Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Chichele, Henry
or CHICHELEY, HENRY (1362?–1443), archbishop of Canterbury, son of Thomas Chichele, who is said on doubtful authority to have been ‘a broker or draper’ (Symonds, Hist. Notes, Harl. MS. 991, f. 27), and who at the time of Henry’s birth was a yeoman of Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, and Agnes, daughter of William Pyncheon, a gentleman entitled to use arms, must have been born about 1362, as in 1442 he describes himself in writing to Pope Eugenius IV as eighty years of age. Local tradition asserts that William of Wykeham met Chichele, then a lad, as he was keeping his father’s sheep, that he was pleased with his intelligence, and undertook the care of his education (J. Cole, History of Higham Ferrers, 103). Chichele was sent to the college of St. John Baptist at Winchester in 1473 (St. Mary's College was not built till somewhat later), and thence to the bishop’s new college of St. Mary Winton at Oxford, where he took the degree of B.C.L. in 1389–1390 (Hook). In 1390–1 he suffered from a severe attack of illness, and received an augmented allowance of 16d. a week during its continuance. In 1391 he appears to have held the living of Llanvarchall in the diocese of St. Asaph, and the next year was ordained subdeacon by the Bishop of Derry, acting for the Bishop of London. On 30 March 1396, when he had taken the LL.D. degree, he was presented to the rectory of St. Stephen's, Walbrook, by the prior and convent of St. John of Colchester (Newcourt), on 26 May he was ordained deacon, and on 23 Sept. priest (Hook), and the same year was admitted an advocate in the court of arches. Having been employed as a lawyer by Richard Mitford, bishop of Salisbury, he was on 3 Sept. 1397 appointed to the archdeaconry of Dorset, with a prebend of Salisbury, and resigned the rectory of St. Stephen's. His right to the archdeaconry, which was claimed by one Walter Fitzpers, was established by sentence of the archbishop's court about 1402. From Guy de Mohun, bishop of St. David's, he received a canonry in the collegiate church of Abergwilly in 1400, and on 2 Oct. of that year was admitted canon of Lichfield. On 10 June 1402 he was collated to the archdeaconry of Salisbury, and on 14 Dec. 1404 exchanged it for the chancellorship of the church, together with the living of Odiham, in the diocese of Winchester. Having done some business for the pope, he was in 1402 nominated by provision to a prebend of Salisbury and to canonries in the churches of Wilton and Shaftesbury, and he is further said to have held a prebend in Lincoln. He was presented to the living of Melcombe in the diocese of Salisbury, and exchanged it for Sherston, in the same diocese. He was appointed executor under the will of his friend and patron the bishop of Salisbury, who died in 1407.
His first public employment was on a mission to Innocent VII, to whom he was sent in company with Sir John Cheyne in July 1405. On 5 Oct. of the same year he was one of the commissioners appointed to treat for peace with the king of France, and in April 1407 he was sent on an embassy to Gregory XII, who was then at Siena (Fœdera, viii. 446, 452, 479). While he was at Gregory's court the Bishop of St. David's died, and the pope, with the approval of Henry IV, appointed Chichele as his successor by provision, and on 17 June 1408 himself consecrated him at Lucca. On Chichele's return to England in the following August he renounced all claims prejudicial to the royal authority. He had not visited his diocese when in January 1409 he was chosen by the convocation of Canterbury to accompany Robert Hallam, bishop of Salisbury, to the council of Pisa. The English ambassadors did not arrive at Pisa until 27 April, immediately before the sixth session of the council. In the Michaelmas term of this year Chichele was cited by writ of quare impedit to show cause why he should continue to hold his Sarum prebend, to which the king claimed to appoint as vacant by his promotion to a bishopric. The case was heard by Chief-justice Thirning, who refused to allow the plea that the pope had given Chichele license to hold his other preferments along with his bishopric, and gave judgment for the crown (Year-Book 11 Hen. IV, 37, 59, 76). Chichele accordingly determined to resign the preferments he held in commendam, and obtained leave from Alexander V to nominate those who should succeed him in them, the royal license for bringing the bull into England and acting upon it being dated 28 April 1410 (Fœdera, viii. 632). The chancellorship of the church of Sarum he conferred on his nephew, William, son of his brother William Chichele, sheriff of London. In May he was sent on an embassy to France to treat for a renewal of the truce, and succeeded in arranging terms that were granted on 23 Dec. (ib. 636, 668). When this business was accomplished he went down to St. David's, where he was at last enthroned on 11 May 1411, and where he devoted some time to the affairs of the diocese. On the accession of Henry V he was again employed as an ambassador, being sent to France in July 1413, in company with the Earl of Warwick. The representatives of the two kings met at Lenlinghen, and agreed on a truce to last until the ensuing Easter (Monstrelet, c. 106).
