Caleto, John de (DNB00)

CALETO or CAUX, JOHN de (d. 1263), treasurer of England, was probably a native of the Pays de Caux. By Matthew Paris he is called John of Caen (Johannes de Cadamo), and other writers give his cognomen in the various forms De Calceto, De Cauz, De Cauaz, De Caus, and De Chauce. The Peterborough chronicler, Walter of Whittlesea, who wrote in the fourteenth century, states that he was born in Normandy, of a noble family, being related to Eleanor of Provence, the queen of Henry III, and entered the monastic life when a child seven years of age. Coming over to England at an early age, he became a monk of the monastery of St. Swithhun, Winchester, of which he was chosen prior in 1247. In 1249 William Hotot, abbot of Peterborough, had been accused by his monks to the bishop of Lincoln (Robert Grosseteste) of enriching his relatives at the expense of the church. The bishop threatened William with deposition, but he anticipated the sentence by a professedly voluntary resignation. It was reported to Henry III that the real motive of the hostility of the monks to William was that he was favourable to the royal cause. The king was very angry, and ordered the monks to elect John de Caleto as Hotot's successor. This they did, although Matthew Paris intimates that the new abbot was unwelcome to them both on the ground of being a Norman and on that of belonging to another religious house. The royal assent to the election of John de Caleto was signified 15 Jan. 1250 (Dugdale, Monasticon, Ellis, i. 356, where ‘Lansd. MS. 1086, fol. 212 b,’ is quoted as the authority; the reference, however, is wrong). His administration of the abbey was zealous and wise, and he seems soon to have succeeded in overcoming his unpopularity with the monks. One of his acts was to invite his predecessor to take up his residence at Oxney, close to Peterborough, and to assign to him during his life the portion of four monks from the cellar and kitchen of the monastery, deducting it from the allowance which he was entitled to claim for his own table. It was the custom of Henry III to appoint the heads of Benedictine houses—greatly, as Matthew Paris complains, to the detriment of the wealth of the order—to act as itinerant justices. The abbot of Peterborough was nominated to that office in 1254, and from that year to 1258 his name occurs several times at the head of the list of justices at Buckingham, Derby, Lincoln, and Bedford. In 1260, according to most of the authorities (although the chronicle of Thomas Wykes places this event in 1258), he was appointed the king's treasurer, retaining, however, his office as abbot of Peterborough. His secular employments rendered it necessary for him to be frequently absent from the monastery, but Walter of Whittlesea states that he exercised strict control over its management, so that the interests of the house did not suffer. He built the infirmary of the abbey, and presented a great bell to the church, bearing the inscription ‘Ion de Caux Abbas Oswaldo contulit hoc vas.’ Among many other benefactions to the abbey he gave five books, the titles of which are enumerated by Gunton ‘from an old manuscript.’ Bishop Patrick endeavours to prove that John de Caleto was the author of the earlier portion of the ‘Chronicon Angliæ’ (Cotton MS. Claud. A. v.) printed in Sparke's ‘Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores varii.’ The manuscript has on its first page a note ascribing its authorship to John, abbot of Peterborough; the handwriting of this entry is, however, only of the seventeenth century, and there is nothing to show from what source the statement was derived. The chronicle cannot in its present form have been written by John de Caleto, as it quotes Martinus Polonus, whose work was not published until after John's death. He died on 3 March 1262–3; according to Walter of Whittlesea at his own house in London, but the Dunstaple annals say that his death occurred at ‘Lande,’ which, if the reading be correct, probably means Laund in Leicestershire. His body was brought to Peterborough, and buried before the altar of St. Andrew. He was succeeded in the office of treasurer of England by Nicholas, archdeacon of Ely.

[Matt. Paris, Chronica Majora, ed. Luard, v. 84, 85, 466; Walter de Whytleseie in Sparke, Hist. Ang. Script. p. 132; Annales Monastici (Luard), i. 140, ii. 91, 98, 100, iii. 192, 206, 220, iv. 98, 120; Excerpta e Rot. Fin. ii. 276, 285, 286; Gunton's Hist. of the Church at Peterborough, 34, 309, and the Preface by Bishop Patrick; Dugdale's Monasticon (Ellis), i. 356; Foss's Judges of England, ii. 285.]

H. B.