Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Benet, William

BENET, WILLIAM (d. 1533), ambassador, may possibly be the same William Bennet who took the degree of B.A. at Oxford on 31 Jan. 1512-3. But the William Bennet who was admitted B.C.L. on 18 Feb. 1527-8 must not be confounded with the subject of this notice, as Wood has done (Fasti i. 76). Benet the ambassador bore the superior title of LL.D., and was canon of Leighlin as early as 1522. At this time he was practising in Cardinal Wolsey's legatine court, and during the next few years he occasionally acted as the legate's commissary, and was also employed in visiting cathedral chapters and monasteries to procure the election of candidates favoured by his master. Having in these missions shown an aptitude for diplomacy, Henry VIII ordered him, in November 1528, to proceed as ambassador to Rome, in conjunction with Dr. Knight, Sir Francis Bryan, Sir Gregory da Casale, and Peter Vannes. The new embassy was to urge the pope (Clement VII), in the first instance, to declare that the brief of his predecessor Julius II, in favour of the king's marriage with Katharine of Arragon, was a forgery, then to revoke the cause to Rome, and finally to promise a sentence in the king's favour. A report of the pope's death, and other occurrences, caused these arrangements to be altered, and Stephen Gardiner, who had been recalled from Rome and met the new ambassadors at Lyons, returned to his post, and Knight and Benet came back to England. In the following year (Gardiner was actually recalled, and Benet was sent to supply his place as resident ambassador at Rome (20 May 1529). His instructions now were to dissuade the pope from revoking the cause, as it was uncertain what his decision might be. He was also commissioned to treat for a peace between Francis I and Charles V, and for liberation of the French king's sons, who were detained as hostages for their father in Spain. He arrived in Rome on 16 June, and in the autumn he was sent to meet the emperor Charles V at Bologna, being commissioned, in conjunction with the Earl of Wiltshire and others, to persuade the emperor to consent to the king's divorce from Katharine, and to treat for a general peace between the potentates of Europe. He returned to Rome in May 1530, and was busily engaged for the next year and a half in promoting the king's cause there. In November 1531 he was recalled, but was sent back to Home after a brief visit to England, arriving there on 3 Feb. 1532, with instructions to hinder the pope from giving sentence till the emperor was back in Spain. He was present at the interview between the pope and the emperor at Bologna at the end of 1532, returning to Rome about April 1533. Meanwhile the act prohibiting appeals to Rome had been pushed through parliament, and in May of the same year Cranmer's sentence dissolving the king's marriage had been pronounced at Dunstable. The pope answered that critical step by a sentence of excommunication, delivered on 11 July. Benet's further stay at Rome was useless, and he was recalled. He travelled homewards in company with Edmund Bonner, afterwards bishop of London, and Sir Edward Carne, but never reached England, dying at Susa in Piedmont on 26 Sept. 1533. His companions had some difficulty in rescuing his plate and other property, which were claimed by the Duke of Savoy. His will was proved on 11 May 1534. Of his family nothing is known, except that he had an uncle, John Benet, a citizen and merchant taylor of London, and that Thomas Benet, chancellor of Salisbury, was probably his brother.

The ecclesiastical benefices and dignities held by him were as follows: canon of Salisbury, 6 April 1526; prebendary of Ealdland, London, 26 Nov. 1526; advowson of the next prebend in St. Stephen's, 28 Feb. 1528; next presentation of Highhungar, London diocese, 12 Dec. 1528; archdeacon of Dorset, 20 Dec. 1530; advowson of Barnack church, Northamptonshire, which he intended to bestow on his brother, 21 April 1533; a prebend in Southwell; and the churches of Marnehull, Dorsetshire; Aston, Hertfordshire; and Sutton, Surrey. In addition to the above there is some ground for believing that he was granted a reversion to the deanery of Salisbury. His name does not appear in the lists of the deans of that cathedral, but there is a letter from him to Henry VIII, thanking the king for 'remembering him with the deanery of Sarum.' Many letters written during his residence abroad are preserved in the Public Record Office and the British Museum.

[Cal. of State Papers (Henry VIII), vols, iv. v. vi.; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 146; Wood's Fasti Oxon. i. 34, 76; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Anglicanæ.]

C. T. M.