Cardinal Thomas BOURCHIER

Born: 1413

Died: 30 Mar 1486, Knole House, near Sevenoaks

Buried: Canterbury Cathedral

Father: William BOURCHIER (E. Eu)

Mother: Anne PLANTAGENET (C. Stafford and Eu)

Thomas was a younger son of William Bourchier, Earl of Eu (d. 1420), and through his mother, Anne, a daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, was a descendant of King Edward III of England. One of his brothers was Henry, Earl of Essex (d. 1483), and his grand-nephew was John, Lord Berners, the translator of Froissart. Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham was a half-brother.

Educated at the University of Oxford, he then entering the church and obtained rapid promotion. After holding some minor appointments he became Bishop of Worcester in 1434. In the same year he was chancellor of the University of Oxford, and in 1443 he was appointed Bishop of Ely; then in Apr 1454 he was made Archbishop of Canterbury, becoming Lord Chancellor of England in the following Mar.

Bourchier's short term of office as chancellor coincided with the start of the Wars of the Roses, and at first he was not a strong partisan, although he lost his position as chancellor when Richard, Duke of York, was deprived of power in Oct 1456. Afterwards, in 1458, he helped to reconcile the contending parties, but when the war was renewed in 1459 he appears as a decided Yorkist; he crowned Edward IV in Jun 1461, and four years later he performed a similar service for the queen, Elizabeth Woodville.

In 1457 Bourchier took the chief part in the trial of Reginald Peacock, Bishop of Chichester, for heresy; in 1467 he was created a Cardinal; and in 1475 he was one of the four arbitrators appointed to arrange the details of the treaty of Picquigny between England and France. After the death of Edward IV in 1483 Bourchier persuaded the Queen to allow her younger son, Richard, Duke of York, to share his brother's residence in the Tower of London; and although he had sworn to be faithful to Edward V before his father's death, he crowned Richard III in Jul 1483. He was, however, in no way implicated in the murder of the young princes, and he was probably a participant in the conspiracies against Richard.

The third English King crowned by Bourchier was Henry VII, whom he also married to Elizabeth of York in Jan 1486.

The Archbishop died on 30 Mar 1486 at his residence, Knole House, near Sevenoaks, and was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.


The Encyclopedia Britannica. (1911)

WF Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury (1860-1884).

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