Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Braybroke, Robert de

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BRAYBROKE, ROBERT de (d. 1404), ecclesiastic and judge, son of Sir Gerard Braybroke, knight of Braybroke Castle in Northamptonshire, a descendant of Henry de Braybroc [q. v.], studied civil law at Oxford, taking the degree of licentiate therein. After taking holy orders he obtained (1360), by papal provision, the rectory of Hinton, Cambridgeshire, which, in 1379, he surrendered for the rectory of Girton, Lincolnshire, and this again for that of Horsenden soon afterwards. He was appointed to the prebend of Fenton, in the church of York, 9 Nov. 1366; to that of Fridaythorpe, in the same church, 19 Oct. 1370; to that of All Saints in Hungate, in the church of Lincoln, about 1378; and to that of Colwich, in the church of Lichfield, in the following year. He became dean of Salisbury in 1379-80; archdeacon of Cornwall July 1381; bishop of London, by bull of Pope Urban, 9 Sept. of the same year, to which he was consecrated at Lambeth 5 Jan. 1381-2. The same year (9 Sept.) he was created chancellor at Bristol, receiving the seal on the 20th following, but he resigned the office 10 March 1382-3. In 1382 he gave great offence to the Londoners, then much under the influence of Wycliffe, by refusing to proclaim the nullity of the statute against preachers of heresy passed in the previous year. His laxity in enforcing the laws against prostitutes also produced disturbances. In 1385 he made a vigorous attempt to vindicate the sanctity of St. Paul's by denouncing excommunication against all who were guilty of buying and selling, or playing at ball, within the precincts of the cathedral, or of shooting the birds which made the roof of the edifice their home. In the following year he established the festival of St. Erkenwald, in commemoration of St. Paul. In 1387 Richard II, having been forced by the barons, headed by the Duke of Gloucester, to dismiss the chancellor Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, and to vest the executive power in a 'continual council,' sought to regain his former position by compelling the judges to declare the ordinances by which the revolution had been carried into effect null and void. At this juncture Braybroke attempted, at the instance of the Duke of Gloucester, to mediate between the king and the barons, and at first with some effect; but on Pole, who was present at the interview, breaking out into abuse of the duke, the bishop rejoined with more energy than the king deemed respectful, bidding the late chancellor remember that as he owed his life to the favour of the king, it was unseemly in him to speak evil of others. Braybroke was forthwith dismissed the king's presence, and the barons impeached and executed or banished the chiefs of the king's party. In 1392 Braybroke tried to induce the London cobblers to give up work on Sunday by a threat of excommunication. In 1394 he made a journey to Ireland, to represent to the king, then engaged in attempting to reform the administration of that country, the necessity of taking steps to curb the insolence of the Lollards, who had nailed the principal articles of their creed to the door of St. Paul's. Braybroke was so far successful that Richard, on his return to England, compelled the principal offenders, Thomas Latimer and Richard Story, under pain of death, to take an oath of recantation. In the following year he was appointed, with the archbishop of York, to levy a contribution of 4d. per pound upon the value of all benefices in the kingdom, imposed by the pope for the benefit of the archbishop of Canterbury. The death of the archbishop (Courtney) soon relieved him from this unpopular duty. The bishop's last important public act was the reform of the chapter of St. Paul's. The canons residentiary had for some time past steadily refused to fill up any vacancies in their body unless the candidate for election would give security that he would expend in the first year after his election, in eatables and drinkables and other creature comforts, at least seven hundred marcs, a sum many times exceeding the annual value of the richest prebend. As a result the number of canons in residence had dwindled down from thirty, the full complement, to two, who divided between themselves the whole revenue of the church, and, not content with that, engrossed even the bread and ale, which from time immemorial had been the due of the non-resident canons. To put an end to this fraud the bishop obtained from the king a writ, dated 26 April 1398, addressed to himself and the dean and chapter, commanding them upon their allegiance, and under pain of a fine of 4,000l., to make by Michaelmas, at the latest, statutes regulating the mode of election modelled on those in force at Salisbury, and to observe them faithfully for the future. Braybroke was a trier of petitions in most of Richard II's parliaments; he celebrated high mass in the lady chapel at St. Paul's, on occasion of a convocation of the clergy there in 1399, and was a member of Henry IV's privy council for the first three years of his reign. As to the precise date of his death there was formerly much doubt, five several dates being assigned by different writers, viz. 8 Dec. 1401, 17 Aug. 1404, 27 Aug. 1404, 28 Aug. 1404, and 27 Aug. 1405. That the first date is erroneous is proved by a deed of grant of the manor of Crendon in Bedfordshire, preserved in the archives of All Souls' College, Oxford to which he was party, and which bears date 16 Feb. 1403-4. He was buried in the lady chapel at St. Paul's, and a fine brass above his tomb remained intact as late as 1641, when Dugdale, who gives an engraving of it, saw it. The inscription on the plate assigns 27 Aug 1404 as the date of death, and with this Godwin (De Præsul. 186) agrees. Braybroke was hroughout his life a close friend of William of Wykeham. The brass was destroyed during the civil war. Dugdale relates that on the burning of the church in 1666 Braybroke's coffin was shattered by the fall of a portion of the ruins, and the body was taken out in a state of perfect preservation, 'the flesh, sinews, and skin cleaving fast to the bones,' so 'that being set upon the feet it stood as stiff as a plank, the skin being tough like leather, and not at all inclined to putrefaction, which some attributed to the sanctity of the person, offering much money for it.'

[Le Neve's Fasti, i. 398, 591, ii. 99, 293, 615, iii. 184, 186; Hardy's Cat. Lord Chancs. 43, 44; Walsingham (Rolls Series), ii. 49, 65, 70, 162; Dugdale's Hist, of St. Paul's (ed. Ellis), 16, 27, 33, 57, 124, 219, 358; Chronicon a Mon. St. Albani, 1328-88 (Rolls Series), 383; Holinshed anno 1387; Wilkins's Concilia, iii. 194, 196, 218; Wharton's Hist, de Episc. Londin.; Cat. of Archives of All Souls' Coll. 27; Foss's Lives of the Judges. E. W. Brabrook, Esq., F.S.A., M.R.S.L., contributed an elaborate paper on Braybroke to the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, vol. iii. pt. x. in 1869.]

J. M. R.