Edmund Audley, Bishop of Rochester

AUDLEY, EDMUND (d. 1524), bishop of Rochester, was the son of James, Lord Audley, by Eleanor his wife. He was educated at Lincoln College, Oxford, and took the degree of B.A. in 1463. It is presumed, though no record is found of the fact, that he afterwards took the degree of M.A. also. In 1464 he was collated to the prebend of Colwall in Hereford Cathedral, and three years later to that of Iwern in Salisbury. In 1472 he was made a canon of Windsor. In the same year he received the prebend of Farrendon in Lincoln Cathedral, in 1474 that of Gaia Minor in Hereford, and in 1475 that of Codeworth in Wells. On Christmas day in the same year he was made archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire, and in 1479 archdeacon of Essex. These substantial preferments he does not seem to have found at all incompatible with each other ; and though we find that he resigned the rectory of Bursted Parva in Essex on 9 April 1471, he had no difficulty in accepting another prebend, that of Gevendale in York, on 18 Oct. 1478. In 1480 he was made bishop of Rochester, when he resigned his two archdeaconries and most of his other preferments. In 1492 he was translated to Hereford, and in 1502 to Salisbury. About the time of this last preferment he was also made chancellor of the order of the Garter — an office which in the sixteenth century Dr. Seth Ward endeavoured to unite, or, as he put it, to restore, to the see of Salisbury, for which he maintained it was intended when given to Bishop Audley.

This catalogue of his honours and church preferments really comprises almost all we know about the man; and it may be remarked that whereas his two last bishoprics are supposed to have been given him for the fidelity of his family to the house of Lancaster, all his previous benefices, including the bishopric of Rochester, were bestowed upon him during the reign of Edward IV. It will be asked, what then was his claim to distinction? The answer is that although not an author he was a patron of letters, and was complimented as such by the university of Oxford for having bestowed a prebend in Salisbury on Dr. Edward Powell (afterwards a martyr at Smithfield for denying Henry VIII’s supremacy) who had written a book against Luther. He was a benefactor to Lincoln College, Oxford, to which he gave, in 1518, 400l. to purchase lands. He also bestowed upon it the patronage of a chantry in Salisbury Cathedral. He seems, moreover, to have been a contributor to the erection of a stone pulpit in St. Mary’s Church at Oxford, at the bottom of which, according to Wood, his arms were seen carved along with those of Cardinal Morton and FitzJames, bishop of London. But of this pulpit even Anthony à Wood, writing in the seventeenth century, speaks in the past tense, and what became of it we are not informed, Godwin says that Bishop Audley also gave the organs to St. Mary’s Church; but this is doubted by Anthony à Wood. In 1509 he gave a donation of 200 marks to Chichele’s chest at Oxford, which had been robbed. It further appears that he was a legatee and executor of King Henry VII, and one of the trustees for the foundation of the Savoy Hospital (Calendar of Henry VIII, i. 776, 3292); that in 1516 he obtained from Henry VIII a license to found and endow two chantries, one in his own cathedral and one in Hereford (ib. ii. 2660) ; and that in 1521 he suppressed the nunnery of Bromehall in his diocese on account of the misconduct of its inmates, for which he received a letter of thanks from the king (ib. iii. 1863). He died at Ramsbury in Wilts on 23 Aug. 1524, and was buried in a chapel erected by himself in his own cathedral of Salisbury in honour of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

[Wood’s Athenæ, ed. Bliss, i. 662, ii. 722, 725 ; Wood’s Antiq. of Univ. Oxf. i. 667; Wood’s Antiq. of Colleges, 239, 248 ; Hardy’s Le Neve; Godwin de Præsulibus ; Biographia Britannica.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 02
Audley, Edmund by James Gairdner

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