Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Yonge, John (1467-1516)
YONGE, JOHN (1467–1516), master of the rolls and diplomatist, was born in 1467 at Heyford in Oxfordshire. The manor of Heyford was given by William of Wykeham to New College, Oxford, as part of its endowment. Yonge was admitted to Winchester College as scholar in 1478, and became scholar of New College and D.C.L. He was fellow of New College from 1485 to 1500, when on 15 Aug. he was presented by the convent of Abingdon to the church of St. Martin's, Oxford. On 17 March 1502 he was admitted rector of St. Stephen's, Walbrook (Reg. Lond. Hill, f. 42), and on 28 Jan. 1503 was commissioned by the archbishop of Canterbury as judge of the court of prerogatives for the diocese of Canterbury (Reg. Cant. Warham, f. 6d). On 19 March 1504 he was collated to the church of St. Mary-le-Bow by Archbishop Warham, and held the living till 13 May 1514 (ib. ff. 323–354).
On 4 Aug. 1504 Yonge was commissioned, together with John Taylor (d. 1534) [q. v.], Robert Rydon, clerk of the council, John Clerk, governor of the English merchants in Flanders, and two others, to conclude a treaty of mercantile alliance with Philip, archduke of Austria (Rymer, xiii. 105). He was next employed to take the oaths in the Low Countries of persons nominated by the treaty of 20 March 1506 to swear as to the amount and payment of the dowry and position of the Archduchess Margaret of Savoy, who was affianced to Henry VII (ib. xiii. 127, 146, 154, 155). He was, as a reward for these services, raised to the office of master of the rolls by Henry VII on 23 Jan. 1507–8 (Pat. 23 Hen. VII, pt. ii. M. 7). He was commissioned in July 1508 to go with Sir Thomas Brandon [q. v.] on an embassy to the emperor (Andreas, Hist. of Hen. VII, Rolls Ser. p. 125). Later in the same year he was associated with Wolsey in the conferences preparatory to the treaty of Cambray. Wolsey in a letter to Henry VII says: ‘The last day of October, in the town of Antwerp, your ambassador … came to the emperor's presence. … The master of the rolls began hys oracion, which was uttered and pronounced very wel and dystynctly with good spryt and bolness’ (Letters, &c., of the Reign of Richard III and Henry VII, Rolls Ser. i. 445). Henry VII in his will, dated 10 April 1509, named Yonge one of his seven executors.
Henry VIII on his accession confirmed Yonge's appointment as master of the rolls by a patent dated 11 June 1509, by which he was granted ‘the house of the converts’ to dwell in, and a tun of Gascon wine annually, with other privileges (Pat. Hen. VIII, pt. ii. M. 5). The new king also enriched him with further ecclesiastical preferments. On 28 Nov. 1511 he was made prebendary of Holborn in St. Paul's Cathedral, but resigned it on the following 11 Feb. in order to take up the better prebend of Newington (Reg. Lond. Fitzjames, ff. 31 d, 32). On 16 Dec. 1512 he was appointed dean of the collegiate church of St. Mary's, Leicester (Pat. 4 Hen. VIII, pt. i. M. 26); and on 15 July next he was presented by the abbot and convent of Ramsey to the church of Therfield in Hertfordshire, which he held till his death (Cussans, Hertfordshire, i. 126).
Henry VIII also employed him on frequent diplomatic missions. In 1511, after the dissolution of the league of Cambray, Henry in July sent him ‘on a monitory embassage to Louis, requiring him to desist from the war against the pope,’ a demand which Louis disregarded. Wolsey, who formed a low opinion of Yonge's conduct of this mission, wrote to Fox, bishop of Winchester: ‘Never had man worse cheer than he in France, and that he had done nothing touching the matter wherewith he was charged’ (Fiddes, Life of Wolsey, p. 70). While on this embassy he was paid twenty shillings a day. In consequence of Louis's refusal, Henry declared war.
