Bourchier, Thomas

, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury
(c. 1404–1486)
   As archbishop of Canterbury throughout the WARS OF THE ROSES, Cardinal Thomas Bourchier participated in most of the conflict’s major events.
   The brother of Henry BOURCHIER, earl of Essex, and half brother of Humphrey STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, Bourchier was descended through his mother from Edward III (r. 1327–1377). As a third son, he was destined for an ecclesiastical career, and obtained his first clerical office in 1424. He became bishop of Worcester in 1434 and bishop of Ely in 1443. In 1454, during the FIRST PROTECTORATE of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, Bourchier was appointed archbishop of Canterbury. Although his promotion owed much to York’s influence, Bourchier was also acceptable to HENRY VI; in March 1455, after recovering his health and authority, the king named Bourchier chancellor of England. Following the Battle of ST.ALBANS in May 1455, Bourchier tried to act as a peacemaker, but was unsuccessful and resigned the chancellorship in October 1456.However, in March 1458, he worked closely with the king to promote the ultimately unsuccessful LOVE-DAY peace settlement.
   In June 1460, when York’s Neville allies returned from exile in CALAIS, Bourchier met them at their landing and followed them to LONDON, where he took their oaths of loyalty to Henry VI. The archbishop agreed to accompany the army of Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, to try and arrange a settlement. The peace effort failed, and Warwick captured the king at the Battle of NORTHBOURCHIER, THOMAS, CARDINAL ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY 35 AMPTON. In the autumn, Bourchier participated in the PARLIAMENT that answered York’s demand for the Crown with the compromise Act of ACCORD, which left Henry on the throne but disinherited Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER in favor of the duke. In March 1461, with York dead and Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU’s unruly army threatening the capital (see March on London), Bourchier acquiesced in the elevation of York’s son to the throne as EDWARD IV. The archbishop formally crowned Edward in the following June, and performed the like ceremony for Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE in 1465.
   In 1471, the archbishop raised troops to support the restoration of Edward IV and helped convince Edward’s brother, George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence, to abandon Warwick (see Edward IV, Restoration of). In 1473, the pope made Bourchier a cardinal in response to a royal petition. In June 1483, two months after Edward’s death, the archbishop led a delegation to Westminster to persuade Queen Elizabeth to release her second son, Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, from SANCTUARY and into the keeping of her brother-in-law, Richard, duke of Gloucester. Whether the queen’s acquiescence to this request was due to Bourchier’s entreaties or to Gloucester’s threats is now unclear.Most historians accept that the archbishop was sincere in his guarantees of the boy’s safety and that he was not privy to Gloucester’s plans to usurp the throne from the duke’s brother, EDWARD V. Nonetheless, within weeks, Bourchier was obliged to officiate at Gloucester’s coronation as RICHARD III, and within months both boys disappeared forever into the TOWER OF LONDON. Whether as a result of this experience the aging archbishop participated in the later conspiracies against Richard III is uncertain (see Buckingham’s Rebellion).
   Bourchier closed his career by crowning HENRY VII in October 1485 and by symbolically uniting the houses of LANCASTER and YORK by marrying Henry to ELIZABETH OF YORK, daughter of Edward IV, in January 1486. Bourchier died in March 1486.
   Further Reading: Davies, Richard G.,“The Church and the Wars of the Roses,” in A. J. Pollard, ed., The Wars of the Roses (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995), pp. 143–161; 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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