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

NOTTINGHAM, WILLIAM of (d. 1251), Franciscan, entered the Minorite order in his youth. His parents seem to have been in a good position, but even as a boy he played at begging for the love of God with his comrades. His brother, Augustine, also became a Franciscan, entered the service of Pope Innocent IV, and was made bishop of Laodicea. William seems to have attended Grosseteste's lectures at Oxford. He acted as vicar of Haymo, the English provincial, in 1239, and was himself elected fourth provincial minister in 1240. He was an earnest student of the scriptures, and developed the educational organisation of the order in England during his ministry by sending lecturers from the universities to all the larger convents. In 1244 he went to the Roman court, and obtained a papal letter to restrain the proselytising activity of the Dominicans. He probably attended the general chapter at Genoa at the same time, and experienced the hard fare of the Franciscans in Rome. In 1240 the general, John of Parma, held a chapter at Oxford, and put to the vote the question of absolving (or deposing) William of Nottingham; the friars voted unanimously that he should be confirmed. He was absolved in the general chapter at Metz, 1251. It was probably here that he carried a decree, ‘almost against the whole chapter,’ in favour of rejecting Innocent IV's ‘Expositio Regulæ’ for the earlier and more stringent ‘Expositio’ of Gregory IX. He was then sent to the pope on behalf of the order, but at Genoa his socius was smitten with the plague. William remained by him to tend him, caught the infection, and died (about July 1251). Meanwhile the English friars, indignant at his deposition, had unanimously re-elected him.

William appears in the chronicle of his friend, Thomas of Eccleston [see Eccleston, Thomas of], as a man of sound sense, considerable humour, and force of character, hating crooked courses, a faithful friend to those in trouble, ‘thinking nothing of incurring the anger of the powerful for the sake of justice.’ He is not to be confused with his namesake, the seventeenth provincial of the English Franciscans, who flourished in 1320. He wrote a commentary on the gospels, which is mentioned by Eccleston, and was well known in the middle ages. It follows the ‘Unum ex Quatuor’ or ‘Concordia Evangelistarum’ of Clement of Llanthony in its arrangement and divisions. The commentary (inc. prol. ‘Da mihi intellectum’) is preserved in Royal MS. 4 E II; Laud. Miscell. 165; Merton College, 156 and 157, and elsewhere.

[Monumenta Franciscana, vol. i.; The Grey Friars in Oxford (Oxf. Hist. Soc.); Engl. Hist. Rev. vi. 743 seq.]

A. G. L.