On the death of Archbishop Arundel [q. v.] on 19 Feb. 1414 the king nominated Chichele to the see of Canterbury; he was elected on 4 March, received the temporalities 30 May, and the pall 24 July. Hall in his account of the parliament held at Leicester on 30 April 1414 makes Archbishop Chichele warmly advocate war with France, in the hope of foiling the attacks made by the Lollard party on the church (Hall, Chron. 35). This passage, which forms the basis of the speech given to the archbishop by Shakespeare (‘Henry V,’ act i. sc. 2), must not be accepted as accurate, for, as Dr. Stubbs points out (Const. Hist. iii. 83), ‘Chichele did not sit as archbishop in the Leicester parliament,’ nor indeed does his name occur in the roll of its proceedings (Rot. Parl. iv. 15). At the same time there is no reason to doubt that he belonged to the war party, and when hostilities began Chichele and the clergy generally exerted themselves to find the means for its prosecution, a line of action, however, which certainly does not bear the charge brought against them of instigating the king to embark on it in order to serve their own purposes. The archbishop paid over the money collected as Peter's pence to the crown, ani the clergy of his province voted two-tenths. Moreover, during the king's absence in France he ordered the clercy of nis diocese to arm themselves for the aefence of the country. He was appointed by the king a member of the council to assist the Duke of Bedford in the administration of the kingdom. Before Henry set sail Chichele went down to Southampton to bid him farewell on 10 Aug., and on his return after the campaign of Amncourt he met him at Canterbury. He officiated at St. Paul's on the occasion of the king's entrance into London, and arranged a special service of thanksgiving to be used throughout his province. To commemorate the heavenly aid granted to the army he ordered in convocation that the feast of St. George should be observed as 'a greater double,' and made changes in the observ-ance of certain other festivals. Himself a lawyer of no mean repute, and having the famous canonist William Lyndwood for his vicar-general, Chichele was active in all the legislative and judicial duties of his office, and, indeed, in the general administration of his province. Church synods were frequently called, and though they were often held concurrently with the sessions of parliament, a large number of them are not to be reckoned as meetings of convocation, for they were not called by lay authority (Wake, State of the Church, 359, 860). Among the enactments of the early years of Chichele's rule are that no one except graduates might be presented to a benefice, that no married clerK might exercise jurisdiction, and that barbers should abstain from work on Sundays. Explicit directions were also published in 1416 for the searching out of heretics and such as had 'suspected books written in English,' who were to be proceeded against (Wilkins, Concilia, iii. 208, 378). A long notice of one of these processes held the year before presents the archbishop presiding in St. Paul's at the trial of John Claydon, a skinner, who had caused a certain book, entitled 'The Lanterne of Light,' to be copied. Claydon was condemned as a relapsed heretic, handed over to the secular arm, and burnt at Smithfield (ib. 374; Gregory, 108). Again on 11 Feb. 1422 Chichele presided in person at the trial of William Taillour. He in person degraded him from the priesthood in the presence of the Duke of Gloucester and a vast assembly of people gathered in St. Paul's, and delivered nim over to be burned. While, however, he kept Lollardism down with a firm hand, he pursued a far more moderate policy than had been carried out by his predecessor Arundel.
