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

GAINSBOROUGH, WILLIAM (d. 1307), bishop of Worcester, was a Franciscan, who is first known as the divinity lecturer of the Franciscans at Oxford. His position seems to have suggested to Edward I that he should be employed as an ambassador to Philip IV of France, with whom the English king wished to be at peace. With Gainsborough was joined Hugh of Manchester, a leading Dominican, the Bishop of Winchester, and two laymen. After their negotiations in France they were empowered to proceed to Rome and enlist the good offices of Pope Boniface VIII (Rymer, Fœdera, ii. 866). At Rome Gainsborough commended himself to the pope, according to Bale, by his uncompromising adherence to the claims of spiritual suzerainty, which that pontiff was engaged in developing (Bale, Centuriæ, Cent. 4, No. 91). Gainsborough remained in Rome, where in 1300 he was made reader in theology in the papal palace (Chronicle of Lanercost, sub anno), and Boniface VIII found him a useful person for abetting his system of interference in the affairs of national churches. The see of Worcester became vacant by the death of Godfrey Giffard in 1301, and Edward I gave license to the chapter to elect his successor. They chose one of their own body, John of St. German, but on some trivial ground Archbishop Winchelsey refused to confirm his election. John took his case on appeal to Rome, where Boniface prevailed on him to resign his bishopric, and appointed Gainsborough by provision on 22 Oct. 1302 (Wadding, Annales Minorum, vi. 432). Gainsborough came to England early in 1303, and his appointment was accepted by Edward I, who, however, took care to guard the rights of the crown. The pope's provision conferred on him the temporalities and spiritualities of the see; Edward demanded that he should renounce this grant, and from this time forward an oath of renunciation was exacted from all bishops appointed by provision. Further a suit was brought against him, and he was condemned to pay one thousand marks, which was, however, remitted in 1306. Moreover, as the king had been guardian of the possession of the see during the vacancy, Gainsborough was required to pay five hundred marks for the seed which had been sown on his lands. As he was poor, and the monks of Worcester refused to help him by a loan, he was under great straits to provide for his enthronisation, which took place in May 1303 (an interesting description of the ceremony is given by Thomas, Worcester Cathedral, Appendix No. 77). He walked barefoot through the city to the cathedral, probably with a view of overcoming by a display of humility the objection naturally felt by the monks to his appointment. Of Gainsborough's activity in his diocese we do not hear much. In October 1305 he was sent by Edward I to Rome as one of an embassy to Clement V, ostensibly for the purpose of arranging for a crusade, really to discuss the peace of Europe (Rymer, Fœdera, ii. 968). On his return he was present at the parliament held at Carlisle in 1306. In 1307 he was sent to France to arrange for the marriage of the king's son, Edward, with Isabella of France, and soon after his return received a further commission for an embassy to Rome. The commission was dated just before the death of Edward I, 5 July 1307 (ib. ii. 1058), but Gainsborough did not long survive his master. He died on his journey at Beauvais on 16 Sept., and was there buried.

Bale mentions that Gainsborough left behind him some volumes of scholastic theology, ‘Quæstiones,’ ‘Disceptationes,’ and ‘Sermones.’

[Gainsborough's manuscript Register in the Worcester Diocesan Registry; Annales Wigornenses in Annales Monastici (Rolls Ser.), iv. 554–5; Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 531–2; Bale's Centuriæ, iv. 91; Thomas's Survey of the Cathedral Church of Worcester, pp. 154–8; Stubbs's Constitutional Hist. iii. 308.]

M. C.