Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Langton, Thomas

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LANGTON, THOMAS (d. 1501), bishop of Winchester and archbishop-elect of Canterbury, was born at Appleby in Westmoreland, and educated by the Carmelite friars there. He matriculated at Queen's College, Oxford, but soon removed to Cambridge, probably to Clare Hall, on account of the plague. In 1461 he was elected fellow of Pembroke Hall, serving as proctor in 1462. While at Cambridge he took both degrees in canon law, and was afterwards incorporated in them at Oxford. In 1464 he left the university, and some time before 1476 was made chaplain to Edward IV. Langton was in high favour with the king, who trusted him much, and sent him on various important embassies. In 1467 he went as ambassador to France, and as king's chaplain was sent to treat with Ferdinand, king of Castile, on 24 Nov. 1476. He visited France again on diplomatic business on 30 Nov. 1477, and on 11 Aug. 1478, in order to conclude the espousals of Edward's daughter Elizabeth and Charles, son of the French king. Two years later he was sent to demand the fulfilment of this marriage treaty, but the prince, now Charles VIII, king of France, refused to carry it out, and the match was broken off.

Meanwhile Langton received much ecclesiastical preferment. In 1478 he was made treasurer of Exeter, prebendary of St. Decuman's, Wells Cathedral, and about the same time master of St. Julian's Hospital, Southampton, a post which he still retained twenty years later. He was presented on 1 July 1480 to All Hallows Church, Bread Street, and on 14 May 1482 to All Hallows, Lombard Street, city of London, also becoming prebendary of North Kelsey, Lincoln Cathedral, in the next year. Probably by the favour of Edward V, who granted him the temporalities of the see on 21 May, Langton was advanced in 1483 to the bishopric of St. Davids; the papal bull confirming the election is dated 4 July, and he was consecrated in August. Langton's prosperity did not decline with Edward's deposition. He was sent on an embassy to Rome and to France by Richard III, who translated him to the bishopric of Salisbury by papal bull dated 8 Feb. 1485. Langton was also elected provost of Queen's College, Oxford, on 6 Dec. 1487 (Wood gives the date as about 1483), a post which he seems to have retained till 1495. He was a considerable benefactor to the college, where he built some new sets of rooms and enlarged the provost's lodgings. In 1493 Henry VII transferred him from Salisbury to Winchester, a see which had been vacant over a year. During the seven years that he was bishop of Winchester Langton started a school in the precincts of the palace, where he had youths trained in grammar and music. He was a good musician himself, used to examine the scholars in person, and encourage them by good words and small rewards. Finally, a proof of his ever-increasing popularity, Langton was elected archbishop of Canterbury on 22 Jan. 1501, but died of the plague on the 27th, before the confirmation of the deed. He was buried in a marble tomb within ‘a very fair chapel’ which he had built south of the lady-chapel, Winchester.

Before his death he had given 10l. towards the erection of Great St. Mary's Church, Cambridge, and in 1497 a drinking-cup, weighing 67 oz., called the 'Anathema Cup,' to Pembroke Hall. This is the oldest extant hanap or covered cup that is hall-marked. By his will, dated 16 Jan. 1501, Langton left large sums of money to the priests of Clare Hall, Cambridge, money and vestments to the fellows and priests of Queen's College, Oxford, besides legacies to the friars at both universities, and to the Carmelites at Appleby. To his sister and her husband, Rowland Machel, lands (probably the family estates) in Westmoreland and two hundred marks were bequeathed. An annual pension of eight marks was set aside to maintain a chapel at Appleby for a hundred years to pray for the souls of Langton, his parents, and all the faithful deceased at Appleby. A nephew, Robert Langton, also educated at Queen's College, Oxford, according to Wood, left money to that foundation with which to found a school at Appleby.

[Lansd. MS. 978, f. 12; Cole MS. 26, f. 240; Godwin's Cat. of Bishops, pp. 191, 284; Godwin, De Præsul. Angl. (Richardson), p. 295; Wood's Athenæ (Bliss), ii. 688; Wood's Colleges and Halls (Gutch), i. 147; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. i. 4; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 24, 196, 414, ii. 198; Syllabus of Rymer's Fœdera, ii. 708, 709, 710, 712, 714, 715; Grants of King Edward V (Camd. Soc.), pp. xxix, lxiv, 2, 37; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 245; Willis's Cathedrals (Lincoln), p. 229; Hawes's Framlingham, p. 217; Smith's College Plate, pp. 6, &c.]

E. T. B.