived to see the quiet union of the houses of York and Lancaster, in the marriage of Henry VII. with Elizabeth of York. Besides his other preferments, he is said to have been chancellor of the university of Oxford; but his name no where occurs in Wood’s copious and accurate account of the persons who filled that office.

He died of a short but violent illness in the afternoon of Aug. 11, 1486, and was interred, with great funeral pomp, in Winchester cathedral, in a magnificent sepulchral chapel, which is kept in the finest preservation by the society of Magdalen-college. In his will he bequeathed legacies to all his servants, to all the religious of both sexes in Winchester, to all the clergy in that city, and to every fellow and scholar in Wykeham’s two colleges and his own.

His biographers have celebrated his piety, temper, and humanity. Besides the foundation of Magdalen-college, of which an ample detail is given in our authorities, he astablished a free-school in his native town, and was a benefactor to Eton college, Winchester cathedral, and other | places. In these labours, while his munificent spirit induced him to hire the ablest artists, he displayed himself very considerable talents as an architect. Leland was informed that the greatest part of the buildings of Eton college were raised under his direction, and at his expence. In 1478 we find him overseer of the buildings at Windsor, an office formerly held by his great predecessor Wykeham, and it was from that place he sent workmen to complete the Divinity-school of Oxford. 1


Chandler’s Life of Waynffete.—Wood’s Colleges and Halls.—Chalmers’sHist. of Oxford.