Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 39.djvu/158

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Morton
Morton
152

in 1483, was an executor to his will, and assisted at his funeral (Letters, f&c., Richard III and Henry VII, ed. Gairdner, Rolls Ser., i. 4). He was, of course, present at the meeting of the council on 13 June 1483, when Richard's plans were fully put into action. Richard came late, and joked with Morton about the strawberries he was growing in the gardens at Ely Place, Holborn (cf. Shakespeare, Richard III, act iii. sc. 4) ; but, as a powerful adherent of the young prince, he was one of those who were arrested when the meeting broke up (Gairdner, Richard III, pp. 81 et seq.) The university of Oxford petitioned for his release, calling him her dearest son (Wood, Athenæ, ed. Bliss). He was at first confined in the Tower, and then, at Buckingham's request, removed to his custody at Brecknock Castle [see Stafford, Henry, 1454?-1483]. Here in 1483 Buckingham had a conversation with his prisoner which showed his own schemes against Richard to have been already formed, and at the same time suggested to Morton a way of using him against the king and in favour of the young Earl of Richmond (cf. Gairdner, Henry VII, p. 10, and Richard III, pp. 138, 149). Morton skilfully encouraged the duke in his opposition to Richard III, and brought him, through Reginald Bray, into close communication with the Countess cf Richmond, and with Elizabeth, the queen-dowager. It has been said that this plot was due to the fact that Buckingham knew of the murder of the young princes, but it is more probable that that had not yet taken place, and that Buckingham chose to join the party of Richmond, as safer than following Richard's example. Morton, having directed the plot, urged that he ought to be in Ely to raise the men of his bishopric. Buckingham hesitated to allow him to have Brecknock Castle, and Morton fled by night to Ely, and thence to Flanders (Gairdner, Richard III, pp. 138 et seq., Henry VII, pp. 11 et seq. ; Polydore Vergil, English Hist. ed. Ellis, Camden Soc.,p. 198). He continued in constant correspondence with Lancastrians in England. When Richard in 1484 was plotting the capture of Henry of Richmond in Brittany, Morton heard of the scheme in time to send Christopher Urswick to warn Henry to escape into France, and thus saved Henry's life (ib. p. 206).

Morton remained in Flanders till after the settlement of the kingdom upon Henry VII in the parliament of November 1485, when Henry summoned him home. To his counsels the final victory of the Lancastrians was in a large degree attributed ; and he doubtless was the great advocate for Henry's marriage with Elizabeth of York. His attainder was reversed, he was made a privy councillor, and for the rest of his life, as More makes Hythloday say in the 'Utopia,' 'The king depended much on his counsels, and the government seemed to be chiefly supported by him.' On 6 Oct. 1486 he succeeded Bourchier as archbishop of Canterbury, and on 6 March following he succeeded John Alcock, the founder of Jesus College, Cambridge, as lord chancellor. The chancellorship in his hands was the most important office in the government (cf. Campbell, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, i. 417), and probably he was much more concerned with secular than with spiritual affairs. Practically nothing was done in convocation while he was archbishop, which may be regarded as the result of his master's policy, but he tried to reform both the regular and secular clergy, obtaining a bull in 1489, in contravention of the statutes of prsemunire, enabling him to visit the monasteries in his province, and proceeding vigorously against St. Albans. As chancellor he opened parliament with speeches which, according to Campbell, more closely resemble the modern sovereign's speech than had been usual in similar compositions before his time (cf. Cunningham, Hist. of Brit. Industry and Commerce, i. 430). His duties included the delivery of the official answers to the foreign ambassadors (Bernard Andrea, Hist, of Henry VII in Memor. of Henry VII, Rolls Ser., p. 55). But it is difficult to detect in his actions anything beyond a very literal and faithful fulfilment of the policy devised by Henry VII. There was no originality in his political conduct, and Mr. Gairdner has suggested that he was at heart an ecclesiastic. He recommended to Henry, it is said, the plan of obtaining a bull against his enemies, and he obtained another which restrained the rights of sanctuary. His character suffered by his devotion to Henry (cf. Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1202-1509, p. 743). He assisted in collecting the benevolences in 1491 for the French war (Will. Wyec. p. 793), and has been traditionally known as the author of 'Morton's Fork' or 'Morton's Crutch,' but the truth seems rather to be that he and Richard Foxe [q. v.] did their best at the council to restrain Henry's avarice. In 1493 he had a dispute with the Bishop of London as to their respective rights over wills of personalty, in which he came out victor. In the same year Pope Alexander VI, at Henry's request, made him a cardinal, with the title of St. Anastasia (cf. Cal. State Papers, Venetian, 1202-1509, p. 537). At the magnificent ceremony by which Prince Henry was knighted and created Duke of York, on 1 Nov. 1494, Morton said mass at the feast, and afterwards he sat alone with