Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Archbishop William Warham

Today is the 480th anniversary of the death in 1532 of Archbishop William Warham of Canterbury, the last pre- reformation holder of the Primacy. Born circa 1450 he had held the see of Canterbury since 1504.

Archbishop Warham in 1527
Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image: Wikipedia

The biography of him by J J Scarisbrick in the Oxford DNB can be read here  and there is another, illustrated online account of him here 

Warham appears to have been a good example of the late medieval English episcopate - devout, intelleigent, conscientious and loyal, but outflanked by men with greater determination, be they Cardinal Thomas Wolsey or King Henry VIII. His death removed a man who at his advanced age was beginning to realise and resist the challenge the Church now faced, and paved the way for the elevation of Thomas Cranmer.

I think the portrait suggests his character very well. The Primatial cross with his arms and the mitre, covered in pearls and with a seed pearl ground may well be depictions of his actual pontificalia. Holbein's drawing for the painting survives in the Royal collection at Windsor:

© 2008, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; used with permission

Image: copyright H.M. The Queen -The Royal Collection and arthistory.about.com   

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