The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 12. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1801.
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OF THE ELECTION OF AN ARCHBISHOP, AND TO WHOM THE RIGHT OF IT BELONGED.
The right of electing an archbishop was, according to ecclesiastical canons, antiently in the prior and chapter, confirmed by the royal concessions of our kings, by bulls of the several popes, and by consiant practice, though in it they were continually opposed, and their elections as frequently declared null and void.
King John, in the 16th year of his reign, granted and declared by his royal charter, a free election of prelates in all cathedral and conventual churches for ever, throughout all England; which was confirmed by the bulls of several popes, (fn. 1) and these, together with the king's charter, are still preserved among the archives of this church. This freedom of election was, in particular, most strictly observed by king Henry VI. who, when this see was vacant by the death of archbishop Kempe, granted to the monks on their usual petition in this case, a licence to elect a new archbishop, without recommending any one in any shape to their choice, left he should seem to infringe on the liberty of their free election, at which time Thomas Bourghchier was chosen, but this was a rare instance of it.
Upon the petition of the prior and convent for leave to fill up the vacant see, from time to time, a licence of electing an archbishop was generally granted to them easily, and without any solicitation; but this was not so entirely free, as in the abovementioned instance, for it was usually accompanied, as it is at present, with a recommendation of some particular person, under the king's sign manual; and although the prior and convent, aware of this intrusion on their free liberty of election, hastened as much as possible, by making a prior election, to frustrate this recommendation, as well as the frequent one of the pope by his bull of provision; yet they were generally forced to make a second election, in conformity to one or the other of them, of the person named in them; inded the convent rarely had a quiet, undisturbed and free election, and for the most part the archbishop elect was forced upon them, either by the king or the pope.
Another strong opposition which the convent had to encounter, was from the suffragan bishops of the province, who contested, that they had the true right to elect their metropolitan, either by themselves alone, or at least by themselves in conjunction with the prior and convent of the church of Canterbury; but upon the latter making their appeals to the court of Rome, they procured the several bulls from the pope, as before-mentioned; and though they at length overthrew the pretences of the bishops, which had continued just one hundred years, (fn. 2) during which time there had been nine archbishops elected, at the same time, as perhaps was intended by the court of Rome, they made way for those papal bulls of provision, which proved a much greater grievance to them, and in great measure took the free election entirely from them; for afterwards, till the time of the reformation, though some few were duly elected by the convent, yet the archbishops in general received their admission to the metropolitical dignity by power of the papal authority, under the title of the pope's bulls of provision, as may be seen at large before in the account of the several archbishops, where the means by which each of them became promoted to this see, are fully related.
But since the reformation and the abolition of the papal power in this kingdom, the method of election has been thus: the vacancy of the see having been notified, a conge de lire, or licence to elect, is issued in the usual garb of pageantry, under the great seal, and directed for that purpose to the dean and chapter of Canterbury, inclosed in which, is an unadorned small sheet of paper, containing a recommendation of the person to be elected, under the king's sign ma nual. Accordingly, the chapter being met, and the licence and letter of recommendation being read, another person, either one of the prebendaries or a minor canon of this church, is nominated as a candidate likewise with him who is recommended, but the remembrance of a premunire, with other cogent reasons, always renders the royal candidate successful, and that by a unanimous suffrage of the chapter; nor has his opponent ever been known since the reign of king Henry VIII. to have gained a single voice in his favour. After the return of this election, the royal confirmation succeeds of course, without any difficulty, and the new archbishop is afterwards consecrated by two bishops, usually at his own chapel at Lambeth palace.
Let us now take a view of the difficulties which the archbishop elect met with in obtaining his confirmation from the court of Rome, before the reformation. After the election of an archbishop by the prior and convent of Canterbury, the royal assent and approbation was obtained with far more ease than the papal confirmation at Rome; for by the canon law it was provided, that the archbishop elect should personally appear at Rome, and obtain there a confirmation of his election. This was an undertaking of both great trouble and expence; the journey was long, tiresome and perilous, and the attendance on the dilatory process of a tedious suit, and the submission to all the humiliating vexations brought forward by the pride and avarice of those who had dealings in it, could not but be severely felt by a good and generous mind; for, notwithstanding the archbishop elect carried with him authentic instruments of his being duly and canonically elected, he in general met with many pretended difficulties during the process; fresh objections were made, and new doubts and scruples raised from time to time, merely to prolong the suit, and inhance the expence; till at last a large sum of money given, ei ther for expedition, or wasted in the fees of the court, reconciled every scruple, and thus the end being answered, the business was finished. A notorious instance upon record, of the intolerable exactions of the court of Rome, which this nation once laboured under.
