CHICHELEY, HENRY (1364-1443), English archbishop, founder of All Souls College, Oxford, was born at Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire, in 1363 or 1364. Chicheley told the pope in 1443, in asking leave to retire from the archbishopric, that he was in his eightieth year. He was the third and youngest son of Thomas Chicheley, who appears in 1368 in still extant town records of Higham Ferrers as a suitor in the mayor's court, and in 1381-1382, and again in 1384-1385, was mayor: in fact, for a dozen years he and Henry Barton, school master of Higham Ferrers grammar school, and one Richard Brabazon, filled the mayoralty in turns. His occupation does not appear; but his eldest son, William, is on the earliest extant list (1373) of the Grocers' Company, London. On the 9th of June 1405 Chicheley was admitted, in succession to his father, to a burgage in Higham Ferrers. His mother, Agnes Pincheon, is said to have been of gentle birth. There is therefore no foundation in fact for the silly story (copied into the Diet. Nat. Biog. from a local historian, J. Cole, Wellingborough, 1838) that Henry Chicheley was picked up by William of Wykeham when he was a poor ploughboy "eating his scanty meal off his mother's lap," whatever that means. The story was unknown to Arthur Duck, fellow of All Souls, who wrote Chicheley's life in 1617. It is only the usual attempt, as in the cases of Whittington, Wolsey and Gresham, to exaggerate the rise of a successful man. The first recorded appearance of Henry Chicheley himself is at New College, Oxford, as Checheley, eighth among the undergraduate fellows, in July 1387, in the earliest extant hall-book, which contains weekly lists of those dining in Hall. It is clear from Chicheley's position in the list, with eleven fellows and eight scholars, or probationer-fellows, below him, that this entry does not mark his first appearance in the college, which had been going on since 1375 at least, and was chartered in 1379. He must have come from Winchester College in one of the earliest batches of scholars from that college, the sole feeder of New College, not from St John Baptist College, Winchester, as guessed by Dr William Hunt in the Dict. Nat. Biog. (and repeated in Mr Grant Robertson's History of All Souls College) to cover the mistaken supposition that St Mary's College was not founded till 1393. St Mary's College was in fact formally founded in 1382, and the school had been going on since 1373 (A.F. Leach, History of Winchester College), while no such college as St John's College at Winchester ever existed.
Chicheley appears in the Hall-books of New College up to the year 1392/93, when he was a B.A. and was absent for ten weeks from about the 6th of December to the 6th of March, presumably for the purpose of his ordination as a sub-deacon, which was performed by the bishop of Derry, acting as suffragan to the bishop of London. He was then already beneficed, receiving a royal ratification of his estate as parson of Llanvarchell in the diocese of St Asaph on the 20th of March 1391/92 (Cal. Pat. Rolls). In the Hall-book, marked 1393/94, but really for 1394/95, Chicheley's name does not appear. He had then left Oxford and gone up to London to practise as an advocate in the principal ecclesiastical court, the court of arches. His rise was rapid. Already on the 8th of February 1395/96 he was on a commission with several knights and clerks to hear an appeal in a case of John Molton, Esquire v. John Shawe, citizen of London, from Sir John Cheyne, kt., sitting for the constable of England in a court of chivalry. Like other ecclesiastical lawyers and civil servants of the day; he was paid with ecclesiastical preferments. On the 13th of April 1396 he obtained ratification of the parsonage of St Stephen's, Walbrook, presented on the 30th of March by the abbot of Colchester, no doubt through his brother Robert, who restored the church and increased its endowment. In 1397 he was made archdeacon of Dorset by Richard Mitford, bishop of Salisbury, but litigation was still going on about it in the papal court till the 27th of June 1399, when the pope extinguished the suit, imposing perpetual silence on Nicholas Bubwith, master of the rolls, his opponent. In the first year of Henry IV. Chicheley was parson of Sherston, Wiltshire, and prebendary of Nantgwyly in the college of Abergwilly, North Wales; on the 23rd of February 1401/2, now called doctor of laws, he was pardoned for bringing in, and allowed to use, a bull of the pope "providing" him to the chancellorship of Salisbury cathedral, and canonries in the nuns' churches of Shaftesbury and Wilton in that diocese; and on the 9th of January 1402/3 he was archdeacon of Salisbury. This year his brother Robert was senior sheriff of London. On the 7th of May 1404, Pope Boniface IX. provided him to a prebend at Lincoln, notwithstanding he already held prebends at Salisbury, Lichfield, St Martin's-le-Grand and Abergwyly, and the living of Brington. On the 9th of January 1405 he found time to attend a court at Higham Ferrers and be admitted to a burgage there. In July 1405 Chicheley began a diplomatic career by a mission to the new Roman pope Innocent VII., who was professing his desire to end the schism in the papacy by resignation, if his French rival at Avignon would do likewise. Next year, on the 5th of October 1406, he was sent with Sir John Cheyne to Paris to arrange a lasting peace and the marriage of Prince Henry with the French princess Marie, which was frustrated by her becoming a nun at Poissy next year. In 1406 renewed efforts were made to stop the schism, and Chicheley was one of the envoys sent to the new pope Gregory XII. Here he utilized his opportunities. On the 31st of August 1407 Guy Mone (he is always so spelt and not Mohun, and was probably from one of the Hampshire Meons; there was a John Mone of Havant admitted a Winchester scholar in 1397), bishop of St David's, died, and on the 12th of October 1407 Chicheley was by the pope provided to the bishopric of St David's. Another bull the same day gave him the right to hold all his benefices with the bishopric.
