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ORFORD, ROBERT (d. 1310), bishop of Ely, was a monk of Ely on 6 April 1290, when he was one of those who brought the news of the death of John Kirkby [q. v.] to Edward I, and received license to elect a successor (Cal. Pat. Rolls, Edw. I, 1281–92, p. 349). He was afterwards sub-prior of his house, and was elected prior in succession to John Salmon [q. v.] in July 1299. On 14 April 1302 Orford was elected bishop of Ely by the monks as a compromise (Anglia Sacra, i. 640). Copies of the formal letters announcing his election are given in the Ramsey ‘Chartulary’ (i. 33–8). Orford is there described as ‘of approved learning, life, and morals, of lawful age, and in priest's orders, born in lawful matrimony.’ Archbishop Winchelsey, however, refused to confirm Orford on the ground that he was not sufficiently learned, and on 16 July quashed the election (Annales Monastici, iv. 552). Orford and his monks promptly appealed to the pope, and Orford went in person to Rome. The pope referred the case to three cardinals; after their examination, Orford of his own free will resigned all his rights, and was then reappointed by the pope, who directed the bishop of Albano to consecrate him (Cal. Papal Registers, i. 605; Reg. Cantuar. ap. Anglia Sacra). Orford was accordingly consecrated on 28 Oct. (Stubbs, Reg. Sacr. Angl. p. 50). The anonymous monk of Ely amplifies this official account by stating that the cardinals decided that the election was due, and the bishop-elect competent; the pope then required Orford's attendance in the consistory, where Orford, by his naive explanation of how he evaded Archbishop Winchelsey's third question, provoked the pope and cardinals to laughter; Boniface, declaring that Orford was ‘not vain, but full of goodness and learning,’ ordered his consecration. Orford, on his return to England, made his canonical profession to Archbishop Winchelsey, but declined the archbishop's proposal to enthrone him, declaring that the see was already his by apostolic authority. The temporalities of the see were restored on 4 Feb. 1303. The relations between Orford and Winchelsey continued strained, and to the time of his death Orford refused to provide a clerk with a benefice on the archbishop's nomination in accordance with the usual custom (Litteræ Cantuarienses, i. 33–6). Orford's journey to Rome encumbered him with a debt of 15,000l.; while still at Rome the pope had granted him a license to contract a loan for thirteen thousand florins to meet his expenses. On 8 Oct. 1306 he made a return to the pope concerning the relics preserved at Scone Abbey. Orford died at Downham on 21 Jan. 1310, and was buried before the great altar in the cathedral. He gave the convent an embroidered alb and other vestments.

Another Robert Orford (fl. 1290) was a Dominican friar; he studied at either Oxford or Cambridge, and is said to have been a bachelor of divinity. Afterwards he was at Paris, where he wrote in support of Thomas Aquinas against Henry of Ghent and Gilles de Rome. Pits, who calls him Robert of Oxford, adds that he wrote against James of Viterbo together with some ‘Determinations.’ Leander Albertus gives his date as 1242, but more likely it was fifty years later.

[Flores Historiarum, iii. 110, 306, and Chartularium de Rameseia, i. 24, 33–8, in Rolls Ser.; Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 640–1, 684; Bliss's Calendar of Papal Registers, i. 603–4; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl. i. 333; other authorities quoted. For the Dominican, see Quetif and Echard's Scriptores Ordin. S. Dominic. i. 431; Tanner's Bibl. Brit.-Hib. p. 637.]

C. L. K.