During the progress of the unfortunate campaign Yonge, Sir Edward Poynings [q. v.] and Sir Thomas Boleyn were sent to Brussels as ambassadors to win the alliance of the Emperor Maximilian. They carried on the negotiations with the emperor and his daughter Margaret in person from June to September, but Maximilian avoided giving any definite promise. Yonge returned home, landing at Dover on 30 Sept.; but on 20 Dec. he was again commissioned with Poynings, Boleyn, and Sir Richard Wingfield (1469?–1525) [q. v.] to arrange a league between the pope, England, Aragon, and Castile, the emperor-elect, Prince Charles, and Margaret of Savoy. On 5 April 1513 the holy league was satisfactorily concluded by the English ambassadors. Henry invaded France in person, a large army landing at Calais on 29 June. Yonge probably joined Henry on his arrival, and accompanied him in the campaign. Erasmus, writing on 8 Sept. to Ammonius, gives him a message to the master of the rolls if he were to be found in camp, and on the day of the arrival of the English army at Tournay Poynings, Yonge, and Wingfield had an interview with the inhabitants of the town. Yonge was soon sent on a fresh mission to further the proposed marriage between Prince Charles, afterwards Charles V—the grandson of Maximilian and Ferdinand—and Princess Mary, Henry's sister.
The year 1514 brought Yonge further ecclesiastical preferments: on 30 March he was appointed rector of St. Magnus Martyr in London (Reg. Lond. Fitzjames, f. 50 d); on 6 April prebendary of Apethorpe in York Cathedral, which office he resigned on his appointment on 17 May as dean of York, succeeding Wolsey on his promotion to the bishopric of Lincoln; and on 18 Sept. he became prebendary of Bugthorpe in York Cathedral. He had also apparently been holding for some time previously the living of St. Peter of Saltwood with the chapel of St. Leonard of Hythe, as he resigned it on 22 July in this year (Reg. Cant. Warham, f. 355); there is no record of his presentation to the living, but he seems to have succeeded Henry Ediall, who became provost of Wingham College in July 1497 (Arch. Cantiana, xviii. 428).
On the accession of Francis I in 1515, the archbishop of York, the Duke of Norfolk, the bishop of Winchester, and John Yonge were commissioned to renew the peace with him. Yonge's last political mission took him to Tournay, whence he and his colleagues carried on an extensive correspondence with Henry during August and September 1515 as to the best means of pacifying and securing the town. Yonge's health was now beginning to fail, and the king gave him leave, in a letter of 13 Aug., to return home ‘on account of sickness,’ but he resolved to ‘wait a little time to see matters well towards a conclusion.’
He left for England on 17 Sept. and owing to failing health he resigned the church of St. Magnus Martyr on 16 Nov. (Reg. Lond. Fitzjames, f. 61). He died in London of the sweating sickness on 25 April 1516. In his will, apparently made on the day of his death and proved on 17 May, he left to Archbishop Warham a gold salt-cellar, appointing him executor; to Wolsey a cup; to New College, Oxford, and to Winchester six gilt goblets, 100l. to make a new conduit at Rye, and also directed that ‘Master Grocen shall have his plate delivered unto him, which I have now on charge, without any maner of redemption.’ He was buried on the left side of the Rolls chapel, where a monument was erected to him bearing his recumbent effigy, and a tablet placed on the wall with a long inscription in Latin verse.
In spite of his busy life he still found time for other interests; he was an intimate friend of Dean Colet and a ‘great encourager of learned men,’ to one of the foremost of whom, Erasmus, he was a generous patron, and it was in recognition of this that on 1 Jan. 1513 Erasmus dedicated his ‘Plutarchi Chæronensis de tuenda bona valetudine præcepta’ to him as a new year's gift.[Authorities as in the text—also Kirby's Winchester Scholars; Lansdowne MS. 978, f. 147; Wood's Athenæ Oxon.; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Letters and Papers, For. and Dom., of Henry VIII; Herbert's Hist. of Henry VIII; Rymer's Fœdera; Knight's Life of Colet and Life of Erasmus; Cal. of State Papers, England and Spain; Brewer's Hist. of Henry VIII.]