Somerset, John (DNB00)

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SOMERSET or SOMERSETH, JOHN (d. 1455?), physician to Henry VI, appears to have been connected with the Beaufort family. He was sophister first at Oxford, but afterwards graduated at Cambridge. He was made fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, between 1406 and 1428, and was twice proctor. He studied medicine in London and Paris, and was a doctor of medicine, possibly also of civil law (Aungier, Hist. of Syon Monastery, p. 215). In 1426 his name appears as witness to the will of Thomas, duke of Exeter. In 1428 he was physician to the king, and entries of payments to him appear till 1432; he is also described as king's chaplain. In 1430 he was probably with Henry VI at Rouen, when the king received a splendid missal as a gift from the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. The work contains an attestation of the gift signed by Somerset. In February 1441 he was appointed one of the commissioners to draft statutes for King's College, Cambridge, and at his suggestion part of the old castle at Cambridge was given to King's, and he bought the site of the old court. In July a horoscope of Henry VI was sent to him in the king's household at Sheen (Cambridge University Library, EE. iii. 61). In the same year he received a grant of the benefices of alien ecclesiastics. In June 1442 he was still in attendance on the king (Monro, Letters of Margaret of Anjou, p. 86). In 1443 he was keeper of the exchange and master of the mint (Rot. Pip. 21 Hen. VI, Lond. and Midd.). From 1441 to 1446 he was chancellor of the exchequer. In 1449 he is called ‘of the exchequer.’ On the death of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester [q. v.], he was one of the executors, and some correspondence between him and the university of Oxford is extant concerning gifts of books.

In 1451 the commons petitioned that he and many others should be dismissed from the court. In his old age he fell into poverty, and addressed a ‘Querimonia’ in hexameters to the fellows of King's College, charging them with ingratitude; it is printed in Hearne's ‘Elmham,’ 1727, 8vo. A dispute concerning the alien manor of Ruislip or Riselip, Middlesex, which the king granted to him for life with reversion to King's College, appears to have been the cause of the quarrel. The poem states that he had served twenty-five years in the king's court. He founded a chapel and guild of All Angels at Brentford End, Middlesex, in 1446 (Aungier, pp. 215, 460; Speed, History, p. 814). From Bekynton's ‘Journal’ it appears that he was married. In 1455 he is spoken of as lately dead. In 1465 his Middlesex property is entered in the ‘Inquisitiones post mortem’ as escheated to Edward IV. Bishop Thomas Beckington [q. v.] and Thomas Elmham [q. v.] were his friends and correspondents. Elmham sent him his metrical account of Henry V for correction, addressed verses to him, and highly commended his learning. Somerset gave books to Pembroke and St. Peter's Colleges, Cambridge, and was esteemed a good physician, mathematician, and grammarian. [Somerset's Querimonia, printed in Hearne's Elmham, with Baker's Letters, p. 347; Rot. Pat. 19 Hen. VI to 20 Hen. VI; Rot. Parl. vol. v. passim; Clark's Architectural History of Cambridge, i. 317, 323; Bekynton's Correspondence, ii. 244; Dibdin's Bibl. Decameron, i. 137, for an account of the Bedford Missal; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. for his correspondence with Oxford University; Acts of the Privy Council, iii. 282, iv. 30, 131; Cal. Inq. post mortem, iv. 324; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 753; Twyne's Antiq. Acad. Oxon. p. 318; Cambridge Antiquarian Society, Communications, ii. 16; Sloane MS. 59.]

M. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.254
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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245 ii 7f.e. Somerset, John: for his ‘Life of Henry V’ read his metrical account of Henry V