Two instances among several others in the registers of the church of Canterbury, may be produced, of the trouble and charges attending this confirmation of the archbishop elect at Rome. One is of archbishop Winchelsea, who, by reason of the vacancy of the papal chair, was necessitated to spend a year and nine months in his journey, to obtain his confirmation; during which time, as appears by the register of the church, the archbishop spent in England 142l. 19s. and in the court of Rome, two thousand five hundred marks sterling; and the expences of the proctors of the chapter amounted to one thousand seven hundred and forty-four marks sterling more; all which enormous expences were laid out upon no other account than the procuring of the confirmation of the archbishop's election.
Other archbishops in suing for their confirmations, met with full as long and tedious a business; for whatever difficulty there was in passing the Alps, and that frequently in the most inclement season of the year, there was still more in bringing it to a speedy conclusion in that venal court, where it found so many wilful stops and hinderances.
The long attendance of archbishop Winchelsea might indeed, in some measure have been occasioned by the vacancy of the papal chair; but most of the other archbishops met with their delays from the pope himself and the cardinals, who were excellently versed in all the arts of stripping those of their money, who had any dealings with them, and never ceased, whilst they had any thing left for them; and there are some instances, when, after taking this long journey, and much money expended, the pope chose to declare the archbishop's election null and void, under the power of providing for this see with one of his own choice.
I shall here produce only one instance more, and that for the sake of shewing what strong and powerful efforts were made by the king, as well as the whole nation, against the papal provisions and other usurpations of the see of Rome, at that time; this was in the case of Simon Mepham, who was elected archbishop on Dec. 11, 1327, and within a month afterwards began his journey to Rome, carrying with him the usual testimonials, as well from the prior and chapter, as from the king. Upon the dilatory proceedings in his cause, the king sent a second letter to the pope and to the several cardinals, and soon after a third, in both which, he recommends the archbishop's cause in a special manner, pressing the pope with much vehemency for a speedy dispatch of it; and this was accompanied with one from Isabella, the queen mother, and another from the nobles then assembled in parliament at Northampton. In these letters, they all repeat how much the speedy return of the archbishop would promote the peace and tranquility of the nation, and that through his absence several weighty affairs were interrupted, which could not be transacted without the immediate presence of the archbishop; and they all concluded with a plea against cassating the election, and putting another into the chair by papal provision.—The king's former letter urgeth this from the great danger of sedition and schism from the people which might follow thereupon; but in his third letter, he beseeched the pope, that if he should find just cause to make null the present election, he would acquiesce in his former request of providing for the see of Canterbury, by the promotion of Henry, bishop of Lincoln, to it. The queen mother gave the pope more roundly to understand, that this was a concern, not only of the people of the province of Canterbury, but of the whole nation, which she and all the nobility had espoused as their common interest, and had agreed to acquaint him therewith in that same stile, being well assured that the promotion of any other to this dignity would give great offence to the people, and raise a lasting schism in this church. The nobles wrote in the same manner, and in the same strain, concluding, that they trembled at the event, which a contrary decision would produce among the people. By these vehement importunities, the pope condescended to celebrate the confirmation of the archbishop, at a public consistory on May 27, and returning, he arrived at Dover on the 5th of September following. (fn. 3)
Of the Archbishop's Consecration and Inthronization.
The archbishop was usually consecrated, unless he was a bishop already, on the next Sunday immediately after the declaration of his confirmation. The solem nity was performed by a cardinal, whom the pope appointed for that purpose, in some church where the court of Rome was at that time.
