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William Melton (died 5 April 1340) was the 43rd Archbishop of York (1317–1340).

Life

He was the son of Henry of Melton, and the brother of Henry de Melton. He was born in Meltonmarker in the parish of Weltonmarker, about nine miles from Kingston upon Hullmarker. He was a contemporary of John Hotham, Chancellor of England and Bishop of Ely. The two prelates were often associated in public matters and were the most powerful churchmen of their period in England.

Melton was Comptroller of the Wardrobe at the accession of King Edward II and was a pluralist through and through at the time of his elevation to the See of York. Among other things, he was also Archdeacon of Barnstaple and Provost of Beverley. He was Lord Privy Seal from 1307 to about 1312, having been Dean of St. Martin's-le-Grand at that time also. He was elected by the Chapter of York within a month of Archbishop Greenfield's death, in December 1315, but difficulties arose and he was not consecrated until September 1317, at Avignonmarker by Pope John XXII.

Throughout his Archiepiscopate, he was actively concerned in the affairs of Scotland. Between 1318 and 1322, the Scots, under James Douglas, Lord of Douglas, made forays into Yorkshiremarker, devastating great parts of the country, destroying churches and sacking the richest monasteries. During the raid of 1319, the King was at the Siege of Berwick and much of the trained soldiery was there with him. Archbishop Melton was ordered to collect what men he could and to lead them against the Scots. Clergy, friars and citizens of York were accordingly gathered and the result was the Battle of Mytonmarker (12 October 1319) on the Swale, in which the English were entirely routed. Queen Isabella, who was in Yorkmarker at the time, managed to escape to safety at Nottinghammarker.

Connected with the Scottish foray of 1322 was the battle of Boroughbridgemarker, in which the Earl of Lancaster was taken prisoner. He was led from Boroughbridgemarker to his own castle of Pontefractmarker and there beheaded. Archbishop Melton had aided Lancaster at one point, and seems, in consequence, to have fallen into some disfavour with Edward II. By 1325 however, the King's good opinion had been recovered, since Melton then became Lord Treasurer of England until 1326.

Melton did not desert King Edward in his latter days, regarding his imprisonment with great displeasure. Nor was he present at the coronation of Edward III, and is said afterwards to have been engaged in a dangerous intrigue to upset the new government, for which he was arrested, though acquitted. In January 1328, Melton married the young King to Philippa of Hainault. In 1330 he was reappointed Treasurer, but left the office in 1331.

Archbishop Melton completed the building of the nave of York Minstermarker and his figure still remains above the great western portal. He is said to have assisted largely in building St. Patrick's Church, Patringtonmarker, in Holderness, and certainly gave much toward the fabric of Beverley Minstermarker. He died 5 April 1340 at Cawood Palace, and was buried in the north aisle of the nave at York Minster. He died very wealthy, having seize of [holding] many manors and estates. His heir was his nephew, William Melton Junior of Astonmarker, near Sheffieldmarker, who was the progenitor of one of the most powerful knightly families in the south of Yorkshiremarker.

He kept a detailed log of his activities while he was Archbishop of York, published as The Register of William Melton in five volumes.

The Guardian newspaper, mentioned Archbishop Melton in an article they ran discussing the possibility of charging for admittance to York Minster, saying
"The minister no longer owns sumptuous legacies such as the estates in Hampshire and Devon bought by the 14th century Archbishop William Melton, who was such a successful businessman that he organised loans for his Italian bankers."


Notes

  1. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 93
  2. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 282
  3. Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 104
  4. The Guardian Story


References



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