Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thoresby, John
THORESBY, JOHN (d. 1373), archbishop of York and chancellor, was son of Hugh de Thoresby of Thoresby in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, by Isabel, daughter of Sir Thomas Grove of Suffolk. He seems to have been educated at Oxford, and as early as 15 Oct. 1320, when an acolyte, was presented to the living of Bramwith, Yorkshire, by Thomas, earl of Lancaster. Afterwards he entered the service of Archbishop William de Melton [q. v.], who made him receiver of his chamber and his domestic chaplain. In 1327 he went to the papal court in Melton's service, and on 5 May, though he already held the living of Honington, Warwickshire, and a subdiaconal prebend in the chapel of St. Mary and the Angels, York, he was provided to a canonry at Southwell, with a reservation of the next prebend (Bliss, Cal. Pap. Reg., Letters, ii. 257), and as a consequence obtained the prebend of Norwell Overhall (ib. ii. 528; Le Neve, iii. 437). Thoresby's connection with Melton naturally brought him into the royal service, and on 7 March 1330 he was sent to the papal court in connection with the proposed canonisation of Thomas of Lancaster (Fœdera, ii. 782; Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edward III, i. 493). On 2 Nov. 1333 he was appointed by the king to be master of the hospital of St. Edmund, Gateshead, and at the same time is mentioned as constantly attendant on the king's business (ib. ii. 471, 473). In 1336, as a notary in chancery and one of the king's clerks, he had a grant of forty marks a year (ib. iii. 329). He also obtained a variety of ecclesiastical preferments. In March 1339 he occurs as archdeacon of London, and in January 1340 as rector of Elwick, Durham. On 22 March 1340 he received the prebend of South Muskham, Southwell, and also held the prebends of Warthill, York, in 1343, and Thorngate, Lincoln, in July 1345. On 5 Aug. 1346 the king obtained for him from the pope the deanery of Lichfield. Thoresby also held at different times the livings of Sibbesdon and Oundle, Northamptonshire, and of Llanbadarn Fawr, Cardiganshire (Le Neve, Fasti, ii. 320, 220, iii. 431; Bliss, Cal. Pap. Reg. Petitions, i. 115, 123).
In March 1340 Thoresby was sent to obtain a dispensation from the pope for the marriage of Hugh le Despencer and a daughter of William de Montacute, first earl of Salisbury [q. v.], and in November of the same year was employed with John de Offord [q. v.] on a mission to the pope concerning the negotiations for peace (Bliss, Cal. Pap. Reg. Letters, ii. 583–5). On 21 Feb. 1341 he was made master of the rolls, and in 1343 had temporary charge of the great seal after the death of Sir Robert Parning [q. v.] At the close of 1344 he went on another mission to the pope concerning the proposals for peace (Murimuth, p. 159). In 1345 he was made keeper of the privy seal, and on 22 Oct. 1346 was one of the commissioners appointed to treat with France at the instance of the pope (Fœdera, iii. 89, 92). In 1347 he was made bishop of St. David's, receiving the temporalities on 14 July, and being consecrated by John Stratford, archbishop of Canterbury [q. v.], at Otford on 23 Sept. During this year he had been in attendance on the king at the siege of Calais. On 16 June 1349 Edward made him chancellor, and on 4 Sept. following the pope translated him to the bishopric of Worcester. He received the temporalities on 10 Jan. and the spiritualities on 11 Jan. 1350 (Le Neve, iii. 57–8). He was not enthroned till 12 Sept. 1351, and less than a year later he was postulated by the chapter of York to the vacant archbishopric. Clement VI provided him to his new see on 22 Oct. 1352, and the king restored the temporalities on 8 Feb. 1353. His duties as chancellor had given Thoresby little leisure to attend to his bishoprics, and on 20 Jan. 1353, on this plea, he made William de la Mare his vicar-general. He was not enthroned at York till the third year of his archiepiscopate on 8 Sept. 1354 (Hist. Church of York, ii. 420). In July 1355 he was one of the guardians of the kingdom during Edward's absence in France. On 27 Nov. 1356 he obtained leave to retire from the chancellorship (Fœdera, iii. 344), and henceforth devoted himself almost entirely to the care of his see, though in 1357 he was one of the commissioners to treat with the Scots for the ransom of David Bruce (ib. iii. 365–8).