At Siena in July 1408 he and Sir John Cheyne, as English envoys, were received by Gregory XII. with special honour, and Bishop Repingdon of Lincoln, ex-Wycliffite, was one of the new batch of cardinals created on the 18th of September 1408, most of Gregory's cardinals having deserted him. These, together with Benedict's revolting cardinals, summoned a general council at Pisa. In November 1408 Chicheley was back at Westminster, when Henry IV. received the cardinal archbishop of Bordeaux and determined to support the cardinals at Pisa against both popes. In January 1409 Chicheley was named with Bishop Hallum of Salisbury and the prior of Canterbury to represent the Southern Convocation at the council, which opened on the 25th of March 1409, arriving on the 24th of April. Obedience was withdrawn from both the existing popes, and on the 26th of June a new pope elected instead of them. Chicheley and the other envoys were received on their return as saviours of the world; though the result was summed up by a contemporary as trischism instead of schism, and the Church as giving three husbands instead of two. Chicheley now became the subject of a leading case, the court of king's bench deciding, after arguments reheard in three successive terms, that he could not hold his previous benefices with the bishopric, and that, spite of the maxim Papa potest omnia, a papal bull could not supersede the law of the land (Year-book ii. H. iv. 37, 59, 79). Accordingly he had to resign livings and canonries wholesale (April 28, 1410). As, however, he had obtained a bull (August 20, 1409) enabling him to appoint his successors to the vacated preferments, including his nephew William, though still an undergraduate and not in orders, to the chancellorship of Salisbury, and a prebend at Lichfield, he did not go empty away. In May 1410 he went again on an embassy to France; on the 11th of September 1411 he headed a mission to discuss Henry V.'s marriage with a daughter of the duke of Burgundy; and he was again there in November. In the interval Chicheley found time to visit his diocese for the first time and be enthroned at St David's on the 11th of May 1411. He was with the English force under the earl of Arundel which accompanied the duke of Burgundy to Paris in October 1411 and there defeated the Armagnacs, an exploit which revealed to England the weakness of the French. On the 30th of November 1411 Chicheley, with two other bishops and three earls and the prince of Wales, knelt to the king to receive public thanks for their administration. That he was in high favour with Henry V. is shown by his being sent with the earl of Warwick to France in July 1413 to conclude peace. Immediately after the death of archbishop Arundel he was nominated by the king to the archbishopric, elected on the 4th of March, translated by papal bull on the 28th of April, and received the pall without going to Rome for it on the 24th of July.
These dates are important as they help to save Chicheley from the charge, versified by Shakespeare (Henry V. act i. sc. 2) from Hall's Chronicle, of having tempted Henry V. into the conquest of France for the sake of diverting parliament from the disendowment of the Church. There is no contemporary authority for the charge, which seems to appear first in Redman's rhetorical history of Henry V., written in 1540 with an eye to the political situation at that time. As a matter of fact, the parliament at Leicester, in which the speeches were supposed to have been made, began on the 30th of April 1414 before Chicheley was archbishop. The rolls of parliament show that he was not present in the parliament at all. Moreover parliament was so far from pressing disendowment that on the petition of the Commons it passed a savage act against the heresies "commonly called Lollardry" which "aimed at the destruction of the king and all temporal estates," making Lollards felons and ordering every justice of the peace to hunt down their schools, conventicles, congregations and confederacies.
