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Walter of Skirlaw


Bishop of Durham; b. South Skirlaugh, Swine, Yorkshire, England; d. Howden manor, Yorkshire, March 24, 1406. He studied Canon and civil law at Oxford, becoming a bachelor of civil law (by 1358) and then a doctor of Canon Law (by 1373). As early as 1359 he was secretary to john of Thoresby, Archbishop of York. He became an experienced diplomat and canon lawyer, high in favor with the pope, and consequently was frequently out of England. A follower of King richard ii in the early 1380s, he was keeper of the privy seal from Aug. 9, 1382, to Oct. 24, 1386. Skirlaw was successively bishop of Coventry and Lichfield (1386), and bishop of Bath and Wells (1386), and was then made bishop of durham (1388) as recompense for joining the appellants before they entered the lists with the king in the parliament of the same year. He supported the revolution of 1399 and the new king, Henry IV. While bishop, he examined the lollard Richard Wyche on a charge of preaching heresy in the diocese of Durham (c. 1401). He gave book gifts to University College and New College, Oxford. He is buried in Durham cathedral between two pillars on the north side of the choir.

Bibliography: j. tait, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 63 v. (London 18851900) 18:357358. f. d. matthew, "The Trial of Richard Wyche," English Historical Review 5 (1890) 530544. t. f. tout, Chapters in the Administrative History of Mediaeval England, 6 v. (New York 192033). a. b. steel, Richard II (Cambridge, Eng. 1941). a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the Scholars of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 3 v. (Oxford 195759) 3:170810.

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