Urswick, Christopher (DNB00)

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URSWICK, CHRISTOPHER (1448–1522), diplomatist and dean of Windsor, son of John Urswick, was born at Furness in 1448. His father and mother were respectively lay brother and sister of Furness Abbey. He was educated probably at Cambridge, and graduated LL.D. there or at some foreign university. Newcourt's statement, followed by Raines in ‘The Fellows of the Collegiate Church of Manchester,’ that Urswick was recorder of London before 1483, is obviously a confusion with Christopher's relation, Sir Thomas Urswick [q. v.] About 1482 Christopher came under the notice of Margaret Beaufort [q. v.], who was then married to her third husband, Thomas Stanley, first earl of Derby [q. v.] Possibly it was through the Stanleys that Urswick became attached to Margaret, who made him her chaplain and confessor, and appointed him rector of Puttenham, Hertfordshire. In 1483 Urswick was initiated into the secret schemes of Margaret and John (afterwards cardinal) Morton [q. v.], in favour of Margaret's son Henry, earl of Richmond (afterwards Henry VII), who was then in Brittany. The chief object was the negotiation of a marriage between Henry and Elizabeth of York. Urswick is said to have made several journeys between England and Flanders in this capacity during 1484, and before the end of the year he was sent by Morton to warn Henry against the machinations of Pierre Landois, the Duke of Brittany's chief minister, which were instigated by Richard III. Urswick was appointed Henry's chaplain and confessor, and was one of the few attendants who accompanied Henry in his secret flight from Vannes to the court of the French king, narrowly escaping capture by Landois's agents on the borders of Brittany.

Urswick landed with Henry at Milford Haven on 7 Aug. 1485, and accompanied him to Shrewsbury, and thence to Bosworth (cf. Shakespeare, Richard III, act iv. scene 5). He was liberally rewarded for his services; on 21 Sept. he was granted a prebend in St. Stephen's, Westminster; on the 23rd he became a notary in chancery; on 25 Nov. he was appointed master of King's Hall, Cambridge (resigning the rectory of Puttenham on the 26th); on 20 Feb. 1485–6 he was given the prebend of Chiswick in St. Paul's Cathedral; on 9 March 1486–7 he was presented to the rectory of All Hallows, London, and on 18 April following to that of Chaddesley, near Kidderminster, which he resigned on 11 Oct. 1488 (Campbell, Materials, ii. 130, 137). In April 1488 he relinquished the mastership of King's Hall, and on 22 May following was elected dean of York, receiving in addition the living of Bradwell-juxta-Mare on 14 Nov.

Meanwhile Urswick had been employed on various missions of importance. On 4 Feb. 1485–6 he received letters of recommendation on being appointed envoy to the pope (ib. i. 275, 360; Letters and Papers of Henry VII, ii. 118). He had returned before the following November, when he was sent to quiet some discontent in Lancashire (Materials, ii. 99). In March 1487–8 he was sent on the important embassy to Ferdinand and Isabella which negotiated the marriage between Prince Arthur and Catherine of Arragon (Cal. State Papers, England and Spain, i. 3 sqq.; Materials, ii. 273). In May following Henry VII sent him to France to offer his negotiation between France and Brittany. The offer was refused, and Edward lord Woodville's attack on France placed Urswick in some personal danger (Busch, England under the Tudors, i. 43). In the autumn he was again sent to France to renew the offers of mediation (Materials, ii. 377; Busch, i. 45). In March 1491–2 he was despatched to receive ratification of the treaty of peace with James of Scotland, and on 30 Oct. following once more went as ambassador to France. His mission resulted in the signature of the treaty of Étaples on 3 Nov. On 5 March 1492–3 he was commissioned to invest Alfonso, eldest son of the king of Sicily, with the insignia of the Garter, of which order Urswick had recently been appointed registrar. Two months later he was again sent to negotiate an extension of the truce with Scotland, and in June was made commissioner to arrange border disputes. In April 1496 he was sent to Augsburg on a mission to the king of the Romans (Cal. State Papers, Venetian, i. 698–706; Busch, i. 126 sqq.). He returned towards the end of May, and was not again employed in a diplomatic capacity.

He continued to accumulate ecclesiastical preferments. In 1490 he was appointed canon of Windsor and archdeacon of Wiltshire. On 21 March 1492–3 he was made prebendary of Buttevant in York Cathedral, and archdeacon of Richmond in the same year. In June 1494 he resigned the deanery of York, and on 20 Nov. 1495 was elected dean of Windsor. He refused the bishopric of Norwich vacated in 1498 by the death of James Goldwell, and in 1500 resigned the archdeaconry of Richmond. He was present in that year at the meeting between Henry VII and the Archduke Philip (Harl. MS. 1757, f. 361). On 5 Nov. 1502 he was inducted to the living of Hackney, where he mainly resided during the rest of his life; and before 1505 he became fellow of the collegiate church of Manchester. He sometimes officiated at court ceremonies, served on the commission of sewers for Middlesex, Essex, and Hertfordshire, and in 1513 acted as executor to Margaret Beaufort. During his later years he was a close friend of Erasmus and More. Erasmus is said to have made his acquaintance in 1483; he paid Urswick a visit in 1503, and sent him a translation of Lucian's dialogue, ‘Somnium sive Gallus.’ Urswick on his part gave Erasmus a horse which ‘thrice carried him safely to and from Basle’ (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ii. 3339). When it died, Erasmus hoped ‘to wheedle Urswick out of a new horse by sending him a New Testament’ (ib. ii. 2290, 2323, 3659), an attempt which was not successful.

Urswick died, aged 74, on 24 March 1521–2, and was buried in St. Augustine's Church, Hackney, which he was engaged in rebuilding. Two brass plates were placed over his grave with an inscription recording his eleven embassies. St. Augustine's was demolished in 1798, when the plates on the altar, which Urswick had erected, were removed to the porch of the neighbouring church of St. John. By his will, dated 10 Oct. 1521, and proved 11 April 1522, he made bequests to Cuthbert Tunstall [q. v.] and to the school of Lancaster. As dean of Windsor it was under his direction and that of Sir Reginald Bray [q. v.] that St. George's Chapel was rebuilt. A chapel in the north-west corner is still called the Urswick Chapel, though it was appropriated in 1818 for the cenotaph of the Princess Charlotte, and the stone screen bearing an inscription asking for prayers for Urswick, which is still legible, was removed to the south aisle. Urswick figures among the eminent persons connected with St. George's in the window over the door of the Albert Chapel, and his arms frequently occur with Bray's on the roof of St. George's. He also rebuilt the deanery at Windsor.

[A very detailed account of Urswick's career, with authorities, is given in Urwick's Records of the Family of Urwick or Urswick, 1893, pp. 81–140. See also Lansd. MSS. 978 f. 244, 979 f. 8; Addit. MS. 15673, f. 113; Campbell's Materials for the Reign of Henry VII, Gairdner's Letters and Papers of Henry VII, and Andrea's Historia (Rolls Ser.); Brewer's Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Paston Letters, iii. 468; Cal. State Papers, Venetian and Spanish; Cal. Inq. post mortem, 1898, i. 1120, 1144; Erasmi Epistolæ; Knight's Erasmus; Froude's Life and Letters of Erasmus; Robinson's Hackney, i. 91, ii. 21; Busch's England under the Tudors, pp. 13, 15, 17, 23, 43, 45; Hennessy's Novum Repertorium, 1898, pp. 22, 177, 456; Fellows of the Collegiate Church of Manchester (Chetham Soc.) new ser. xxi. 27–31.]

A. F. P.