Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bainbridge, Christopher
BAINBRIDGE, CHRISTOPHER (1464?–1514), archbishop of York and cardinal, was born of a good family at Hilton, near Appleby, in Westmoreland. He is said to have been fifty years old at his death (Brown's Venetian Calendar, ii. 450), and must therefore have been born about 1464. He studied at Queen's College, Oxford, of which he became provost before 1495, and a liberal benefactor afterwards. He received from the university the degree of LL.D. His first recorded promotion was to the prebend of South Grantham in Salisbury, which he resigned in February 1485–6 for that of Chardstock in the same cathedral; and in April following he was made prebendary of Horton, also in Salisbury. On 26 Feb. 1495–6 he received the prebend of North Kelsey in Lincoln Cathedral, which he resigned in 1500. In 1497 he was made treasurer of St. Paul's. In 1501 he was named archdeacon of Surrey. In September 1503 he was admitted to the prebend of Strensall in York Cathedral, and on 21 Dec. in the same year he was installed dean of York. In 1505 he was also made dean of Windsor, and resigned the rectory of Aller in the diocese of Bath and Wells. Meanwhile he had been appointed master of the rolls on 13 Nov. 1504, and held the office till his elevation to the bishopric of Durham three years later. He was nominated to that see by the king, and had the temporalities restored to him on 17 Nov. 1507, but he only received his bulls in January following (Gardner's Memorials of Henry VII, 106). So rapidly, however, did he advance in the king's favour that in July, only six months later, he was talked of for the archbishopric of York, which had been vacant even before his promotion to Durham (ibid. 125). And the rumour proved to be correct, the bull for his translation being dated 12 Sept. 1508. In 1509 he was sent by Henry VIII as his ambassador to the pope, and arrived at Rome on 24 Nov. Just at this time Julius II had taken alarm at the invasion of Italy by Louis XII, and the friendship of England was of special importance to him. He departed from Rome to relieve Bologna, and was nearly taken prisoner in the war. A faction among the cardinals in the interest of France ventured to summon a council in opposition to him at Pisa. Julius opposed council to council, and made a new batch of cardinals at Ravenna to counterbalance the schismatics. They were created on 10 March 1511, and Bainbridge was one of them. The title given him was Cardinal St. Pruxedis. But the first duties he was expected to perform for the warlike pontiff were those of a general, for he was despatched with troops to besiege Ferrara. The pope appointed him legate, but gave him command of the army as well. In October of the same year the pope concluded the Holy League against France, and Henry VIII intimated his adhesion to it through Bainbridge, who continued a steadfast enemy to France to his dying day. At his request even Leo X, who succeeded Julius in the papacy, seems to have been willing to invest Henry VIII with the title of Most Christian king, which Louis had forfeited by raising war against the pope. But the peace made between France and England in 1514 must have prevented Henry's formal acceptance of the title. Bainbridge died on 14 July in that year, just before these negotiations had come to maturity. He had been poisoned by a chaplain in his own service named Rinaldo de Modena. The man was taken and thrown into the castle of St. Angelo, where he not only confessed his crime, but stated that he had done it at the instigation of Silvester de Giglis, bishop of Worcester, the resident English ambassador at the court of Rome, who regarded Bainbridge as his rival. De Giglis, however, who was very influential at Rome, found means to get him to retract his confession; after which he stabbed himself and died in prison. Richard Pace and John Clerk, the cardinal's executors, were eager to prosecute De Giglis, but he maintained that the priest was a madman whom he had dismissed from his own service some years before in England, and his defence was accepted as sufficient.
Bainbridge was buried at the English hospital at Rome, since called the English College. He is said to have been a man of violent temper. His own secretary, Pace, acknowledged that there were faults in his character — indeed, that he had some positive vices; but declared that he was strong in his fidelity to the king, and most outspoken in defence of Henry's interests at Rome when no one else durst utter a word. His epitaph is quoted in Ciaconius and in the 'Biographia Britannica.' He has been confounded by some biographers with Christopher Urswick, almoner to Henry VII, who, bearing the same christian name, was his predecessor in several of his numerous church preferments before he became a bishop.