Merks, Thomas

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Bishop of Carlisle; d. 1409. Merks joined the benedictine order at westminster abbey c. 1376, and he completed his doctoral studies in theology at the University of oxford by 1395. In 1397 he became bishop of carlisle by papal provision at the petition of Richard II. He was translated in partes infidelium by boniface ix in 1399, was made rector of Todenham, Worcestershire, in 1404, and was granted papal indult on May 31, 1404, for ten years to let his rectory, Sturminster Marshall in Dorset, to farm while he was engaged in study at a university or in service of a prelate or resident at the Roman Curia. In 1404 Merks served as assistant bishop for one year in Winchester, and in 1406 he opened the convocation of Canterbury as the archbishop's commissary. At Lucca, in 1408, he sided against the pope, and he was present at the Council of pisa shortly before his death.

His royal service began when he attached himself to Richard II's Irish expedition in 1394, served the king on diplomatic missions, and was with him in Ireland again in 1399. In the assembly in Westminster Hall (Sept. 30, 1399) he pronounced a defense of Richard II against the general competence of the lords to judge the king, and he lodged a protest against their special iniquity in judging him in his absence. He was accused in a plot against the new King Henry IV (d. 1413) and was held in custody for a while, but he was eventually pardoned and released on bail. Merks was the author of a treatise De moderno dictamine.

Bibliography: a. steel, Richard II (Cambridge, Eng. 1941; repr. 1963). e. curtis, ed., Richard II in Ireland, 139495 (Oxford 1927). n. denholm-young, "The Cursus in England," Oxford Essays in Medieval History, Presented to H. E. Salter, ed. f. m. powicke (Oxford 1934) 68103. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A. D. 1500 (Oxford 195759) 126364. j. tait, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 18851900) 13:282285.

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