After this, there still remained in former times, another ceremony, without which the archbishop could not exercise the power and office, or so much as take upon him the name and title of archbishop; which was, that according to canonical sanctions, he was to receive the pall, the badge and ensign of the fulness of his authority; which was usually, though not without earnest petition, given soon after the consecration. (fn. 4) The use of it was allowed only upon solemn times and occasions, called apostolical privileges, and in this they were inferior to the pope, who reserved to himself the honour of wearing the pall at all times and in every place. There was this provision too, wisely made, that no archbishop should lend his pall to another, or transmit it to his successor, but he carried it with him to the grave, and was buried in it. (fn. 5)
The bulls declaring the confirmation of the archbishop being arrived in England, and that to the king being presented to him, the archbishop appeared personally before him, for such was the custom of the realm, and laying his hand upon his breast, took the oath of sidelity; upon which the king ordered the writ to restore the temporalities of the see to him.
The archbishop, after this, being received at his first coming to his church with the usual ceremonies, the greatest of all solemnities followed next, which was his inthronization, which was celebrated with a pomp and state, almost equal to royalty itself. The entertainment was great and magnificent; the variety of costly and dainty provisions in most profuse quantities, prepared with the rarest skill of cookery, seems almost incredible. In the archives of this church, there is an old printed roll, containing the inthronization feast of Geo. Nevill, archbishop of York, made in the 6th year of king Edward IV. and of William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury, in the 20th year of Henry VII. which are strong instances of it. Battely has given in his appendix, the bill of sare of the former, with the names of the great officers who waited at that feast.—The description of archbishop Warham's feast he has given, whole and entire, in the same appendix; (fn. 6) in it there is an account of the manner in which the services were performed, of the number of dishes, the distinct messes or companies of the guests, the bills of the provisions and prices of the same. The compiler of the Antiquities of the British Church refers us to this very printed roll, and says, that he was afraid to related the number of guests and dishes, left he should report what could not be believed. He mentions too, the devices of the subtilties and the verses that were made on them; whence it is plain, that in those days the skill in cookery and confectionary flourished far beyond the art of poetry These devices, as they were then termed, consisted of the most gross and fulsome slattery, such as archbishop Warham himself, who was a good and learned man, could not have submitted to, had not his feelings of a man been lost in the greatness and hurry of that day's solemnity.
The royal and honourable guests who were invited to these solemnities, shew the honour and esteem they were held in. At the great feast of archbishop Winchelsea in 1294, there were present, king Edward, prince Edward the king's son, Edmund the king's brother, the bishops of London, Lincoln, Ely, Hereford, Norwich, Rochester, and Durham; the earls of Gloucester, Pembroke, Marshal, Hereford and Warwick, and a great number of other prelates, nobles, and inferior persons. (fn. 7) At the feast of archbishop Walter Reynolds, there were present, king Edward, the bishops of Winchester, Bath and Wells, Chichester, Coventry and Lichfield, Ely, and Worcester; the earls of Hereford, Pembroke, &c. At the feast of archbi shop Warham, there were entertained, the duke of Buckingham, (fn. 8) earl of Essex, lords Cobham, Bergavenny, Brook, and Clynton; the bishop of Mayo, suffragan, the prior of Christ-church, the abbot of St. Augustine's, Sir Edward Poynings, Sir John Fineux, chief justice; Sir William and Sir Thomas Scot, Master Boteler, sergeant at law, the master of the rolls, the several archdeacons and doctors, the mayor and citizens of Canterbury, the barons of the five ports, besides a number of others of quality, private gentlemen and a multitude of inferior persons.
In imitation of the inthroning and coronation of royal personages, the archbishops was attended at these feasts by his great officers, who performed their services by a kind of grand sergeantry, and were persons of distinguished rank and title; for which purpose, the day before this solemnity, the high court of stewardship was held in the archbishop's palace, to judge and admit the several claims to these tenures. These are particularly described in a printed roll in the archives of this church, so early as the 42d year of king Henry III.'s reign, anno 1264, by which it appears, that the offices of high steward and butler were then executed by the earl of Gloucester, as holding the manor and castle of Tunbridge and other manors of the archbishop, by the performance of such service at his inthronization. (fn. 9)
The office of chief panterer on that day was executed by the lord Conyars and Mr. Strangwish, as holding the manors of Whyvelton and others. (fn. 10) The office of chamberlain for that day was claimed and allowed to Bartholomew, lord Badlesmere, as holding the manor of Hothfield, near Charing. (fn. 11) The office of carver, by the son and heir of Roger de Mereworth, as holding the manor of Ceriston, (fn. 12) and the office of cupbearer, by Roger de Kirkbye, as holding the manor of Horton, (fn. 13) each by the performance of those respective services.
