Denton, James (DNB00)

DENTON, JAMES (d. 1533), dean of Lichfield, was educated at Eton, whence in 1485 or 1486 he proceeded as a king's scholar to King's College, Cambridge (Pote, Alumni Etonenses, p. 6), where he proceeded B.A. in 1489, and M.A. in 1492, becoming in due course a fellow of that college. He subsequently studied canon law at Valencia, in which faculty he became a doctor of the university there. In 1505 he obtained a license to stand in the same degree at Cambridge as at Valencia. He became a royal chaplain, and was rewarded with various preferments, including a canonry at Windsor (1509), and prebends at Lichfield (1509) and Lincoln (1514). He was also rector of several parishes, including St. Olave's, Southwark. In 1514 he went to France as almoner with Mary, the sister of Henry VIII, on her marriage with Louis XII, and attended her in France until her husband's death and her own return to England. He afterwards acted as her chancellor, and in 1525 visited France on some mission about her dowry. She showed great anxiety to promote him, and informed Wolsey that he had done her much service. In 1520 he was one of the royal chaplains, ‘clothed in damask and satin,’ at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. In 1522 his contribution of 200l. to the clerical subsidy-loan to the king attested both his loyalty and wealth. In 1524 he was sent along with Sir Anthony Fitzherbert and Sir Ralph Egerton as royal commissioners to Ireland. Their chief business was to heal the discord between the Earls of Kildare and Ormonde, and they succeeded in procuring a formal pacification between them (printed in ‘State Papers of Henry VIII,’ ii. 105), but on the return of the commissioners to England, which shortly followed, the old feud burst out again. Denton's next public employment was as chancellor to the council of the Princess Mary, which, on the analogy of the previous councils of Prince Edward, son of Edward IV, and of Prince Arthur, was established in 1526, immediately with a view to the superintendence of her education, but also with the wider object of governing her ‘principality’ and the marches of Wales, and of repressing the chronic disorders of a disturbed district. It usually sat at Ludlow, where the Princess of Wales most often was, and Denton was one of the few permanent counsellors in residence. He is sometimes erroneously called president of the council of Wales, but this title would be in itself an anachronism, as the personal council of the prince or princess had hardly yet developed into a permanent institution, and Bishop Voysey of Exeter was president of the princess's council during the years Denton was at Ludlow. Denton frequently acted on commissions of the peace for the border counties. He retained this position in the Ludlow council until his death, and was also master of the College of St. John the Evangelist in Ludlow town.

Denton's ecclesiastical preferments were numerous. From 1523 to his death he was archdeacon of Cleveland. After 1522 he was dean of Lichfield. He was a man of great liberality. At Lichfield he ‘environed the fair old cross with eight fair arches of stone,’ and ‘made a round vault over them for poor people to sit dry,’ at an expense of 160l. (Leland, Itinerary, vol. iv. pt. ii. f. 188a). He was also a benefactor of King's College and of St. George's Chapel, Windsor (Cat. Cambr. Univ. Lib. MSS. i. 55–6). At Lichfield he increased the number of choristers and provided for their maintenance. At Windsor he built a house ‘for the lodging and dieting of choristers and priests’ who had no fixed houses within the college. This is still extant as one of the canons' residences. He also built there the ‘large back stairs’ which have been erroneously identified with the more modern ‘hundred steps.’ He was equally liberal to his dependents, and especially in procuring education for their sons. He died at Ludlow on 23 Feb. 1533, and was buried in the parish church of that town. His will, dated 1526, is among the Ashmole MSS. (No. 1123, f. 104), in which collection are also found copious extracts from the register of Windsor College kept by Denton as steward of the chapter (Nos. 1113, 1123–5, and 1131).

[Brewer and Gairdner's Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII; State Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, vol. ii.; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, pt. i. p. 16; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. i. 45, 529; Harwood's History of Lichfield, pp. 181, 283, 453; Leland's Itinerary, vol. iv. pt. ii. fol. 179 a, 188 a; Le Neve's Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ (Hardy), i. 562, 627, ii. 179, iii. 148; Tighe and Davis's Annals of Windsor, i. 477–8; Black's Catalogue of the Ashmolean MSS.]

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