Sudbury, Simon of (DNB00)
|←Suckling, Maurice||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 55
Sudbury, Simon of
SUDBURY, SIMON of (d. 1381), archbishop of Canterbury, son of Nigel Theobald and his wife Sarah, people of respectable position (Monasticon, vi. 1370), was born at Sudbury in Suffolk in the parish of St. Gregory. He studied at the university of Paris, received the degree of doctor of laws, and practised canon law. Entering the service of the pope, he became chaplain to Innocent VI, and auditor of the papal palace, and was sent by Innocent as nuncio to Edward III in 1356 (Fœdera, iii. 328, 402). Having been appointed chancellor of the church of Salisbury, he was sent by the king, who then speaks of him as his clerk, to make a representation on his behalf to the pope in May 1357 (ib. p. 356). In the following October he was appointed one of the proctors of David Bruce (1324–1371) [q. v.] at the papal court. The pope rewarded his services by providing him to the see of London in October 1361 (ib. p. 628). He was consecrated on 20 March 1362, and received the temporalities on 15 May. He was appointed joint ambassador to treat with the Count of Flanders in 1364 about the proposed marriage between his daughter and Edmund de Langley, first duke of York [see Langley]. He appears to have held advanced religious opinions, for it is said that being on his way to Canterbury in 1370, at the time of a jubilee of St. Thomas the Martyr, he addressed a party of the pilgrims that thronged the road, telling them that the plenary indulgence that they sought would be of no avail. His words were received with anger, and an old knight, Sir Thomas of Aldon in Kent, is said to have answered him, ‘My lord bishop, why do you seek to stir up the people against St. Thomas? By my soul, your life will be ended by a foul death’ (Anglia Sacra, i. 49). Nevertheless in that year he had a heretic named Nicholas Drayton in his prison (Fœdera, iii. 889). Many abuses prevailed in his cathedral church, and on 26 Jan. 1371 the king wrote to him, bidding him reform them, and blaming him for not having done so before (ib. p. 908). Both in 1372 and 1373 he was employed with others in negotiations with France. Having, in conjunction with his brother John of Chertsey, bought the church of St. Gregory in his native parish, he rebuilt the west end, caused it to be made collegiate, and joined his brother in building a college for a warden and five priests where their father's house had stood.
In February of that year Sudbury was appointed with John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster [q. v.], and others to treat with France. William Wittlesey [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury, having died on 6 June, and the election of Cardinal Simon Langham [q. v.] having been quashed, Sudbury was translated by papal bull to Canterbury in 1375, and received the temporalities on 5 June (ib. p. 1028). In August, by the king's appointment, he accompanied Lancaster to the conference at Bruges, and must there have been in constant communication with Wyclif, who was one of the English commissioners. While in Flanders he received his pall. He returned to England in 1376, and was enthroned on Palm Sunday, 13 April. He was a member of Lancaster's party, was blamed by the enemies of Alice Perrers [q. v.] for causing her ‘magician,’ a Dominican friar, to be remitted to the custody of his order instead of having him burnt, and for not excommunicating Alice herself for breach of an oath that she had made before him (Chronicon Angliæ, pp. 99–100). At the meeting of convocation in January 1377 he tried to oppose the demand of the clergy that William of Wykeham, bishop of Winchester, then in disgrace, owing to the triumph of Lancaster, should be specially called upon to attend, but was forced by their insistence, and by William Courtenay [q. v.], bishop of London, to send for him. He was held to be neglectful of his duty with respect to Wyclif, and to have been urged to activity by his suffragans, and specially by Courtenay, who seems to have acted independently of him at the abortive trial of Wyclif on 19 Feb.
Sudbury crowned Richard II on 16 July 1377, and at the meeting of parliament on 13 Oct. expounded the needs of the kingdom in a speech founded on the text Matt. xxi. 5. Having received the bulls of Gregory XI against Wyclif, he wrote to the chancellor of the university of Oxford, notifying his intention of holding the inquiry demanded by the pope, and asking for doctors of divinity to be his assessors. Acting with Courtenay, he directed on 18 Dec. that an examination of the charges against Wyclif should be held at Oxford, and that he should be sent to London to appear before him and Courtenay, in accordance with their citation; but the hearing was postponed until after Christmas, and the place changed from St. Paul's to Lambeth, where early in 1378 Wyclif appeared before the archbishop in his chapel. Either during or before the opening of the proceedings the Princess of Wales sent the judges an order that they were not to proceed to sentence. While the inquiry was in progress the Londoners appeared in the chapel and made a disturbance. Sudbury bade Wyclif keep silence on the matters in question, and not suffer others to discuss them, and the proceedings ended. During that year he continued his visitation, begun in 1376, and was resisted by the abbey of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, over which, though an exempt monastery, he claimed jurisdiction as ‘legatus natus.’ The convent appealed to the pope, and the matter was not settled at Sudbury's death (Thorn, cols. 2155–6). Sanctuary having been violated at Westminster by the followers of Lancaster, who slew a man in the abbey church, Sudbury, after some hesitation, excommunicated all concerned in the offence, excepting Lancaster by name. He was prompt in upholding Urban VI against the cardinals, and preached against the schism. In a convocation held in November some constitutions were published in his name, one of them regulating the stipends of priests engaged to celebrate private masses. In March 1379 he was appointed on a commission to examine the accounts of the last subsidy and the state of the revenue.