When Sigismund, king of the Romans, visited England in May 141 6, Chichele ordered special prayers and processions to be performed. Before the King left on 16 Aug. he concluded a strict alliance with Henry at Canterbury, and it may safely be held that Chichele thoroughly approved the policy pursued by the English and Germans at the council of Constance. In this, and indeed generally throughout the reign of Henry V, he seems to have been in perfect accord with the king. During the month of September he was engaged in arranging a truce with France. In the spring of 1418 Chichele heard that Martin V puiposed to make Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester [q. v.], a cardinal, and appomt him legate a latere for life. Accordingly on 6 March he wrote a vigorous letter to the king, who was then in Runce, representing the wrong that would be done the realm by such a legation. Henry refused to allow the bishop to accept the pope's offer. Towards the end of the year Chichele joined the king in France, and in January 1419 interceded with him to allow the besieged citizens of Rouen to reopen negotiations ; he spent four days in arranging the terms on which the citizens finally agreed to open their gates to the king. He returned to England in August. On 10 June of the next year he again crossed over to France to congratulate the king on his marriage, and while there took steps to restore the national system of spiritual jurisdiction, rendering the Gallican church wholly independent as far as the authority of his own see was concerned. On his return to England he officiated at the coronation of the queen, which took place at Westminster on 26 Feb. 1421. On the following 6 Dec. he baptised the king's son Henry. By the death of the king, which happened in August 1422, Chichele lost not only a master he loved, but a support he greatlv needed. As long as Henry V lived, the archbishop successfully carried out a national church policy. The national energy that was aroused oy the personal influence of the king and by the French war found expression in ecclesiastical as well as in civil anairs, and the rights of the church of England were triumphantly vindicated by the king's refusal to allow the legatine authority of the see of Canterbury to be overridden. When Henry V was no longer at hand to strengthen him, the arch-bishop found himself unable to withstand the assaults made upon him as the representative of the national church. The disorganisation of the reign of Henry VI left the church defenceless before the attacks of Rome, and her humiliation was to be effected through the humiliation of her chief metropolitan. Unable to see the future, Chichele, in the discourse he made at the opening of the first parliament of Henry VI, declared that men might expect the new reign to be prosperous, for the number six was of good omen.
In 1423 he held a visitation of the dioceses of Chichester and Salisbury, and in 1424 of the diocese of Lincoln. In the course of his Lincoln visitation he came to Higham Ferrers, his native village, and there dedicated a college he had oegun to build two years before for eight secular priests or fellows, of whom one was to be master, four clerks, of whom one was to be grammar master and another music master, and six choristers. For the endowment of this college he gave certain land which had fallen to the crown by the suppression of the alien priories, and which he had bought of the king, besides this foundation he also built a hospital for twelve poor men, and provided it with an endowment which was increased by the gifts of his brother Robert, the lord mayor, and William, one of the sheriffs of London. Both in 1421 and 1422 Martin V had vainly tried to procure the abolition of the statutes of provisors and præmunire, which limited the exercise of the papal authority in England. Foiled in these attempts, he now attacked the archbishop, who had proclaimed an indulgence to all who should in 1423 make a pilgrimage to Canterbury. In a violent letter he declared that this was a presumptuous imitation of the papal jubilee; he compared the archbishop's conduct to the attempt of the fallen angels, and ordered him to withdraw his proclamation. Chichele was afraid to resist, and the pope succeeded in his attack on the independence of the national church (Raynaldus, xxvii. 573; Creighton, History of the Papacy, ii. 26). As archbishop, Chichele was a prominent member of the council, and by an ordinance of July 1424 his salary as councillor was fixed at 200l. a year, the same sum as that paid to Beaufort. For ecclesiastical, if for no other, reasons, he was opposed to Beaufort, and upheld Gloucester against him. At the same time he was not a violent partisan, and on several occasions acted as mediator. In the disturbance in London of October 1425 he and the Duke of Coimbra interfered, to make peace between the two rivals [see Beaufort, Henry], and in January 1426 he, with other lords of the council, endeavoured to pacify Gloucester and persuade him to attend the council. When in March 1427 the Protector demanded that the lords in parliament should declare the extent of his power, the archbishop read, and probably drew up, their answer (Rot. Parl. iv. 326). Beaufort's acceptance of the cardinalate and the legatine commission in 1426 was a serious injury to him and to the national church. Martin V followed up the blow in 1427 by peremptorily ordering him to procure the abolition of the statutes of provisors, complaining at the same time that the crown had disregarded the papal reservations. Chichele defended himself and the Protector from the charge of being hinderers of the liberty of the church; for himself he declared that he was the only man in England that would speak of the matter. In a wrathful answer to this letter the pope said that he had not spoken of the Protector, and that the archbishop must show his obedience by deeds, not words; he suspended him from the office of legate which pertained to his see. Against this violation of his rights Chichele made an appeal to the judgment of a future council, and at the bidding of the crown Geoffrey Lowther, the constable of Dover, made the pope's collector give up his master's letters, and so the suspension did not take effect. Then the bishops, the university of Oxford, and divers temporal lords, wrote letters to the pope declaring how greatly the archbishop was honoured, and interceding for him. Nevertheless Martin still persisted in his demands, and in 1428 Chichele appeared before the commons, in company with the Archbishop of York and other bishops, and with tears in his eyes set before them the danger of withstanding the pope. The commons, however, would not give up the statutes, and sent a petition to the council representing that the pope had acted to the prejudice of the archbishop, and 'of our aller mother the church of Canterbury, and praying that the council would have the archbishop recommissed.' Accordingly ambassadors were sent to Rome to pacify the pope, and the matter dropped (Raynaldus, xxviii. 57; Concilia, iii. 471–86; Rot. Parl. iv. 322; Fœdera, x. 405). Although the statutes were not repealed, the pope had succeeded in humiliating the head and representative of the national church.
