Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gigli, Silvestro

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GIGLI, SILVESTRO (1463–1521), bishop of Worcester, was a native of Lucca, and succeeded his uncle Giovanni [q. v.] in the see of Worcester. It would seem that he had been trained by his uncle, and helped him in his diplomatic duties at the Roman court; for in the grant of the temporalities of his see by Henry VII he is called ‘archipresbyter Luccensis, causarum nostrarum in curia Romana solicitator’ (Thomas, Survey of Worcester Cathedral, Appendix, p. 130). He was appointed to the see by provision of Alexander VI, dated 24 Dec. 1498, and was enthroned by proxy in April 1499. He remained in Rome as resident ambassador of Henry VII, and as such took part in the ceremonies of the papal court (Burchard, Diarium, ed. Thuasne, iii. 354). At the end of 1504 he was sent by Pope Julius II as the bearer of some tokens of the pope's favour to Henry VII, and he distinguished himself by his eloquence before the king at Richmond (Bernard André, Annales Henrici VII, ed. Gairdner, p. 86). After that he seems to have stayed a few years in England, more engaged as a master of ceremonies about the court than in the work of his diocese (ib. pp. 122–3). When Henry VIII became more intimately connected with European politics, he sent to Rome as his ambassador Christopher Bainbridge [q. v.], archbishop of York, in 1509, but found it necessary to employ Gigli as well, and appointed him in 1512 one of his ambassadors to the Lateran council. Pope Leo X found Gigli a more congenial person than Bainbridge, who was not popular at the papal court. The two English ambassadors were not on good terms, and there were frequent disputes between them. So patent were their quarrels that when Bainbridge died in 1514, poisoned by a servant, Gigli was suspected of being the author of the murder (Ellis, Original Letters, i. Nos. 35–7). Pope Leo X inquired into the matter, and Gigli was acquitted. Wolsey supported him, and could afterwards count upon his gratitude. It is only fair to say that there was no evidence against Gigli; that Bainbridge's temper seems to have stung his servant to a desire for revenge and plunder; that the man was lightheaded, and committed suicide in prison. The accusation did not affect Gigli's credit, and he was Wolsey's confidential agent in securing the cardinalate and the grant of legatine powers. From this time Gigli was the chief diplomatic agent of Wolsey in Rome, and was in constant correspondence with him and Henry VIII. He was also a man of letters and a correspondent of Erasmus. He died in Rome on 18 April 1521.

[Thomas's Survey of Worcester Cathedral, pp. 202–3; Burchard's Diarium; Paris de Grassis, Diarium, Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 8440–4; Cal. of State Papers of Hen. VIII, vols. i–iii.; Brewer's Reign of Hen. VIII; Memorie per servire all' Istoria del Ducato di Lucca, ix. 140; manuscript Reg. in Worcester Diocesan Registry.]

M. C.