Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Langton, John de

LANGTON, JOHN de (d. 1337), bishop of Chichester and chancellor of England, was a clerk in the royal chancery. There is no authority for the statement that he was a fellow of Merton College (Brodrick, Memorials of Merton College, p. 180). In 1286 he is mentioned as keeper of the rolls, an office which probably devolved on the senior clerk. Langton is the first person whose tenure of the post can be distinctly traced. In the autumn of 1292 Langton, being then 'only a simple clerk in the chancery' (Ann. Mon. iii. 373), was appointed chancellor in succession to Robert Burnel [q. v.], and received the seal on 17 Dec. This promotion was shortly followed by ecclesiastical preferment, and in 1294 Langton was acting as treasurer of Wells, and was holding the prebend of Decem Librarum at Lincoln (Le Neve, Fasti, i. 173, ii. 141). As chancellor he seems to have continued the wise policy of Burnel; the appeal of Macduff, earl of Fife, against John Baliol in 1294, and the 'Confirmatio Cartarum' in 1297, were incidents in his tenure of office. In 1293 he warned Edward against assenting to the project under which Gascony was surrendered to Philip of France, to be received back as the dower of the French king's sister Blanche (Ann. Mon. iv. 515). In 1298, on a vacancy in the see of Ely, Langton was the candidate of a minority of the monks; Edward favoured his chancellor, who on 20 Feb. 1299 left England to plead his cause at Rome in person. Pope Boniface, however, quashed the election, but consoled Langton with the archdeaconry of Canterbury (Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 639). Langton returned to England on 16 June, and at once resumed his duties as chancellor. On 12 Aug. 1302 he resigned his office, for what reason is not known. On 3 April 1305 he was elected bishop of Chichester, and on 19 Sept. was consecrated at Canterbury by Archbishop Winchelsea (Chron. Edw. I and II, i. 134). Shortly after the accession of Edward II Langton again became chancellor, probably in August 1307, certainly before January 1308. He was present at the king's coronation on 25 Feb. At Easter of the following year, according to the 'Annales Paulini,' he was removed from his office by the king (ib. i. 268), but Foss states, on the authority of the Close Roll, that his resignation of the seal took place on 11 May. Probably his removal was due to his connection with the ordainers, for whose appointment he had joined in petitioning on 17 March, and of whom he was himself one (Rot. Parl. i. 443a). During the rest of his life Langton was chiefly occupied with his diocese. But he was one of those who received security for peace in 1312, and was a trier of petitions in the parliaments of 1315 and 1320. In April 1318 he was one of the mediators between the king and Thomas of Lancaster, and was appointed one of the royal councillors under the scheme of reconciliation (ib. i. 453b). In July 1321 he was again one of the bishops who endeavoured to mediate between the king and the rebel earls. In January 1327 he took the oath to the new king, Edward II, and his mother. In January 1329 he attended the ecclesiastical council at St. Paul's. He is said to have excommunicated John de Warenne (1286–1347), earl of Surrey, for adultery in 1315, and when the earl threatened him with violence to have cast him and his partisans into prison. He died on 19 July 1337 (Ashmolean MS. 1146), but according to another statement, on 17 June of that year. His tomb, now much mutilated, stands in the south transept of the cathedral. Langton built the chapter-house (now used as a muniment room) at Chichester, and the fine decorated window in the south transept of the cathedral was also his work; he bequeathed to the church 100/. and the furniture of his chapel. He was likewise a benefactor of the university of Oxford, where in 1336 he founded a chest out of which loans might be made to deserving clerks (Munimenta Academica, i. 133–40, Rolls Ser.) There docs not seem to be any evidence as to a relationship between John de Langton and Stephen Langton, or his own contemporary, Walter Langton.

[Annales Monastici, Flores Historiarum, Chronicles of Edward I and II, all in the Rolls Series; Foss's Judges of England, iii. 272–5 ; Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, i. 173–8, 188–90; Godwin, De Præsulibus, pp. 506–7. ed. Richardson; Archæologia, xlv. 158, 194–6; some unimportant

references to Langton are contained in the Cal. of Patent Rolls of Edward III.]

C. L. K.