He succeeded Sir Richard Scrope [q. v.] as chancellor on 27 Jan. 1380 (Fœdera, iv. 75), and in his speech at the opening of parliament at Northampton in November announced the need of a grant, which was met by a poll-tax. On the rising of the commons in 1381 the Kentish rioters broke into the archbishop's prison at Maidstone on 11 June, releasing and carrying off with them the priest, John Ball (d. 1381) [q. v.], whom Sudbury had caused to be imprisoned as excommunicate apparently about six weeks before. At Canterbury they destroyed the archbishop's goods, and on the 12th sacked his manor-house at Lambeth. Sudbury was with the king and the other ministers in the Tower, and the rebels by their messengers demanded that he should be delivered up to them, declaring that he and the other ministers were traitors, and being specially hostile to him because they were excited against him by John Ball. He resigned the chancellorship. In common with the treasurer, Robert de Hales, he urged the king not to meet the rebels, whom he is said to have styled barefooted ruffians, but to take measures to subdue them, and, this being reported to the mob, they swore that they would have his head. On the 13th the Kentish men occupied Tower Hill, and loudly threatened his life. Early on Friday, the 14th, he celebrated mass before the king, and remained in the chapel after Richard had left the Tower. As soon as the king had gone the Kentish men entered the Tower, and made one of the servants show them where the archbishop was. He had passed the previous night in prayer, and was awaiting their coming. As they rushed into the chapel they cried ‘Where is the traitor to the kingdom, where is the spoiler of the commons?’ To which he replied, ‘You have come right, my sons; here am I, the archbishop, neither a traitor nor a spoiler.’ They dragged him forth, and took him to Tower Hill, where a vast crowd greeted him with yells. Seeing that they were about to slay him, he warned them that if they did so he would certainly be avenged, and that England would incur an interdict. After he had spoken further, and granted, so far as in him lay, absolution to the man, one John Starling of Essex, who stood ready to behead him, he knelt down. He was horribly mutilated by the axe, and was not killed until the eighth blow. The treasurer and two others were slain with him. His head was placed on a pole, with a cap nailed upon it to distinguish it from those of the other victims, was carried through the streets, and finally placed on London Bridge; his body remained where it lay for two days. Six days after his death Sir William Walworth [q. v.], the mayor, caused both his head and his body to be conveyed reverently to Canterbury, and the archbishop was buried in the cathedral on the south side of the altar of St. Dunstan, where a canopied monument, which still exists, was erected to him. A large slab of marble was placed to his memory in St. Gregory's, Sudbury. A portion of his epitaph has been preserved (Weever, Funeral Monuments, pp. 224–5, 743–5).
Though learned, eloquent, and liberal, Sudbury lacked independence of character. Adhering to John of Gaunt rather than, as became his office, taking his own line, he was led to neglect his duty as archbishop, and was only stirred to activity by Courtenay, to whom he sometimes acted a secondary part. He seems also to have been in the habit of speaking with too little thought for the feelings of others. His murder caused him to be regarded as a martyr, miracles were worked at his tomb, and he was compared to his predecessor, St. Thomas (Gower, Vox Clamantis, i.c. 14). Nicholas Hereford [see Nicholas] is reported to have said that he deserved his death for blaming Wyclif.
Besides his work at Sudbury he rebuilt the west gate and a great part of the north wall of the city of Canterbury, and, the nave of the cathedral being in a ruinous state, pulled down the aisles, and laid the foundation of, and perhaps began, the two new aisles of the nave that were afterwards finished, probably with money that he had provided. In 1378 he set on foot a collection for the rebuilding, promising forty days' indulgence to those who helped in it. In 1379 the archdeacon of Canterbury (Audomarus de la Roche) being an alien and an adherent of the French king, Sudbury received from Richard the tempo- ralities of the archdeaconry to help him in that work, on which he was spending large sums of his own money.[Walsingham, Chron. Angliæ, Cont. Eulogii, Polit. Poems, Fascic. Zizan. (all Rolls Ser.); Monk of Evesham's Hist. Ricardi II, ed. Hearne; Knighton, ed. Twisden; Stow's Annales; Froissart's Chron. ed. Buchon; Rymer's Fœdera (Record edit.); Hook's Archbishops of Canterbury; Foss's Judges; Stubbs's Const. Hist.]