Walter de Merton

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Merton, Walter de (d. 1277). Clerical statesman. Educated at Oxford, Walter became a clerk in Chancery and amassed a large number of livings. He was employed by Henry III to negotiate from the pope recognition of Edmund, the king's son, as king of Sicily. In 1261–3 he was chancellor but was forced out by de Montfort's party and not reinstated after the royal victory at Evesham. But he acted as chancellor once more 1272–4 after Henry's death and while Edward I was absent on crusade, and was thanked on the new king's return. For the last three years of his life he was bishop of Rochester. The careful rules he laid down for the governance of his foundation Merton College, Oxford, in 1264 were copied at Peterhouse, the oldest of the Cambridge colleges, and greatly influenced the development of both universities.

J. A. Cannon

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Walter de Merton, d. 1277, English bishop, founder of Merton College, Oxford. He was lord chancellor from 1261 to 1263, was reappointed after the death of Henry III (1272), and was made bishop of Rochester in 1274. In 1261 he obtained a charter from the earl of Gloucester for the assignation of lands for the support of scholars, and in 1264 a regular charter of incorporation established a "House of Scholars" at Malden, Surrey; this was later transferred to Oxford. The establishment of a corporate body to rule and control the scholars marks the beginning of the collegiate system of education, and Merton College became the model for other colleges at Oxford and Cambridge.