Rotherham, Thomas

, Archbishop of York
   Chancellor of England under EDWARD IV, and a political client of Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE, Thomas Rotherham, archbishop of York, supported the house of YORK until he fell into disfavor with RICHARD III in 1483.
   Born into a Yorkshire gentry family and educated at a local grammar school, Rotherham was elected a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, in 1444. He held various ecclesiastical livings in the 1450s and 1460s and took a degree at Oxford in 1463. In the late 1450s, he became chaplain to John de VERE, the future Lancastrian earl of Oxford, who may have introduced Rotherham to the COURT of HENRY VI. Here he may have met Elizabeth Woodville, then the wife of Sir John Grey and a lady-in-waiting to Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU. After her marriage to Edward IV in 1464, Elizabeth became Rotherham’s patron, and she was likely responsible for his appointment as keeper of the royal privy seal in 1467. Rapidly gaining the king’s confidence, Rotherham was named to diplomatic missions to FRANCE and BURGUNDY and became bishop of Rochester in 1468. He did not support the READEPTION government of Henry VI, and in the spring of 1471 warned Edward IV, who was then returning from exile to reclaim his Crown, not to attempt a landing on the closely watched coast of East Anglia (see Edward IV, Restoration of). In March 1472, Edward promoted Rotherham to the bishopric of Lincoln, and in 1474 the king appointed him chancellor of England. Like many of Edward IV’s bishops, Rotherham was a man of humble origins who was promoted to high church office because of his loyalty to the king and his usefulness in secular government. Rotherham accompanied Edward on the French expedition of 1475 and was one of the English lords who received a large pension from LOUIS XI of France. Said to be skilled in managing PARLIAMENT, Rotherham opened the tense 1478 session that condemned the king’s brother, George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence. In 1480, Rotherham became archbishop of York. On Edward’s death in April 1483, Rotherham’s connections with the queen made him suspect in the eyes of Richard, duke of Gloucester, the late king’s only surviving brother, who believed the WOODVILLE FAMILY was seeking to deprive him of the regency. Rotherham intensified the duke’s mistrust by surrendering the Great Seal of England, the seal entrusted to the chancellor for the authentication of official documents, to the queen after fear of Gloucester drove her to SANCATUARY at Westminster in early May 1483. Thinking better of this act, Rotherham quickly recovered the Great Seal, but on 10 May Gloucester, now acting as protector for EDWARD V, replaced the archbishop as chancellor with Bishop John RUSSELL. On 13 June, Gloucester arrested Rotherham, along with William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, and other likely opponents, at a COUNCIL meeting held in the TOWER OF LONDON (see Council Meeting of 13 june 1483). Although released shortly thereafter through an ROTHERHAM, THOMAS, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK 237 appeal from Cambridge University, which he served as chancellor, Rotherham took little further part in government, either during Richard III’s reign or during the reign of HENRY VII. Noted in later life as a prominent benefactor of the English universities, Rotherham died in 1500.
   See also Usurpation of 1483
   Further Reading: Ross Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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