Simon Langham

views updated


Archbishop of Canterbury; b. probably Langham, Rutlandshire, England; d. Avignon, July 22, 1376. By 133940 he was a monk of Westminster Abbey, and from 1346 to 1348 he studied at Oxford. He was elected prior and then abbot of Westminster in the spring of 1349, the year of the Black Death. His economic skill was quickly shown by his reorganization of the abbey's finances, which was so successful that he was able to rebuild the cloisters. In 1360 Edward III appointed him treasurer of England. Elected bishop of ely in 1361 he refused to change to London, to which he was also elected in the same year. Soon he was appointed chancellor of England (1363), an office he resigned in 1366 on his election to Canterbury, but not before he had begun the custom whereby the chancellor's speech at the opening of Parliament is delivered in English. As primate of England, Langham introduced legislation against pluralism, though ironically he was to become an extreme exponent of it. He removed wyclif from the headship of Canterbury Hall, Oxford. Since Langham had offended the king by accepting the title of cardinal priest in 1368 without the king's permission, he resigned his archbishopric and became a leading diplomat of the avignon papacy. He was rewarded with many preferments in England and the title of cardinal bishop of Palestrina (1373). By the time of his death he had accumulated books, plate, and ornament calculated as equivalent to $840,000 in 1955 currency (Knowles). He left everything to Westminster Abbey, hence his title as the second founder of the abbey and his remarkable tomb designed by Henry Yevele.

Bibliography: a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500 2:109597. j. a. robinson, "S.L., Abbot of Westminster," Church Quarterly Review 66 (1908) 339366. d. knowles, The Religious Orders in England 2:5456. c. l. kingsford, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 11:540541. m. mckisack, The Fourteenth Century, 13071399 (Oxford 1959).

[d. nicholl]