Kilkenny, William de (DNB00)

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KILKENNY, WILLIAM de (d. 1256), bishop of Ely and keeper of the seal, was possibly a member of the Durham family of Kilkenny, but was no doubt of Irish descent (Surtees, Hist. Durham, ii. 229; Hist. Dunelm. Script. Tres, pp. lxxii, lxxiv, lxxv, Surtees Soc.) He is first mentioned as one of the royal clerks in 1235, when he was sent by Henry III on a mission to the emperor Frederic (Shirley, Royal and Historical Letters, i. 463, 475). Some time previously to 1248 he was made archdeacon of Coventry; he also held the prebend of Consumpta per Mare at St. Paul's, London (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 568; ii. 379). In 1251 the abbey of Tewkesbury had to provide him with a benefice worth forty marks (Ann. Mon. i. 147, Rolls Ser.) Between Michaelmas 1249 and February 1252 he attests the accounts of Peter Chaceporc, one of the keepers of the wardrobe. In 1250 Kilkenny and Peter de Rivallis were temporarily entrusted with the seal (Rot. Claus. 34 Hen. III, m. 15). Shortly afterwards Kilkenny received the sole charge, according to Matthew Paris in the same year (1250) (iv. 130), but certainly before May 1253, when it was entrusted temporarily to Peter Chaceporc and John de Lexington, ‘because William de Kilkenny was ill’ (Rot. Fin. 37 Hen. III, m. 9). Kilkenny was again in sole possession in the following July (Madox, Exchequer, i. 69). Matthew Paris speaks of him in 1254 as a clerk and special councillor of the king, who was then honourably discharging the duties of chancellor (v. 464). At Michaelmas of this year Kilkenny was chosen bishop of Ely, and the royal assent was given to his election on 25 Dec. He thereupon resigned the seal on 5 Jan. 1255, and on 15 Aug. was consecrated by Archbishop Boniface at Belley in Savoy; the performance of the ceremony abroad is said to have angered the bishops and the canons of Canterbury (ib. v. 464, 485, 508; Le Neve, i. 329). Kilkenny made peace with the abbot of Ramsey respecting the boundaries of the abbey and the episcopal property in the fens (Matt. Paris, v. 570), and gave the monks the churches of Melbourn and Swaffham. In June 1256 Kilkenny was appointed to go on a mission to the king of Castile, and seems to have departed next month (Fœdera, i. 343, Record ed.) He died at Surgho in Spain on 22 Sept., and was buried there, but his heart was brought back to be interred in his own cathedral (Matt. Paris, v. 588). By his will Kilkenny left his church a cope, and two hundred marks for two chaplains to pray for his soul (Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 636). He was also a benefactor of the hospital of St. John the Evangelist at Cambridge (Mullinger, Hist. Univ. Cambr. p. 233).

Matthew Paris calls Kilkenny ‘cancellarius,’ but Foss says that he had only found two instances in which he is called by that title, both in 37 Hen. III, 1253–4 (Fœdera, i. 238; Abbrev. Placit. p. 133); while in the quittance granted to him at the close of his service he is described as ‘Custos sigilli nostri in Anglia’ (Madox, Exchequer, i. 71). It therefore seems probable that he was simply keeper, and not chancellor. Matthew Paris describes him as ‘a truly modest, faithful, and well-read man, skilled in the canon and civil law, handsome in person, and eloquent and prudent’ (v. 130, 464). It does not appear whether or no he was a relative of the lawyer, Odo de Kilkenny, who was concerned in the riot at Oxford in 1238 (ib. iii. 483–4).

[Matthew Paris (Rolls Ser.); Foss's Judges of England, ii. 375–7; authorities quoted.]

C. L. K.