There is an account of the inthronization of archbishop Morton, in a manuscript in the Cotton library, in which we learn, that after Christmas in the year 1487, anno 2 Henry VII. the archbishop was, on a Sunday, in the month of January, inthronized at Canterbury, greatly accompanied with lords, both spiritual and temporal. In his journey towards this place from Lambeth, after the king's licence, he rode greatly accompanied, first to Croydon, and from thence to Knowle; from thence to Maidstone, to Charing, and to Chartham, where he lay on the Saturday at night, and on the Sunday, when he entered Canterbury, all the bells in the city were rang, and he alighted and went on foot. At the great gate (south within) met him, the procession of Christ-church, and censed him, and when he was entered a little within the west door, there was placed a stool with a rich cloth of silk and cushions, where he kneeled some time and wept much, and after proceeded to the high altar. The Te Deum was sung, and he and all the prelates had on them rich copes and with procession went and met the pall, sent from the pope, which was borne by the bishop of Rochester; then they returned before the high altar, where the bishop of Worcester read and declared the pope's bulls, and made a great proposition of them, shewing the virtue and meaning of the pall, which being so delivered to the archbishop, who sat in a chair, all the prelates who were there kissed the relic or pall, and after the cheek of the archbishop, and in the same manner after them all the religious people of that house; this done, the archbishop and all other prelated, went into the vestry, the bishop of Ely was deacon, and read the gospel, the bishop of Rochester bore the cross and read the epistle; the bishop of Salisbury was chaunter, and began the office of the mass. As for all the solemnity of that mass and the feast, it was written, says the author, in a large book made for that purpose, but it was the best ordered and served, that he ever saw, or that could be compared to, and the king's servants and officers of arms, that were there on the morning, when they took their leave, were well and worshipfully rewarded; there was likewise the marquis of Dorset with eight or nine other barons, besides knights and esquires which were in marvellous great number, and all in his livery of Mustredeveles. (fn. 14)
At the feast of the inthronization of archbishop Warham, above-mentioned, the solemnity was equally grand and splendid, to any which had been before, when the archbishop sat in the middle of the high table or board, as it was then termed, alone; for the archbishop's state on that day was too great to admit of any to be of his mess, or at the table at which he sat. The duke of Buckingham, lord high steward, came in on horseback, bareheaded, habited in his scarlet robe, having the white staff, the badge of his office, in his hand, being followed by two heralds at arms; then came the chief sewer, and after him the dishes of the first course were brought up; whilst these were placing on the table, the high steward lighting from off his horse, stood on foot before the archbishop, till the first course being served, he retired to his own diningroom, where the duke's and the messes or services at the ends of the archbishop's board were served up. (fn. 15) At the first mess of the duke's table sat the duke himself, lord Clinton, Sir Edward Poynings, and the lord chief justice Fineux; at his second board sat Sir William Scot, Sir Thomas Kemp and Mr. Butler, sergeant at law; at the archbishop's board's end sat, on the right hand, the earl of Essex, the bishop of Mayo, suffragan, and the prior of Christ-church; on the left hand, the lords Bergavenny and Brook, and the abbot of St. Augustine's; the rest of the messes and services for the several degrees of the numerous guests being served and conducted in the several rooms, with equal solemnity and decorum, according to their several degrees. (fn. 16)
After the solemnity of the day was over, and these great officers attendant on it were dismissed, the number of the archbishop's household, his officers and servants that attended upon him, were sometimes more, sometimes fewer, according as he was disposed to appear in a greater or lesser state; but for the most part, his retinue was like his rank, and his revenue great and princelike; and the officers of his palace were so constituted, as in some measure to bear the resemblance to those of a prince's palace. Of late, the archbishops have usually been inthronized by proxy, and that with a very scanty ceremony; for now, on the day appointed for the inthronization, the archbishop, or his proxy, the members of the church attending in procession, is placed in his patriarchal chair, at the east end of the church, when the proper instruments are read and obeizance made by the members of it; and by this ceremony the archbishop is put into the formal possession of his metropolitical dignity, with the authority and profits belonging to it; and this finished the ceremonies of the day.