In his capacity of archbishop, Chicheley remained what he had always been chiefly, the lawyer and diplomatist. He was present at the siege of Rouen, and the king committed to him personally the negotiations for the surrender of the city in January 1419 and for the marriage of Katherine. He crowned Katherine at Westminster (20th February 1421), and on the 6th of December baptized her child Henry VI. He was of course a persecutor of heretics. No one could have attained or kept the position of archbishop at the time without being so. So he presided at the trial of John Claydon, Skinner and citizen of London, who after five years' imprisonment at various times had made public abjuration before the late archbishop, Arundel, but now was found in possession of a book in English called The Lanterne of Light, which contained the heinous heresy that the principal cause of the persecution of Christians was the illegal retention by priests of the goods of this world, and that archbishops and bishops were the special seats of antichrist. As a relapsed heretic, he was "left to the secular arm" by Chicheley. On the 1st of July 1416 Chicheley directed a half-yearly inquisition by archdeacons to hunt out heretics. On the 12th of February 1420 proceedings were begun before him against William Taylor, priest, who had been for fourteen years excommunicated for heresy, and was now degraded and burnt for saying that prayers ought not to be addressed to saints, but only to God. A striking contrast was exhibited in October 1424, when a Stamford friar, John Russell, who had preached that any religious potest concumbere cum muliere and not mortally sin, was sentenced only to retract his doctrine. Further persecutions of a whole batch of Lollards took place in 1428. The records of convocation in Chicheley's time are a curious mixture of persecutions for heresy, which largely consisted in attacks on clerical endowments, with negotiations with the ministers of the crown for the object of cutting down to the lowest level the clerical contributions to the public revenues in respect of their endowments. Chicheley was tenacious of the privileges of his see, and this involved him in a constant struggle with Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester. In 1418, while Henry V. was alive, he successfully protested against Beaufort's being made a cardinal and legate a latere to supersede the legatine jurisdiction of Canterbury. But during the regency, after Henry VI.'s accession, Beaufort was successful, and in 1426 became cardinal and legate. This brought Chicheley into collision with Martin V. The struggle between them has been represented as one of a patriotic archbishop resisting the encroachments of the papacy on the Church of England. In point of fact it was almost wholly personal, and was rather an incident in the rivalry between the duke of Gloucester and his half-brother, Cardinal Beaufort, than one involving any principle. Chicheley, by appointing a jubilee to be held at Canterbury in 1420, "after the manner of the Jubilee ordained by the Popes," threatened to divert the profits from pilgrims from Rome to Canterbury. A ferocious letter from the pope to the papal nuncios, on the 19th of March 1423, denounced the proceeding as calculated "to ensnare simple souls and extort from them a profane reward, thereby setting up themselves against the apostolic see and the Roman pontiff, to whom alone so great a faculty has been granted by God" (Cal. Pap. Reg. vii. 12). Chicheley also incurred the papal wrath by opposing the system of papal provision which diverted patronage from English to Italian hands, but the immediate occasion was to prevent the introduction of the bulls making Beaufort a cardinal. Chicheley had been careful enough to obtain "Papal provisions" for himself, his pluralities, his bishopric and archbishopric.
But, after all, it is not as archbishop or statesman, persecutor, papalist or antipapalist that Chicheley is remembered, but for his educational foundations. He endowed a hutch, i.e. chest or loan-fund for poor scholars at New College, and another for the university of Oxford at large. He founded no less than three colleges, two at Oxford, one at Higham Ferrers, while there is reason to believe that he suggested and inspired the foundation of Eton and of King's College. His first college at Oxford, in perishing, gave birth to St John's College, which now holds its site. This was St Bernard's College, founded by Chicheley under licence in mortmain in 1437 for Cistercian monks, on the model of Gloucester Hall and Durham College for the southern and northern Benedictines. Nothing more than a site and building was required by way of endowment, as the young monks, who were sent there to study under a provisor, were supported by the houses of the order to which they belonged. The site was five acres, and the building is described in the letters patent "as a fitting and noble college mansion in honour of the most glorious Virgin Mary and St Bernard in Northgates Street outside the Northgate of Oxford." It was suppressed with the Cistercian abbeys in 1539, and granted on the 11th of December 1546 to Christ Church, Oxford, who sold it to Sir Thomas Pope in 1553 for St John's College.
