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Born 1406; died 1486, Cardinal, was the third son of William Bourchier, Earl of Eu, and of Lady Anne Plantagenet, a daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, youngest son of Edward III. At an early age he entered the University of Oxford, and in due course, embracing a clerical career, was collated to the living of Colwich, Staffordshire, in the Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, on 24 May, 1424. His next promotion was to the Deanery of St. Martin-le-Grand in London, 1 December, 1427, and he was likewise inducted to the prebend of West Thurrock; it was not till 24 September, 1429, that he was ordained acolyte and sub-deacon. This rapid promotion was doubtless due to his high birth, and though no evidence exists of any special attainments as a scholar, he was further appointed Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1434, a post which he held for three years; in 1433, notwithstanding his youth, he was recommended for the then vacant See of Worcester. The pope had, however, already made another choice, but interest was exerted with the result that the previous nomination was cancelled, and Eugenius IV by a Bull dated 9 March, 1434 appointed Bourchier Bishop of Worcester, the temporalities of the see being restored to him on 15 April, and on 15 May he received episcopal consecration. Not long after, the Bishop of Ely died, and the Benedictine Cathedral Chapter desiring Bourchier for their pastor, sent to Rome to procure Bulls for his translation. These were expedited; but the King of England steadily refused to restore the temporalities to him, so Bourchier renounced the election. Ely was kept vacant till 1443, under the administration of Louis de Luxembourg, Archbishop of Rouen. This arrangement, sanctioned by the pope, had been made in order that Louis de Luxembourg might enjoy the revenues, a convenient form of reward employed by the English sovereigns at that time, since it proved no burden to the royal exchequer. On the death of the Archbishop of Rouen, Bourchier, this time nominated by the king, was at once elected by the Chapter of Ely, the Bulls for the translation, dated 20 December, 1443, procured, and after the usual confirmation he received the temporalities on 27 February, 1443-44, but it seems that he was not enthroned till another two years had elapsed. Both as Bishop of Worcester and of Ely he was frequently called to the royal councils. The Archbishopric of Canterbury fell vacant early in 1454, and Bourchier was recommended for the primatial see. To this he was translated on 22 April, and was enthroned in February, 1454-55. On 5 March following he was appointed Lord Chancellor and received the Seals from Henry VI during that monarch's temporary recovery from the inanity that was settling on him. The troubles between the rival factions of the Yorkists and Lancastrians were then fomenting, and it was hoped that Bourchier might possibly keep the balance even between them. When the Yorkists marched south, their leaders informed the chancellor that their objects were peaceable; but though Bourchier endeavoured to inform the king of their assurances, his communication never reached the sovereign, and the hostile forces met in battle at St. Albans, 22 May, 1455, when Henry VI was defeated and taken prisoner. This action marks the commencement of the Wars of the Roses. A Parliament was summoned for July, when the Duke of York received pardon. The meeting was then prorogued till November, but in the meanwhile Henry relapsed into imbecility, and the Duke of York was named Protector. Bourchier resigned the Great Seal in October, 1456, when Queen Margaret obtained possession of the king, and with him the chief power fell into her hands. Although the archbishop and Waynflete, as peacemakers, drew up terms of agreement between the parties, dissensions soon broke out again, and after hearing the Yorkists' grievances, Bourchier undertook to accompany them to the king, then at Northampton, with a view to securing a settlement. The king refused them audience, and a battle was then fought at Northampton (July, 1460), when Henry found himself once more a prisoner. The Duke of York now claimed the throne, but a compromise was effected whereby he was to succeed Henry to the exclusion of the latter's son, Edward. Bourchier seems to have accepted this solution; and when Queen Margaret again opened hostilities, he threw in his lot definitely with the Yorkists, and was one of the lords who agreed to accept Edward (IV) as rightful king. As archbishop, he crowned Edward on 28 June, 1461, after Edward's marriage with Elizabeth Woodville, also crowned his consort (May, 1465). Edward besought Pope Paul II to bestow a cardinal's hat on Bourchier in 1465; but delays occurred, and it was not till 1473 that Sixtus IV finally conferred that honour upon him. In 1475 Bourchier was employed as one of the arbitrators on the differences pending between England and France. Growing feeble, in 1480 he appointed as his coadjutor William Westkarre who had been consecrated in 1458 Bishop of Sidon. In 1483, on the death of Edward IV, he formed one of the deputation who persuaded the queen-dowager, then in sanctuary with her family at Westminster, to deliver her second son Richard to his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to be with his brother the boy-kind Edward V. Bourchier had pledged his honour to the distrustful queen for the lad's security; yet, three weeks later he was officiating at the coronation of the usurper, Richard III. He performed the like solemn office for Henry VII in 1485 after the death of Richard on the field of Bosworth; and, as a fitting close to the career of a man who was above all a peacemaker, he married Henry VII to Elizabeth of York on 18 January, 1485-86, thus uniting the factions of the Red and White roses. He died on 6 April, 1486, as Knowle, a mansion he had purchased for his see, and was buried in Canterbury cathedral. It fell to his lot as archbishop to preside in 1457 at the trial of Reginald Peacock, Bishop of Chichester, charged with unorthodoxy. Though the incriminated bishop withdrew his works condemned as unsound, he was kept in custody by Bourchier till the death two years later, although he had been compelled to resign his see.
GAIRDNER in Dict. Nat. Biogr.; DOYLE, Official Baronage; GODWIN, De Præsulibus; WHARTON, Anglia Sacra; HOOK, Lives of the Abps. Of Cant.; RYMER, Fædera; MORERI, Dictionaire; STUBBS, Episc. Succession; LINGARD, Hist. of England (London, 1878), passim.
APA citation. (1907). Thomas Bourchier. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02716b.htm
MLA citation. "Thomas Bourchier." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02716b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Ted Rego.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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