William of Wykeham

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Bishop, chancellor, and founder of New College (Oxford) and Winchester grammar school; b. Wickham, Hampshire, 1324; d. Sept. 27, 1404. Wykeham's mother was perhaps of gentle birth. After some schooling at Winchester, he became an official, eventually in royal employ, serving mostly as a surveyor and works clerk. In 1363, he became keeper of the privy seal at which time Froissart said that he controlled the administration. The King had given him so much ecclesiastical preferment that urban v was reluctant to make him bishop of winchester, to which see he was elected in 1366. After much pressure was exerted by Edward III upon a number of cardinals at the Curia, Wykeham was provided in 1367. In that year he became chancellor of England, but in 1371 he was forced to resign by an anticlerical group, probably headed by John of Gaunt. At the Good Parliament of 1376, Wykeham assisted in the overthrow of Gaunt's ruling clique; when Parliament broke up, Wykeham was charged with improper conduct as chancellor and lost his temporalities. Back in favor on the accession of Richard II, he acted as a political moderate and was again chancellor from 1389 to 1391.

As a churchman, Wykeham was too lay-minded to make a mark, although he supported the measures against the lollards. His principal fame comes from his foundation, beginning in 1378 and 1380, of the two separate, but related, St. Mary Winton colleges, one at Oxford (New College) and one at Winchester (Winchester grammar school). Both marked a break with the pastthe former was designed primarily for undergraduates in arts who had been trained in grammar at the latter, which became the first English "public school."

Bibliography: g. c. heseltine, William of Wykeham: A Commentary (London 1932). g. h. moberly, Life of William of Wykeham (2d ed. Winchester 1893). r. lowth, The Life of William of Wykeham (3d ed. Oxford 1777). j. r. l. highfield, "The Promotion of William of Wickham to the See of Winchester," The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 4 (1953) 3754. a. h. m. jones, in The Victoria History of The County of Oxford, ed. l. f. salzman et al., 7v. (Oxford 190762) 3:144162.

[f. d. blackley]

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William of Wykeham or William of Wickham (both: wĬ´kəm), 1324–1404, English prelate and lord chancellor. He is thought to have been the son of a serf. Entering the service of the royal court in 1347, he supervised the building of additions to Windsor Castle and rapidly gained influence at the court of Edward III, becoming royal secretary and lord privy seal (1364). He received benefices in all parts of England but was not ordained a priest until 1362. In 1366 he was appointed bishop of Winchester, and he was made lord chancellor the following year. The debility of the aging Edward III and the strife of factions made his political position extremely difficult. In 1371, William was dismissed, largely as a result of the rising tide of anticlericalism. Opposing John of Gaunt, he supported the attack made on Gaunt's court party in the Good Parliament (1376). As a result he was charged (1376) with previous misuse of government funds, deprived of his temporalities, and harried for almost a year. On Richard II's accession (1377) he was exonerated and devoted most of his remaining life to his episcopal duties, although from 1389 to 1391 he again served as chancellor. His most lasting importance lies in his two great foundations, New College at Oxford (1379) and Winchester College (opened 1394), one of the most famous English public schools. He rebuilt the Norman nave of Winchester Cathedral and repaired many churches of his diocese. A conservative but conscientious churchman, William was a vigorous clerical reformer.

See biography by G. C. Heseltine (1932); W. Hayter, William of Wykeham: Patron of the Arts (1970).

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Wykeham, William of (1324–1404). English ecclesiastic and builder. In 1356 he was named as Clerk of the Royal Works at Henley and Easthampstead, and later Surveyor of the Royal Castles at Windsor, Leeds, Dover, and Hadleigh. He superintended the erection of the Royal apartments east of the keep at Windsor Castle (1360–9), and built a new castle on the Isle of Sheppey, called Queenborough (1361–7), known from plans drawn by Hollar, but destroyed. In the 1360s his rise as an ecclesiastic was meteoric, and he was showered with livings. He was responsible for the foundations of New College, Oxford (1379) and Winchester College, Hants. (1382). Both were erected on similar plans, with hall, chapel, and sets. They were the models for later colleges including Eton and King's, Cambridge. Wykeham does not appear to have been an architect, however, and obtained the services of William of Wynford to act in that capacity. Wykeham's name is primarily associated with major works at Winchester, where he was Bishop from 1366. There, using Wynford, he remodelled the Romanesque nave from 1394 in the Perpendicular style of Gothic, which explains the abnormally substantial piers for that style.


J. Harvey (1987);
Hayter (1970);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004)

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William of Wykeham (1324–1404). Bishop of Winchester, keeper of the privy seal, chancellor of England. Possibly the son of a Hampshire serf, he entered royal service (c.1348) and superintended the rebuilding of Windsor castle. As bishop of Winchester (1366), he was the greatest ecclesiastical pluralist of the century with twelve appointments, headed by the archdeaconry of Lincoln. As chancellor (1367), he was efficient rather than statesmanlike. The tide of anticlericalism forced him to resign (1371) to make way for laymen. He was briefly chancellor under Richard II (1389–91), but took no further part in politics. He is chiefly remembered for his benefactions to education by founding New College, Oxford (1379), and Winchester College (1382), the latter a unique corporation, independent of cathedral or monastery, a model for Henry VI's Eton and Wolsey's Ipswich college. He also resumed the rebuilding of the cathedral at his own expense.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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William of Wykeham (1324–1404) English bishop and political leader. As Bishop of Winchester from 1367, he was prominent in royal counsels. He served as chancellor (1367–71) under Edward III and again (1389–91) under Richard II. He founded Winchester College, Winchester, and New College, Oxford.

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William of Wykeham (1324–1404). See Wykeham.