Wainfleet, William

, Bishop of Winchester
(c. 1395–1486)
   William Wainfleet (or Waynfleet) was chancellor under HENRY VI in the late 1450s and bishop of Winchester throughout the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   The son of a Lincolnshire gentleman, Wainfleet was ordained in 1426. Through the patronage of Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester (see Beaufort Family), Wainfleet acquired various Church offices and was presented at court in 1440. In 1447, Henry VI nominated Wainfleet to be Beaufort’s successor in the wealthy bishopric of Winchester.As the king came to rely increasingly on his advice, Wainfleet negotiated for the government with Jack Cade (see Jack Cade’s Rebellion) in 1450 and with Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, during the duke’s DARTFORD UPRISING in 1452. In March 1454, the bishop led a parliamentary delegation to Windsor that tried unsuccessfully to communicate with the stricken king (see Henry VI, Illness of). During York’s FIRST PROTECTORATE in 1454, Wainfleet frequently attended the COUNCIL to safeguard the interests of the king against York and his colleagues. After his recovery in early 1455, Henry dismissed York, but the duke and his allies, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his son Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, took up arms and regained power at the Battle of ST.ALBANS in May.Wainfleet thereafter was a moderate Lancastrian, supporting the king but showing a willingness to work with York.
   In October 1456, after the end of York’s SECOND PROTECTORATE, Henry appointed Wainfleet chancellor. In 1457, the bishop became one of Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER’s tutors and obtained license to found a new college at Oxford named Magdalen. With the start of civil war in 1459, Wainfleet became a staunch Lancastrian, presiding over the COVENTRY PARLIAMENT and the passage there of bills of ATTAINDER against York and the Nevilles. After EDWARD IV won the throne in 1461, Wainfleet went briefly into hiding, but submitted to the new king by the end of the year. When Warwick restored Henry VI in 1470,Wainfleet reverted to his Lancastrian allegiance and personally escorted the king from the TOWER OF LONDON (see Edward IV, Overthrow of). Edward IV’s restoration in 1471, which was accompanied by the death of Prince Edward in battle and the murder of Henry VI in the Tower, forced the bishop to again seek pardon from the Yorkist monarch (see Henry VI, Murder of). Wainfleet spent the 1470s serving at COURT and completing the construction of Magdalen College and Henry VI’s foundation at Eton. The aging bishop acquiesced in RICHARD III’s usurpation in 1483 and in July 1485 even gave the king a loan (probably under compulsion) to help repel the expected invasion of Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, the inheritor of the Lancastrian claim (see Usurpation of 1483).Wainfleet died, near age ninety, in April 1486, eight months after Richmond won the throne as HENRY VII.
   Further Reading: Davis,V.,“William Waynflete and the Educational Revolution of the Fifteenth Century,” in J.T. Rosenthal and C. F. Richmond, eds., People, Politics and Community in the Later Middle Ages (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton, 1987), pp. 40–59; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981);“William Waynflete,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991), pp. 274–276;Wolffe, Bertram, Henry VI (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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