With the policy adopted by Gloucester with reference to the cardinalate and legatine commission of Beaufort the archbishop was of course in full sympathy, and he was present at the meeting of the council in November 1431 at which writs of praemunire and attachment were sealed against the cardinal. In spite of the defeats Chichele had suffered from Rome he made a complaint to his provincial synod in 1438 when Eugenius IV granted the succession to the see of Ely to the Archbishop of Rouen. Happily the grantee died before the bishop, an so the grant had no effect. The next year, however, he was subjected to a fresh slight. Kemp, the archbishop of York, was created a cardinal, and claimed precedence of Chichele even in parliament. As far as the House of Lords was concerned the claim was of course vain, and as to its validity elsewhere an appeal was made to the pope. Both by letters and by proctors Chichele argued that in his own province at all events no one could have precedence of him. Nevertheless Eugenius decided in Kemp’s favour, and Chichele was forced to yield. As an ecclesiastical lawyer Chichele took thought for the spiritual jurisdiction of the church. In 1432 he framed a constitution on a petition of the clergy, forbidding any one save a graduate in law from acting as a judge in a spiritual court, and in a speech delivered before a synod held in London in November 1439 he declared that many wrongs were inflicted on ecclesiastical judges by the interpretation put by the common lawyers on the statute of praemunire. A petition was accordingly presented to glarliament asking that the operation of the statute should be limited to those who invoked the interference of foreign courts (Concilia, iii. 533). In July l441 Chichele sat in St. Ste hen’s Chapel, Westminster, to hear the cliarges brought against Eleanor Cobham, duchess of Gloucester. On the reopenin of the case after the adjournment on 21 Oct. he was unable from sickness to attend in person. The last few years of his life were much occu ied in carrying out his foundation at Oxfordi lle was already a benefactor to the university, for, moved by the poverty of some of the students, he had given two hundred marks for their relief. This sum was placed in a chest called ‘Chichele's chest,’ and the university and each college were allowed to borrow 5l. from it in turn. To New College he also gave a like sum, and therefore it did not participate in the common fund. Besides his foundations at Higham Ferrers he had been a considerable benefactor at Canterbury, spending much money on the cathedral church and library. At Lambeth also he built and repaired much, his chief work there being the water tower, which in the eighteenth century received the erroneous name of the Lollards’ tower. The needs of the poor students at Oxford, and the knowledge that he, as visitor, had of the condition of the university, stirred him up to a greater work than any of these, and he bought five acres of land, the site of St. John’s College, intending to build a college there. He was, however, led to prefer another site, and freely gave this land to the Cistercians for the use of their scholars, and built them a college upon it. For his own secular college he purchased the land whereon it now stands on 14 Dec. 1437, and on 10 Feb. following laid the foundation-stone of the building. The society he founded consisted of a warden and forty fellows. He called his college All Souls, for he ordained that its members should give themselves to prayer as well as to learning, and he endowed it with lands to the value of 1,000l., which he had bought of the crown, and which were part of the property of the alien priories. He obtained 318 royal charter of incorporation on 30 May 1438, and sent to Eugenius IV asking him to confirm it. The pope granted his request in July 1439, and exempted the college from the operation of any future interdict. Chichele lived to see the buildings virtually completed, and early in 1443, attended by four of his suffragans, visited Oxford, where he was received with great honour, and opened the college and consecrated the chapel. On 10 April 1442 he wrote to the pope, saying that his age and infirmities rendered him unable to discharge the duties of his office; he prayed that he might be allowed to resign his archbishopric, and that John Stafford, bishop of Bath, might be his successor. At the same time the king wrote to ask that a sufficient pension might be set apart from the rents of the see for his maintenance. Before his intended resignation could be accomplished Chichele died on 12 April 1443. He was buried on the north side of the presbytery of his cathedral church, in a tomb erected in his lifetime, which presents him lying in his pontifical robes, while underneath is his skeleton wrapped in a shroud.
Portraits of Chichele are at Oxford and Lambeth; one, in a window of the great hall at Lambeth, is very beautifully executed.