LIVES OF THE BISHOPS OF EXETER
THOMAS DE BRANTYNGHAM. - This canon of Exeter Cathedral was unanimously selected as a fit successor to Bishop Grandisson. From an early period of life he had been brought up in the court of King Edward III. and his royal consort Queen Philippa. From the issue roll of the year 1370 it appears that he had been keeper of the wardrobe ; but at the time of his election to the see of Exeter was filling the office of Lord High Treasurer of England, with a salary of 300l. a year, and an outfit of 100l. In his subsequent appropriation to his Dean and Chapter of the rectory of Morthoe, which he bad purchased previous to his promotion to the episcopal dignity, he feelingly professes his many obligations to his royal master and mistress, and his anxiety to perpetuate his grateful attachment to the memory of such patrons and benefactors. On the notification to Pope Urban V. of his election, His Holiness waived all claim to provision. The bulls, dated Rome, 4th March, 1370, may be seen in the beginning of the second volume of the bishop's register; and on Sunday the 12th May following the primate Simon Sudbury performed the ceremony of the consecration at Stepney, assisted by Geoffry Archbishop of Damascus, and John Bishop of Bayonne. Four days later our bishop was put in possession of the temporalities; but public business detained him at court for upwards of a year, nor was he able to visit his cathedral until the Monday after St. James's (July), 1371. At the accession of the new sovereign Richard II., six years later, his presence was demanded at court. He was required to reassume the functions of Lord Treasurer. He improved this opportunity by getting the youthful monarch to confirm all the previous grants made by his royal progenitors to the church of Exeter. At a later period he was appointed one of the fourteen commissioners to govern the kingdom. The truth is, he commanded the public confidence by his character for discretion, moral integrity, and honourable conduct. Warned at last by the infirmities of declining age, he solicited and obtained permission to devote the remainder of his days to the immediate duties of his diocese. The king on 26th August., 1390, released him from future attendance in parliament and privy council, in consideration of his past services to himself and to his royal grandfather King Edward III.
The two volumes of his register abundantly testify to his talents for business and the interest he took in the concerns of his diocese. To his cathedral he added the ornamented western façade, and in great measure substituted a new for the old cloister. For the convenience of the priest-vicars he provided a common hall and kitchen, with suitable chambers and offices ('Reg.' vol. i. fol. 184). The 'Chronicon' of his church fixes his death - which took place at Bishop's Clist, where he had long been sojourning - on 3rd December, 1394; but this is manifestly incorrect, for his will was made on the 13th of that month and year, and proved on 30th December. He was buried, says Hoker ('MS. Hist.' 85), "in the nave of his church, near the north porch opposite the Courtenay monument." Westcote adds, "his interment was under a chapel builded by himself in the body of the church. The chapel was lately demolished, but the stone, sometime inlaid with brass, only remains to testify it; for his epitaph is worn, or rent away with the brass." We were present at the opening of the tomb on 3rd December, 1832, and all the witnesses agreed that the hand of sacrilegious spoliation had done its worst.
Our readers are aware that attached to the palace of Exeter was a prison for the confinement of convicted clerks. In the absence of Bishop Brantyngham, six of such felons, viz. Nicholas Hopworthy, John Hennely, alias Columpton, Stephen Telyng de Drogdaa, Simon Whyte de Dordraght, Thomas Westowe de Hareford, and John Russell de Penard in Wales, who had been delivered over to the bishop's commissary according to the law of England, broke prison on the night of Tuesday after the feast of Assumption of Our Lady, 1389: after murdering Simon Prescote, the chaplain and keeper of the said palace, and Thomas the jailor, grievously wounding, and leaving even for dead, Thomas Chamber, keeper of the wardrobe, and, after plundering their chambers, effected their escape. The king, with the advice of his council, and especially of William Wickham of Winchester his treasurer, and Henry Percy, his cousin, Earl of Northumberland, issued a pardon to the bishop for the escape of such desperate felons. It bears date at Westminster 3rd September, 1389. Four years later seven convicted felons and clerks (including that John Russell de Penard, who in the interval must have been recaptured), viz. John Brown, John Yunderbrok, Warin Penghelly, William Elys, Robert Kesyl, and Henry Riche, having been delivered over by the king's justices to the bishop's commissary for safe custody, made their escape from the same prison on the Saturday night before 23rd November, 1393, but no case of violence is charged against them. The king once more issued a special pardon to our aged prelate on 11th December following, thus clearing the bishop of all legal actions on the part of the crown, by reason of such escapes.
In the second volume of his Register (fol. 37, ad calcem) is a dateless petition to the Holy See. It sets forth that the temporalities of this extensive bishopric are detained in the king's hand at every vacancy, and frequently also at the suggestion of evil-minded counsellors are seized and grievously wasted, in which cases the bishop has no other resource to depend upon than Teignton Episcopi, which is of the value of thirty marks, more or less; and prays therefore that, by the Papal authority, the parish churches of Bridestowe, of the value of thirty marks, and of Poweton alias Nanzant (now called St. Breocks), of the value of forty marks, at the death or cession of the actual incumbents, may be assigned and appropriated for ever to the maintenance of the bishop's table. What was the result of such application does not appear.
Arms: - Sable, a fess crenelle, between three Catharine wheels, or.
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