STRATFORD, JOHN DE (d. 1348), archbishop of Canterbury, was born at Stratford-on-Avon and educated at Merton College, Oxford, afterwards entering the service of Edward II. He served as archdeacon of Lincoln, canon of York and dean of the court of arches before 1323, when he became bishop of Winchester, an appointment which was made during his visit to Pope John XXII. at Avignon and which was very much disliked by Edward II. In 1327 the bishop joined Queen Isabella’s partisans; he drew up the six articles against Edward II., and was one of those who visited the captive king at Kenilworth to urge him to abdicate in favour of his son. Under Edward III. he became a member of the royal council, but his high political importance dates from the autumn of 1330, the time when Roger Mortimer lost his power. In November of this year Stratford became chancellor, and for the next ten years he was actively engaged in public business, being the king’s most prominent adviser and being politically, says Stubbs, the “head of the Lancastrian or constitutional party.” In 1333 he was appointed archbishop of Canterbury and he resigned the chancellorship in the following year; however, he held this office again from 1335 to 1337 and for about two months in 1340. In November 1340 Edward III., humiliated, impecunious and angry, returned suddenly to England from Flanders and vented his wrath upon the archbishop’s brother, the chancellor, Robert de Stratford. Fearing arrest John de Stratford fled to Canterbury, and entered upon a violent war of words with the king, and by his firm conduct led to the establishment of the principle that peers were only to be tried in full parliament before their own order (en pleyn parlement et devant les piers). But good relations were soon restored between the two, and the archbishop acted as president of the council during Edward’s absence from England in 1345 and 1346, although he never regained his former position of influence. His concluding years were mainly spent in the discharge of his spiritual duties, and he died at Mayfield in Sussex on the 23rd of August 1348.
John’s brother, Robert de Stratford, was also one of Edward III.’s principal ministers. He served for a time as deputy to his brother, and in 1337 became chancellor and bishop of Chichester; he lost the former office in 1340 and died on the 9th of April 1362.
Ralph de Stratford, bishop of London from 1340 until his death at Stepney on the 7th of April 1354, was a member of the same family. All three prelates were benefactors to Stratford-on-Avon.