|Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield|
|See||Diocese of Coventry and Lichfield|
|Elected||20 February 1296|
|Term ended||9 November 1321|
|Predecessor||Roger de Meyland|
|Consecration||23 December 1296|
|Born||2 September 1243
Leicestershire, county, England, United Kingdom
|Died||9 November 1321|
The life of Bishop Walter Langton, was strongly influenced by his family, Father William Langton (his uncle) and mentor, Bishop Robert Burnell, Lord Chancellor of England. Then by the years in which he served King Edward I of England.
Life before royal service
According to the Hughes paper:
- In October 1298 Bishop Langton was licensed by Henry of Newark, archbishop of York, to ordain Walter and Robert Clipston, (his nephews), then aged seven and five years respectively, to all minor orders.
Although there is little research on the issue, he may have entered the church at a similar age. It is known that his uncle William Langton became Dean of York in 1262 and he may have come under his uncle's supervision at that time. In 1265 his uncle William Langton was elected by the brothers, Archbishop of York, but his appointment was superseded by the Pope's appointment of Bonaventura.
In public life both men took the name of their village of Langton West in Leicestershire, however their family name was Peverel. Hughes says:
- Langton's register clarifies the bishop's connection with the Peverel families of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire and shows that he was a Peverel by birth.
Copies of charters preserved in his register, by which Langton granted land and the advowson of the church of Adlingfleet, Yorkshire, to Selby Abbey, clearly states his paternity: Langton names himself as the son and heir of Simon Peverel. Although there is little research on the issue, it may be supposed that this family of Peverels represented that of William Peverel the favourite illegitimate son of William the Conqueror. William Peverel built Peveril Castle at Castleton to protect the Royal Forest of the Peak of which he was the "High Steward". He also had a son called William Peverel, who attempted to poison Ranulf Earl of Chester and was accused of being a witch. As a result the family had it estates confiscated by the Crown and it fell from honour. Although it occurred a considerable time before, it may be supposed that the two men adopted another name in public life to give them advantage which their family name no longer could.
Keighley Shared Church is represented by St Andrew’s Church at Keighley, West Yorkshire. Amongst its rectors is listed Walter de Langton, inducted 1272. More research into the Bishop’s life at this time may shed more light into his relationship with the wife of Sir John Lovetot.
It is said in the chronicles that King Edward I of England selected Walter Langton for his service.
Life after entering royal service for King Edward I
Though Lord Chancellor, Bishop Robert Burnell of Bath and Wells was also Archdeacon of York. It may be supposed through his duties in York he became a friend of William Langton and through the two men, Walter Langton was introduced to the King. The King must have liked the young man, for he selected him for his service and in later years Bishop Walter Langton became unquestionably Edwards’s first minister and almost his only real confidant.
Appointed a clerk in the royal chancery, he became a favourite servant of Edward I, and was appointed Keeper of the wardrobe from 1290 to 1295. He took part in the suit over the succession to the Scottish throne in 1292, and visited France more than once on diplomatic business. In 1293 he rushed to Lambeth to obtain a charter transferring the Isle of Wight to the king from Isabella de Fortibus who was near to death. He became Treasurer from 1295 to 1307 and obtained several ecclesiastical preferments,. On 20 February 1296 he was elected bishop of Lichfield, being consecrated on 23 December. As bishop he rebuilt the diocesan seat, Eccleshall Castle, in a more lavish style. 
Having become unpopular, the barons in 1301 vainly asked Edward to dismiss him; about the same time he was accused of murder, adultery and simony. Suspended from his office, he went to Rome to be tried before Pope Boniface VIII, who referred the case to Winchelsea, archbishop of Canterbury; the archbishop, although Langton's lifelong enemy, found him innocent, and this sentence was confirmed by Pope Boniface in 1303. Little is said about the nature of the charges of witchcraft against Bishop Walter Langton. By inference Pope Boniface VIII was charged, about the same time with Invocation, consultation of diviners, and other offenses, by officials of King Philip IV of France, about which more information is available.
Accounts by historians say little about how Bishop Walter Langton escaped the charges of Witchcraft at the tribunal at the Vatican over the 2 years he had to defend himself there. But a strong protest from King Edward I saw Pope Boniface refer the case back to English jurisdiction. Bishop Walter Langton was allowed to return to England and his was eventually found innocent. This incident represents a political struggle between the Archbishop Robert Winchelsea, the King and his councillor.
Throughout these difficulties, and also during a quarrel with the prince of Wales, afterwards Edward II, the treasurer was loyally supported by the king. Visiting Pope Clement V on royal business in 1305, Langton appears to have persuaded Clement to suspend Winchelsea; after his return to England he was the chief adviser of Edward I, who had already appointed him the principal executor of his will.
Life after the King's death
There is an elaborate pictorial representation of the life of King Edward I in Bishop Walter Langton's residence housed outside of the Cathedral of Lichfield.
His position, however, was changed by the king's death in July 1307. The accession of Edward II and the return of Langton's enemy, Piers Gaveston, were quickly followed by the arrest of the bishop, his removal from office, and imprisonment at London, Windsor and Wallingford. His lands, together with a great hoard of movable wealth, were seized, and he was accused of misappropriation and venality. In spite of the intercession of Clement V and even of the restored Archbishop Winchelsea, who was anxious to uphold the privileges of his order, Langton, accused again by the barons in 1309, remained in prison after Edward's surrender to the Ordainers in 1310.
He was released in January 1312 and again became treasurer on the 23rd; but he was disliked by the ordainers, who forbade him to discharge the duties of his office. Excommunicated by Winchelsea, he appealed to the pope, visited him at Avignon, and returned to England after the archbishop's death in May 1313. He was a member of the royal council from this time until his dismissal at the request of parliament in 1315. He died on 9 November 1321, and was buried in Lichfield Cathedral, which was improved and enriched at his expense. Langton appears to have been no relation of his contemporary, John Langton, bishop of Chichester.
- Barbara English, Forz , Isabella de, suo jure countess of Devon, and countess of Aumale (1237–1293), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edition (subscription required), Jan 2008. Accessed: 2011-01-05
- Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 104
- Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 253
- "History of Eccleshall". Retrieved 5 November 2013.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- More information is provided in a paper Walter Langton, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield 1296-1321: his family background by Dr Jill Hughes, published in the Nottingham Medieval Studies XXXV (1991). There is some interest in Bishop Walter Langton, due to his trial before the Vatican on charges of witchcraft.
- Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
|Lord High Treasurer
|Lord High Treasurer
|Catholic Church titles|
Roger de Meyland
|Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield