Waynflete, William of (DNB00)
|←Waylett, Harriet||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 60
Waynflete, William of
WAYNFLETE or WAINFLEET, WILLIAM of (1395?–1486), bishop of Winchester, lord chancellor of England, and founder of Magdalen College, Oxford, was the elder of two sons of Richard Patyn, Patten, or Patton, alias Barbour, of Wainfleet, Lincolnshire. From a deed (recently rediscovered and printed by the Rev. W. D. Macray in his Register of Magdalen College) executed by Juliana Chirchestyle, grandniece of the bishop, in 1497, it appears that Waynflete held the manor and manor-house of Dakenham Place, Barkinge (printed by Macray ‘Backinge’). This deed points to Essex as the home of at least one branch of the family, and corroborates the inference which may be drawn from other data that the bishop was of gentle blood. It also makes it probable that the trade-name of Barbour was not common to the family, but was only the name of the bishop's father's mother. The social position of Richard Patyn is indicated by his marriage with Margery, youngest daughter of Sir William Brereton (d. 1425–6), knight, of Brereton, Cheshire (Ormerod, iii. 81).
From Leland we learn that the bishop was born at Wainfleet. Assuming him to have been of the canonical age of twenty-five at his ordination as deacon, he would have been born in 1395. Leland further says that he was a scholar at Winchester College. The word ‘scholar’ must not be pressed, for his name does not appear upon the register of admissions to the foundation; but there is no reason to doubt that Waynflete was educated at Winchester. Leland further asserts that he was ‘felow of the New Colege of Oxford.’ It is not till 1577 that the suggestion first appears, in the ‘Description of England’ by William Harrison (1534–1593) [q. v.], that Waynflete was ‘fellow of Merton.’ But Merton preserves no trace of him. On the other hand, he could not have been a fellow of New College according to the statutes, without having been a ‘scholar’ on the Winchester foundation. But this difficulty was probably removed by Henry Beaufort [q. v.], bishop of Winchester, the visitor of New College, who had been bishop of Lincoln from 1398 to 1404, and might naturally exercise his dispensing power as visitor in favour of the son of a Lincolnshire family. In all his relations with Oxford in adult life Waynflete displayed for New College a regard which was unaccountable if he was himself a member of another society. In 1480 he nominated as president of his new foundation of Magdalen College Richard Mayew, fellow of New College. Mayew's first duty was to put into operation a body of statutes founded upon those of New College. Waynflete further provided that all future presidents of Magdalen should have been fellows of that house or of New College. Lastly, by his will he bequeathed to the warden, fellows, and scholars of New College the same sums of money as to those of his own foundation. The statement of Dr. Thomas Chaundler, successively warden of Winchester (1450) and of New College (1453), that Thomas Beckington [q. v.], also a fellow of New College, was Waynflete's early friend, sustains the conclusion that Waynflete was educated at New College. For the period during which Waynflete was in residence at Oxford no catalogue of graduates survives.
The earliest record of Waynflete is his ordination as an unbeneficed acolyte by Richard Fleming [q. v.], bishop of Lincoln, in the parish church of Spalding on Easter Sunday, 21 April 1420, under the name of William Barbor. That this was Waynflete himself is proved by the entry of his ordination as subdeacon on 21 Jan. following, when it was mentioned that he took the style of William Waynflete of Spalding, a change of designation at ordination being at that time common (Holinshed, Chron. iii. 213). On 18 March 1420–1 he was ordained deacon, and on 21 Jan. 1426 priest, on the title of the Benedictine Priory of Spalding. He had probably been studying divinity between 1420 and 1426 at Spalding or Oxford. At some time between 1426 and 1429 Waynflete received from Cardinal Beaufort presentation to the mastership of the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen, situate upon a hill a mile east of Winchester. The preferment was worth about 9l. 12s. a year, or approximately 110l. of our money.
It is improbable that the future bishop was the William Waynflete ‘in legibus bacallarius’ who accompanied Robert Fitzhugh [q. v.] on his embassy to Rome in 1429. He was probably first presented to the king on the occasion of Henry VI's visit to Winchester on 30 July 1440. On 11 Oct. of the same year Henry sealed the foundation charter of Eton College. In it Waynflete is nominated a fellow, and to Eton he removed in 1442. A class-room was then open, but the pupils were lodged in private houses. Waynflete probably acted as ‘informator,’ though no appointment of him as such seems to have survived. On 21 Dec. 1443 he was installed second provost of the college.
On Tuesday, 11 April 1447, Cardinal Beaufort died at Winchester. Henry, it is evident, received private news of the event on the same day, and immediately wrote to the monks recommending Waynflete for election to the bishopric (ib. p. 299). On Wednesday, 12 April, the official letter announcing the vacancy and praying license to proceed to election was despatched to the king. Letters patent were issued, dated Canterbury, 11 April, granting Waynflete custody of the temporalities of the see (Pat. Roll. 25 Henry VI, pt. 2, m. 30). On 14 April he made his first presentation. The congé d'élire under the privy seal is dated 15 April at Canterbury (Rymer, Fœdera, xi. 153). On Monday, 17 April, the prior and chapter made a formal return of the election. The papal bull nominating Waynflete bishop bears the early date of 10 May. On 3 June Waynflete took the oath of fealty to the king in person (Le Neve, Fasti, iii. 15). On 4 June the temporalities were formally restored (Fœdera, xi. 172). On 16 June Waynflete made profession of canonical obedience at Lambeth. He was consecrated at Eton on 13 July; on 18 July he received the spiritualities. He held his first general ordination on Sunday, 23 Dec. following, at Eton, by special license of the bishop of Lincoln. On 19 Jan. 1448 he was enthroned at Winchester in presence of the king. Henry's choice was clearly a personal preference. As John Capgrave, the contemporary chronicler, dryly remarks, Waynflete ‘carus, ut putatur, domino regi habetur, non tam propter scientiam salutarem quam vitam cœlibem.’ Henry himself, in assigning to Waynflete a paramount place among the executors of his will (12 March 1448), expresses his attachment to him (Chandler, p. 318).
Little more than a year after his advancement Waynflete obtained letters patent, dated 6 May 1448, for the foundation of a hall dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen in the university of Oxford. Its charter was dated 20 Aug. 1448 (Wood, Ant. pp. 307–8; Chandler, p. 330). Its object was the study of theology and philosophy.
The rebellion of Jack Cade [see Cade, John] at Whitsuntide 1450 first brought Waynflete into contact with the turbulent politics of the period. On the morning of Monday, 6 July, Cade having retreated into Southwark, an armistice was proclaimed. Waynflete, who ‘for some safeguard laie then at Haliwell’ (Holinshed, Chron. iii. 226), the priory in Shoreditch (Maitland, Hist. of London, ed. 1772, ii. 1368), and not at his Southwark palace, received a summons to attend a council in the Tower. Thence Waynflete, with other lords (Wyrcestre's Chron. p. 768), proceeded to treat with Cade in the church of St. Margaret, Southwark, within his own diocese. He received Cade's list of grievances, and promised both a general pardon under the great seal and a special one to Cade himself. The insurgents then dispersed from Southwark. But on 1 Aug. 1450 a special commission was issued into Kent to try those who, after the proclamation of pardon, had remained in arms at Deptford and Rochester. The commission included Waynflete's name (Pat. Rolls, 28 Henry VI, pt. ii. m. 17). Many executions followed.
Behind Cade's rebellion lay the sympathies of the Yorkists, and there are signs that Waynflete's intervention ultimately involved him in formidable odium. In September 1450 disturbances broke out at Winchester, the citizens refusing their customary dues at St. Giles' fair (Hist. MSS. Comm. App. to 6th Rep. p. 603). It is possible that the despatch of a quarter of one of Cade's adherents for exhibition in that city had provoked irritation (Proceedings of the Privy Council, vi. 108). The citizens of Winchester submitted, and were pardoned. But a more serious attack threatened. On 7 May 1451 Waynflete executed a remarkable document, appealing for protection to the pope and the archbishop of Canterbury. The recitals show that some attempt was on foot to deprive him of his see by a process in the spiritual courts (Registr. Waynflete, i. 2, f. 11; Chandler, pp. 66–7).
At this time Henry VI was relying much on Waynflete's counsels. They were together at Canterbury in August 1451. In September the bishop issued from St. Albans a commission for the visitation of his diocese, alleging ‘arduous and unexpected business concerning the king and the realm’ (Chandler, p. 69). Upon the approach to London of Richard, duke of York, with an army in March 1452, Henry despatched Waynflete to make terms.
In July 1453 Henry VI became totally paralysed. His son Edward, prince of Wales, was born on 13 Oct., and baptised by Waynflete on the following day (Engl. Chron., p. 193). On 23 March 1454 Waynflete, with a committee of lords, endeavoured to procure from the king an authorisation for the conduct of the government by Richard, duke of York, to whose inevitable ascendancy he seems to have resigned himself. He reported to the House of Lords that the imbecility of the king rendered the errand fruitless. During this interregnum he was constant in his attendances at the council, perhaps to watch over the Lancastrian interests. On Christmas Day 1454 Henry recovered, and received Waynflete in audience on 7 Jan. 1455 (Paston Letters, i. 315). But the defeat of Henry VI at St. Albans on 22 May following restored the Yorkists to power. Waynflete now seems to have supported the moderate Lancastrians, who desired to retain the Duke of York in the king's service (Nicolas, Proceedings, vi. 262). He still enjoyed the confidence of Henry, who on 12 July 1455 nominated him a life visitor of Eton and King's Colleges. On 11 Oct. 1456, in the priory of Coventry, Waynflete was appointed chancellor by the king (Fœdera, xi. 383). There is no foundation for Lord Campbell's story that he was nominated because his predecessor, Thomas Bourchier [q. v.], ‘refused to enter into the plots for the destruction of the Yorkists.’ As a matter of fact, the Duke of York, at this very time ‘in right good conceyt with the king’ (James Gresham to John Paston, 16 Oct. 1456), was present with his friends at the ceremony. Waynflete's salary as chancellor was 200l. a year, probably exclusive of fees.
Waynflete's next important public function was as assessor at the trial of Bishop Reginald Pecock [q. v.] for heresy, in November 1457. Whatever political animus may have been latent in this prosecution, Waynflete's denunciation of Pecock's doctrines in the reformed statutes of King's College, Cambridge, issued three years before, is evidence that his participation in the sentence against Pecock was on theological grounds.
On 18 July 1457 Waynflete obtained a license to found a college to the north-east of the original site of Magdalen Hall. The charter of foundation is dated 12 June 1458. On 14 June the society of Magdalen Hall ‘surrendered up their house with its appurtenances to the college,’ the building of which was forthwith begun.
In September 1458 civil war broke out afresh. The Lancastrians routed the Yorkist forces at Ludlow, and a contemporary letter describes Waynflete as incensed against the insurgent leaders (Paston Letters, i. 497). On 20 Nov. 1459 a packed parliament of Lancastrians was summoned to Coventry. Waynflete, as chancellor, opened it with an address upon the text ‘gracia vobis et pax multiplicetur’ (Rot. Parl. v. 345). It is evident that he now took an active part against the Yorkists. A bill of attainder against the Duke of York and his friends was passed. An oath of allegiance and confirmation of the succession to Edward, prince of Wales, was tendered singly to the lords by the chancellor (ib. p. 351), who had on 8 Jan. 1457 been appointed one of the prince's tutors (Fœdera, xi. 385).
On 3 Nov. 1459 Sir John Fastolf [q. v.] nominated Waynflete executor of his will, a trust which involved him in prolonged controversies (see Paston Letters). Fastolf had directed the foundation of a college at Caistor, which in 1474 Waynflete, with a dispensation from Sixtus IV, diverted to his own college of Magdalen (ib. ii. 402, iii. 119).
In common with the chief officers of the household Waynflete resigned office in Henry VI's tent on 7 July 1460, immediately prior to the defeat of Northampton. Like them, he took out a general pardon (Fœdera, xi. 458). Upon the accession of Edward IV, according to Leland, Waynflete ‘fled for fear of King Edward into secret corners, but at the last he was restorid to his goodes and the king's favor.’ He certainly is lost to sight for a year. That the Yorkists after Northampton again contemplated his punishment, and probably his deprivation, may be inferred from a remarkable letter on his behalf, dated 8 Nov. 1460, and written by Henry VI, then virtually a prisoner in London, to Pius II (Chandler, p. 347).
In August 1461, when Edward IV went on progress to Hampshire, the tenants of Est Men or East Meon and elsewhere, ‘in grete multitude and nombre,’ petitioned the king for relief from certain services, customs, and dues which the bishop and his agents were attempting to exact. According to the author of the ‘Brief Latin Chronicle’ (Camden Soc. 1880), the tenants had seized Waynflete, which suggests that they were preventing an anticipated escape by sea, East Meon being near the coast. Edward, however, not only rescued him from violence, but arrested the ringleaders, whose case was tried in the House of Lords on 14 Dec. 1461, when judgment was given for the bishop (Rot. Parl. v. 475).
Henceforth Waynflete appears to have acquiesced in the new order of things (Rot. Parl. v. 461, 496, 571). On 16 Nov. 1466 he received a pardon for all escapes of prisoners and fines due to the king (Chandler, p. 353). On 1 Feb. 1469 he received a full pardon (Fœdera, xi. 639), in which he was accepted as the king's ‘true and faithful subject.’ But on Edward's flight from London upon 29 Sept. 1470, Waynflete himself released Henry VI from the Tower (Warkworth, Chron. p. 11). The return of Edward IV, and his victories of Barnet and Tewkesbury, followed by the deaths of Henry VI and Edward, prince of Wales, left the Lancastrian cause hopeless. Waynflete was obliged to purchase another full pardon on 30 May 1471 (Fœdera, xi. 711), this time by a ‘loan’ of 1,333l. (Ramsay, ii. 390). On 3 July 1471, with other peers, he took an oath of fealty to Edward IV's eldest son [Edward V] (Fœdera, xi. 714), and was henceforth constantly at court. Meanwhile he was completing his college, as well as that of Eton. He finished off the Eton college buildings, for the greater part at his own expense (Chandler, pp. 137, 153, 154). On 20 Sept. 1481 Waynflete visited Magdalen, and on the 22nd entertained Edward IV there. He took part in the funeral ceremonies of Edward IV on 19 April 1483 at Windsor (Gairdner, Letters and Papers, i. 7). On 24 July 1483 he entertained Richard III at Magdalen (ib. p. 161). In 1484 he began the construction of a free school at his native place, endowing it with land which he had acquired in 1475. This school still flourishes under the title of Magdalen College School, Wainfleet.
The countenance of a prelate so respected as Waynflete cannot fail to have strengthened the position of Richard III. On 5 July 1485 the king borrowed of him 100l., doubtless a forced loan, to be spent in meeting the expected invasion of Henry VII.
In December 1485 Waynflete retired from his palace at Southwark to his manor of South Waltham, Hampshire. There on 26 April 1486 he executed his will. He had already completed his magnificent tomb and chantry in Winchester Cathedral, where he directed that he should be buried. He left bequests in money to the members of the various religious houses in Winchester and of the colleges of St. Mary Winton and New and Magdalen, Oxford. Almost all his estates in land he devised in trust for Magdalen College. On 2 Aug. 1486 he made further provision for Cardinal Beaufort's Hospital of St. Cross (Chandler, p. 225). He died, apparently of a complaint of the heart, on Friday, 11 Aug. 1486 (Campbell, Materials, ii. 67), having retained his senses to the last.
Waynflete was of the school of episcopal statesmen of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, of whom Beaufort and Wolsey are the leading types. Like Wolsey, he was a favourer of learning, and is even said, though the statement is doubtful, to have provided for the study of Greek at Magdalen (Chandler, pp. 267–8). He set Wolsey an example in the suppression of religious houses for his college. As chancellor he left the reputation of an upright and prudent administrator of justice (Polydore Vergil, p. 74), ‘warilie wielding the weight of that office’ (Holinshed, Chron. iii. 212). A eulogy of him by Laurence William of Savona [q. v.], written in London in 1485, is printed by Chandler (p. 376) from Wharton's ‘Anglia Sacra’ (i. 326). The panegyrist speaks of his venerable white hair (‘veneranda canities’). This is the only contribution to a personal description which has come down to us. The picture which prefaces Chandler's ‘Life’ is taken either from a mask of the bishop's effigy in Winchester Cathedral or from the oil-painting at Magdalen College. If, as is probable, this is a portrait, Waynflete had large eyes and a refined countenance. Another representation of him appears as a support to the cushion under the head of the effigy of his father upon the tomb erected by the bishop in Wainfleet church, now removed to Magdalen College chapel. An effigy of Waynflete has also been placed on the outer western wall of Eton College Chapel.
