Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lexinton, John de

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LEXINTON or LESSINGTON, JOHN de (d. 1257), baron, judge, and often described as keeper of the great seal, eldest son of Richard de Lexinton, baron, who took his designation from Lexinton (now Laxton), near Tuxford, Nottinghamshire, was a clerk of the chancery. In 1238, being then a knight, he and Geoffrey, a templar, had the custody of the seal for a short time on the dismissal of Ralph Neville, the chancellor; he again had it, also for a short time, in 1242; and in September 1247 had charge of the seal on the departure from England of John Mansel, the keeper. In 1249 and in 1253 he also had the custody of the seal for short periods. It may well be doubted whether these circumstances should cause him to be called keeper of the great seal. He was rather a temporary guardian of it during vacancies in the office of chancellor (Foss). Having been sent by Henry III as his envoy to attend the council which Gregory IX proposed to hold in 1241, he was with the Genoese fleet which conveyed the prelates going to the council when it was defeated by the Pisan and Sicilian ships under the command of King Enzio on 3 May between the islands of Giglio and Monte Cristo [see under Lexinton, Stephen de]. On his return he joined the king in his expedition against David, son of Llewelyn, and was sent from Chester to conduct Gruffydd ab Llewelyn [q. v.] to London. He was the following year appointed a commissioner to amend infringements of the truce with France (Fœdera, i. 244). In 1246 he was sent by the king to the bishops assembled in St. Paul's to forbid them assenting to a large demand for money which the pope was making upon them. Possibly then, and certainly in 1247, he was the king's seneschal. From 1248 onwards some notices occur of his work as a judge. When the king was at Nottingham in 1250, John swore on his behalf to the preliminaries of a truce with France, and in that year succeeded to the estates and barony of his brother, Robert de Lexinton [q. v.] In 1253 the king proposed to send him to conduct Henry's daughter, Margaret, queen of Scotland, to her mother. He was in 1255 chief justice of the forests north of the Trent, and governor of the castles of Bamburgh, Scarborough, and Pickering. In that year, being at Lincoln, the cathedral city of his brother, Bishop Henry de Lexinton [q. v.], when the boy called Hugh of Lincoln [q. v.] was found dead, he at once adopted the popular belief that the Jews had murdered the boy, and promised the Jew Copin safety if he would confess. Having obtained the desired statement, he kept the Jew in fetters until the king arrived, who chided him for promising to save the man's life. He died in February 1257. Matthew Paris refers to him as his authority for the miracles wrought at the tomb of the archdeacon Thomas of Hertford, and says that he was a man of weight and learning and a brave and accomplished knight. Paris notes that he bore a cross azure on a shield argent. Lexinton married Margaret Morlay, but left no children.

His brother, Henry de Lexinton (d. 1258), bishop of Lincoln, succeeded to his estates (Calendarium Genealogicum, i. 74, 441). Henry was treasurer of Salisbury in 1241; in 1245 his revenues from the post were seized by Master Martin, the papal nuncio, but Lexinton resigned the treasurership that same year. Previously to 1242 he also held the prebend of North Muskham at Southwell. In 1245 he became dean of Lincoln; when that see fell vacant by the death of Grosseteste, Lexinton and his chapter were involved in a quarrel with Boniface, the archbishop, as to the right to the patronage during a vacancy (Matt. Paris, vi. 264–6). On 30 Dec. 1253 he was elected bishop of Lincoln, and went to Gascony to obtain the royal assent; the election was confirmed on 28 March 1254 by Boniface, who consecrated Lexinton on 17 May at Lambeth (Ann. Mon. iii. 190), but Matthew Paris says the consecration took place abroad, which caused great offence. The only incident of his episcopate was a dispute with the scholars of Oxford as to his jurisdiction within the university. He died at Nettleton 8 Aug. 1258, and was buried in Lincoln Cathedral.

[Foss's Judges, ii. 383; Dugdale's Baronage, i. 743; Matt. Paris's Chron. Maj. iii. 495, iv. 125, 150, 581, v. 384, 517, 610, vi. 741 (Rolls Ser.); Ann. of Burton ap. Ann. Monast. i. 345, 376 (Rolls Ser.); Royal Letters, Hen. III, ii. 48, 99 (Rolls Ser.); Rymer's Fœdera, i. 244, 324 (Record ed.); Thoresby's Thoroton's Notts. iii. 119. For the bishop see Matt. Paris; Annales Monastici; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.]

W. H.