Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Flete, John

FLETE, JOHN (fl. 1421–1465), a Benedictine monk, prior of Westminster Abbey in the reign of Henry VI, and the author of a Latin chronicle of the early history of that foundation, entered the monastery of St. Peter's, Westminster, about 1421, ascending step by step the different posts available to the brethren, till in 1448 he was unanimously elected prior. During the suspension of Abbot Norwych, who succeeded Kirton as abbot in 1462, Flete, assisted by two monks, administered the spiritual and temporal affairs of the monastery, and had he lived would probably have been made abbot on the death of Norwych (1469). But in 1465 he resigned the post of prior and seems to have died soon afterwards. He was a pious and learned man, ‘addicted to reading of history, and zealous for the gaining of souls’ (Stevens). His homilies, which are mentioned as ‘notable’ by several writers, are no longer extant, and the only remaining record of him is his manuscript history of the abbey. He began to write it in 1443, and intended to carry it on to that year, but it ends with Abbot Littington's death in 1386, and in all probability Flete's duties as prior and acting-abbot prevented his carrying out his original plan. The first chapters of the ‘Chronicle’ are devoted to the legends of the foundation and dedication of the abbey; these are followed by an account of the benefactors and the relics, and it concludes with the lives of the abbots up till 1386. The book has been much used by later historians of the abbey, but is inexact in many particulars. The original manuscript is in the Chapter Library, Westminster, and there is a later and abridged manuscript copy in Lambeth Library.

[Widmore's Hist. of St. Peter's, Westminster; Tanner's Bibliotheca; Pits, De Illustr. Brit. Script.]

E. T. B.