The bishop's younger brother, John Waynflete, became dean of Chichester, and died in 1481 (Chandler, p. 240). Chandler adduces good reason for the conclusion that the statement first traceable to Guillim (Display of Heraldry, p. 408; cf. Holinshed, Chron. iii. 212; Godwin, De Præsulibus, p. 233), that there was a third brother, Richard Patten of Baslowe, Derbyshire, is a fiction. The arms originally born by Waynflete were ‘a field fusilly, ermine, and sable.’ After he became provost of Eton he inserted ‘on a chief of the second three lilies slipped argent,’ borrowed from the shield of Eton College. These arms have ever since been borne by Magdalen College. He added as his motto the verse of the Magnificat, ‘Fecit mihi magna qui potens est,’ still remaining incised over the door of the chapel of his college.
[Will. Worc. Annales, ed. Stevenson (Rolls Ser. 1858), vol. ii. pt. ii; Supplementary Letters and Papers of Henry VI, ib.; Croyland Continuator in Gale's Scriptores, i. 451–593; Leland's Itinerary, ed. Hearne (1744); Gascoigne's Liber Veritatum, Loci e Libro Veritatum, or passages selected from Gascoigne's Theological Dict. ed. Rogers (1881); Correspondence of Bishop Bekynton (Rolls Ser. 56), ed. Williams (1872), 2 vols.; Capgrave's Liber de Illustribus Henricis, ed. Hingeston (Rolls Ser. 1858); Pecock's Repressor of overmuch Blaming of the Clergy, ed. Babington, 2 vols. (Rolls Ser. 1860); Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner, 3 vols. (1872–5); Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, ed. Gairdner (Camd. Soc. 1880); Nicolas's Testamenta Vetusta (1826), vol. i. and Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council (1834); Gregory's Chronicle (Camd. Soc. 1876); English Chronicle (Camd. Soc. 1856); Warkworth's Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of Edward IV (Camd. Soc. 1839); Polydore Vergil's Three Books (Camd. Soc. 1844); Historical Collections of a Citizen of London, ed. Gairdner (Camd. Soc. 1876); Orridge and Cooper's Illustrations of Jack Cade's Rebellion, 1869; Holinshed's Chronicles of England (1808), vol. iii.; Gale's Rerum Anglicarum Scriptorum Veterum, &c., 3 vols. (1684, 1687, 1691); Letters and Papers illustrative of the Reigns of Richard III and Henry VII (Rolls Ser. 1861), 2 vols. ed. Gairdner; Materials for the Reign of Henry VII, 2 vols. (Rolls Ser. 1873), ed. Campbell; Harrison's Description of England prefixed to Holinshed's Chronicles, vol. i.; Budden's Waynfleti Vita, Oxon. 1602; Harpsfeld's Historia Anglicana Ecclesiastica, 1622; Lanquet's Chronicle, ed. Cooper, Epitome of Chronicles, 1560; Godwin, De Præsulibus Angliæ Commentarius, 1743; Wood's History and Antiquities of Colleges and Halls, ed. Gutch, 1786; Hearne's Remarks and Collections, ed. Doble, 1889; Guillim's Display of Heraldry, 6th edit. 1724; Le Neve's Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ, 3 vols. ed. Hardy, 1854; Harwood's Alumni Etonenses, 1797; Ormerod's Hist. of Cheshire (1819), vol. iii.; Walcott's William of Wykeham and his Colleges, 1852; Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, 1847–1849; Maxwell-Lyte's History of Eton College, 1877; Kirby's Winchester Scholars, 1888, and Annals of Winchester College, 1892; Macray's Register of Magdalen College, Oxford, vol. ii. Fellows, 1897; Ramsay's Lancaster and York, 2 vols. 1892.]