Bekynton, Thomas (Beckington)

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Reforming bishop, royal official, English humanist;b. Beckington, near Frome, Somerset, England; d. Wells, Jan. 14, 1465. Nothing is known of his parentage. He was admitted to Winchester College (1404) and to New College, Oxford (June 24, 1406), where he was a fellow (140820). He incepted as doctor of civil law (1418) and was subwarden (1419). There he probably attracted the notice of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, whom he served (1420c. 1438), principally as chancellor. As Gloucester's protégé, he quickly became an ecclesiastical pluralist. About 1438 he was appointed King henry vi's secretary, beginning four years of continuous royal service. He was one of the diplomats with Cardinal Henry beaufort at Calais (1439) and led the abortive but lengthy Armagnac marriage negotiations at Bordeaux (144243). He was a valuable supporter of Henry's educational foundations, Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. While still in the royal service, as keeper of the privy seal (144344), he was appointed bishop of bath and wells, being consecrated on Oct. 13, 1443. Soon out of the royal service, he resided at Wells, where he proved an able and energetic administrator, making episcopal visitations of bath abbey in 1449 and 1454 and of glastonbury abbey in 1445 over the protestations of the aged abbot, Nicolas Frome, whose objections he treated with consummate contempt. His ordinances for the vicars choral of Wells (1450) are still largely in effect today. He was a munificent benefactor to Wells, where he spent some 6,000 marks on buildings, both in the cathedral precincts and in the city, where a fountain and conduit bear his name. The vicar's close that he built has been considered a splendid example of 15th-century domestic architecture.

Bekynton was a friend and correspondent of many contemporary Italian humanists such as Flavio biondo, who presented him with a copy of his Decades. In addition he encouraged younger English scholars such as Thomas Chaundler, who dedicated his Latin works to Bekynton. He changed the Latin style of diplomatic correspondence from the prolixities of previous medieval practice to the more restrained and direct Latin of the Italian humanists and so commenced a trend of humanistic Latin studies among later royal servants. What remains of his library bears eloquent testimony to his interest in theology and Canon Law and in contemporary Latin poetry and prose.

Bibliography: Memorials of the Reign of King Henry VI. Official Correspondence of Thomas Bekynton, Secretary to King Henry VI, and Bishop of Bath and Wells, ed. g. williams, 2 v. (Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores 56; 1872), biog. in 1:xv-1viii. The Register of T. B., Bishop , ed. h. c. m. lyte and m. c. b. dawes, 2 v. (Somerset Record Society 4950; London 193435). a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 (Oxford 195759) 1:157159. a. judd, Life of Thomas Bekynton (Chichester 1961). The Victoria History of the County of Somerset, v. 2, ed. w. page (London 1911). r. weiss, Humanism in England during the Fifteenth Century (2d ed. Oxford 1957) 7183, valuable refs. to works and articles on Bekynton.

[h. s. reinmuth, jr.]