William WARHAM
(Archbishop of Canterbury)

Born: 1450, Malshanger, Church Oakley, Hampshire, England

Died: 22 Aug 1532, Hackington, Canterbury, Kent, England

Father: Robert WARHAM (Esq.)

Mother: ?

Born about 1450, probably at Malshanger in Church Oakley (Hampshire) where his family had lived for several generations. The son of Robert Warham Esq., he was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford. William became an advocate in the Court of Arches, principal of the Civil Law School at Oxford and Master of the Rolls in 1494. He also held the livings of Barley and Cottenham and was appointed Precentor of Wells and Archdeacon of Huntingdon. Henry VII found him a useful and clever diplomatist.

In 1496, he conducted the negotiations for the marriage of Prince Arthur with Catalina de Aragon and was employed from the outset of his career in many diplomatic missions, which led him to Flanders, France, Scotland and perhaps Rome. He went to Scotland with Richard Fox, then bishop of Durham, in 1497; and he was partly responsible for several commercial and other treaties with Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor who was also Count of Flanders and Regent Duke of Burgundy on behalf of his son Phillip IV of Burgundy. He became Bishop of London and Keeper of the Great Seal in 1502, which title he exchanged for that of Lord Chancellor when he was promoted to the Primacy of Canterbury the following year. In 1509 the Archbishop married and then crowned Henry VIII and Catalina de Aragon, but gradually withdrawing into the background he resigned the office of Lord Chancellor in 1515, and was succeeded by Wolsey, whom he had consecrated as bishop of Lincoln in the previous year. This resignation was possibly due to his dislike of Henry's foreign policy. Though he resigned the Great Seal, he continued to take a leading part in affairs of State.

He was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, and assisted Wolsey as assessor during the secret inquiry into the validity of Henry's marriage with Queen Catalina in 1527. He was named as one of the counsellors to assist the Queen, but, fearing to incur the King's displeasure and using his favourite phrase ira principis mors est, he gave her very little help; and he signed the letter to Clement VII which urged the pope to assent to Henry's wish. Afterwards it was proposed that the archbishop himself should try the case, but this suggestion came to nothing.

Nor was he able to offer any effectual resistance when the King, having compelled the clergy to acknowledge the Royal Supremacy, demanded the further surrender of their independence, know as the "Submission of the Clergy". He presided over the Convocation of 1531 when the clergy of the province of Canterbury voted 100,000 to the King in order to avoid the penalties of praemunire, and accepted Henry as supreme head of the church with the saving clause "so far as the law of Christ allows".

In his concluding years, however, the Archbishop showed rather more independence. In Feb 1532 he protested against all acts concerning the church passed by the parliament which met in 1529, but this did not prevent the important proceedings which secured the complete submission of the church to the state later in the same year. Against this further compliance with Henry's wishes Warham drew up a protest; he likened the action of Henry VIII to that of Henry II, and urged Magna Carta in defence of the liberties of the church.

Warham was, from 1506 to his death, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, at a time when the revival of letters showed a more generous appreciation of the New learning. He delighted in the society of scholars, and promoted literary enterprises with a splendid liberality. Erasmus became his friend and, not only received much personal kindness from the Archbishop, but was enabled, by his help, to produce his famous Greek Testament.

Archbishop Warham died on 22 Aug 1532 and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

The tomb of Archbishop Warham

to Bios Page

to Home Page