The college at Higham Ferrers was a much earlier design. On the 2nd of May 1422 Henry V., in right of the duchy of Lancaster, "hearing that Chicheley inflamed by the pious fervour of devotion intended to enlarge divine service and other works of piety at Higham Ferrers, in consideration of his fruitful services, often crossing the seas, yielding to no toils, dangers or expenses ... especially in the conclusion of the present final peace with our dearest father the king of France," granted for 300 marks (£200) licence to found, on three acres at Higham Ferrers, a perpetual college of eight chaplains and four clerks, of whom one was to teach grammar and the other song ... "and six choristers to pray for himself and wife and for Henry IV. and his wife Mary ... and to acquire the alien priory of Merseye in Essex late belonging to St Ouen's, Rouen," as endowment. A papal bull having also been obtained, on the 28th of August 1425, the archbishop, in the course of a visitation of Lincoln diocese, executed his letters patent founding the college, dedicating it to the Virgin, St Thomas à Becket and St Edward the Confessor, and handed over the buildings to its members, the vicar of Higham Ferrers being made the first master or warden. He further endowed it in 1434 with lands in Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, and his brothers, William and Robert, gave some houses in London in 1427 and 1438. The foundation was closely modelled on Winchester College, with its warden and fellows, its grammar and song schoolmasters, but a step in advance was made by the masters being made fellows and so members of the governing body. Attached was also a bede or almshouse for twelve poor men. Both school and almshouse had existed before, and this was merely an additional endowment. The whole endowment was in 1535 worth some £200 a year, about a fifth of that of Winchester College. Unfortunately, All Souls being a later foundation, the college at Higham Ferrers was not affiliated to it, and so fell with other colleges not part of the universities. On the 18th of July 1542 it was surrendered to Henry VIII., and its possessions granted to Robert Dacres on condition of maintaining the grammar school and paying the master £10 a year, the same salary as the headmasters of Winchester and Eton, and maintaining the almshouse. Both still exist, but the school has been deprived of its house, and the Fitzwilliam family, who now own the lands, still continue to pay only £10 a year.
All Souls College was considerably later. The patent for it, dated 20th of May 1438, is for a warden and 20 scholars, to be called "the Warden and College of the souls of all the faithful departed," to study and pray "for the soul of King Henry VI. and the souls of Henry V., Thomas, duke of Clarence, and all the dukes, earls, barons, knights, squires and other nobles and subjects of our father who during the time and in the service of our father and ourselves ended their lives in the wars of the kingdom of France, and for the souls of all the faithful departed." For this, the king granted Berford's Hall, formerly Charleston's Inn, which Chicheley's trustees had granted to him so as to obtain a royal grant and indefeasible title. Richard Andrews, the king's secretary, like Chicheley himself a scholar of Winchester and fellow of New College, was named as first warden. A papal bull for the college was obtained on the 21st of June 1439; and further patents for endowments from the 11th of May 1441 to the 28th of January 1443, when a general confirmation charter was obtained, for which £1000 (£30,000 at least of our money) was paid. It is commonly represented that the endowment was wholly derived from alien priories bought by Chicheley from the crown. In truth, not so large a proportion of the endowment of All Souls was derived from this source as was that of New College. The only alien priories granted were Abberbury in Oxfordshire, Wedon Pinkney in Northamptonshire, Romney in Kent, and St Clare and Llangenith in Wales, all very small affairs, single manors and rectories, and these did not form a quarter of the whole endowment. The rest, particularly the manor of Edgware, which made the fortune of the college, was bought from private owners. Early in 1443 the college was opened by Chicheley with four bishops in state. The statutes, not drawn up until the end of April 1443, raised the number of the college to forty. Like the college buildings, they are almost an exact copy of those of New College, mutatis mutandis. The college is sometimes described as being different from other colleges in being merely a large chantry to pray for the souls of the dead warriors. But it was no more a chantry than the other colleges, all of which, like the monasteries and collegiate churches, were to pray for their founders' and other specified souls. Indeed, All Souls was more of a lay foundation than its model. For while at New College only twenty out of seventy fellows were to study law instead of arts, philosophy and theology, at All Souls College sixteen were to be "jurists" and only twenty-four "artists"; and while at New College there were ten chaplains and three clerks necessarily, at All Souls the number was not defined but left optional; so that there are now only one chaplain and four bible clerks.
Ten days after he sealed the statutes, on the 12th of April 1443, Chicheley died and was buried in Canterbury cathedral on the north side of the choir, under a fine effigy of himself erected in his lifetime. There is what looks like an excellent contemporary portrait in one of the windows of All Souls College, which is figured in the Victoria County History for Hampshire, ii. 262.
(A. F. L.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)