As archbishop one of Thoresby's first acts had been to settle the old dispute between Canterbury and York as to the right to bear the cross. An arrangement was made at Westminster on 20 April 1353, under which each primate was to be allowed to bear his cross erect in the other's province. The agreement was confirmed on 22 Feb. 1354 by the pope, who at the same time directed that York should be styled primate of England, and Canterbury primate of All England (Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 43, 75, 77). Thomas Stubbs (Hist. Church of York, ii. 420) describes Thoresby as a great peacemaker and settler of quarrels. He was diligent in the discharge of his duties, and strict and regular in his devotions. He made the completion of York Minster his special care, and had his manor-house at Sherburn pulled down to provide stone for the purpose. On 30 July 1360 he laid the foundation of the new choir, and gave a donation of a hundred marks towards the expense, in addition to which he subscribed 200l. annually for the rest of his life (ib.; York Fabric Rolls, Surtees Soc.; Fasti Ebor. pp. 483–4). He also built the lady-chapel at the east end, to which place he transferred the remains of six of his predecessors, and made provision for a chantry priest.
Thoresby fell ill in the autumn of 1373. He made his will in his bedchamber at Bishopthorpe on 12 Sept., and, after adding a codicil on 31 Oct., died there on 6 Nov. He was buried in the lady-chapel of York Minster on 10 Nov. His tomb has now disappeared, though one in the nave has been inaccurately assigned to him (ib. p. 492). Bale, who has been followed by other writers, wrongly alleged that Thoresby was made a cardinal by the title of St. Sabina by Urban V; the assertion seems to be due to a confusion with John Anglicus Grimaldi, who was dean of York in Thoresby's time.
By Thoresby's direction a commentary in English on the Creed, Lord's prayer, and ten commandments was drawn up in 1357 by John de Traystek or Garrick, a monk of St. Mary's, York, for the use of the clergy. This commentary has been printed in Halliwell's ‘Yorkshire Anthology,’ pp. 287–314, and in Thoresby's ‘Vicaria Leodiensis,’ pp. 213–35. Foxe refers to it in his ‘Book of Martyrs,’ and says that in his time there were yet many copies of it. Some of Thoresby's ‘Constitutions’ are printed in Wilkins's ‘Concilia,’ iii. 66, 666–79. A large number of his Latin letters are contained in the second part of Archbishop Alexander Neville's ‘Register’ and in Cotton MS. Galba E. x. Eight of them are printed in Dixon and Raine's ‘Fasti Eboracenses,’ pp. 477–80. Thoresby is also credited with having taken part in the controversy with the mendicant friars, and is said to have been the author of ‘Processus contra Fratres Mendicantes, qui prædicaverant mortuaria non esse sacerdotibus aut ædituis tribuenda.’ But it may be questioned whether in this he has not been confused with his nephew, John de Thoresby, who was a D.C.L. of Oxford, and had lectured in the university on the civil and canon law previously to 1364 (Bliss, Cal. Pap. Reg. Petitions, i. 245, 482), and who would therefore have been at Oxford during the height of the controversy between Richard FitzRalph [q. v.] and the friars. The younger John de Thoresby was an executor of his uncle's will (Hist. Church of York, iii. 281–3). Two mitres which had been presented by Archbishop Thoresby were anciently preserved in the treasury at York (ib. iii. 376).[Raine's Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops, ii. 419–21 (Life by Thomas Stubbs, pp. 484–5), iii. 275, 281–3, 376; Wharton's Anglia Sacra; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. p. 711; Thoresby's Vicaria Leodiensis, pp. 185 sqq., and Ducatus Leodiensis, p. 69; Drake's Eboracum; York Fabric Rolls (Surtees Soc.); Dixon and Raine's Fasti Ebor. pp. 449–94; Jones and Freeman's Hist. of St. Davids, p. 303; Foss's Judges of England; other authorities quoted.]