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 William de Colchester

William de Colchester

Birth
Death 1420
Burial Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Plot Chapel of St. John the Baptist
Memorial ID 20612 · View Source
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A life of Abbot William by E. H. Pearce was published by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1915. He was a native of Colchester where his parents were buried, born in 1338 and entered the Convent of Westminster in or about 1356, saying Mass for the first time in 1361-62. He was chosen by the convent as specially apt to learning and sent to Gloucester Hall at Oxford from 1366 to 1370. He was appointed Seneschal of Westminster Abbey in 1370 and Treasurer in 1375. In 1377 he was proctor at Rome representing the Abbey at the Papal Court, and in 1387 he succeeded Litlington as Abbot. He died in 1420. In Shakespeare's Richard 11 the Abbot of Westminster is shown as one of the conspirators in the plot against Henry IV, and in Act IV scene 5 he is reported dead. In fact there is no doubt that he was present at a meeting of the conspirators against the king and that he was arrested for complicity in the plot and sent to the Tower. However, as he was released after trial, he appears to have been acquitted, and in any event he did not die till twenty years later. He was often employed in affairs of state and had the character of a man of talent ( Malcolm's 'London', vol 1 p. 235). He presided over the Convent when Henry IV was taken ill in the Abbey and upon his removal to the Jerusalem Chamber, which was then an apartment in the Abbot's house. And almost certainly he took part in the coronation of Henry V on 9 April 1413. He went to Rome at least four times. As Proctor, he left for Rome on 10 June 1377 and arrived there by November that year. For this he found a companion Gerard of London willing to go with him for 20 shillings plus expenses. He bought a horse for himself for 24 shillings; but it appears that he expected Gerard to walk, as he adds as a note to his accounts when buying a horse for 26 shillings for Gerard, that 'the man entirely declined to go by foot'. Even so both horses had to be sold in Bruges, and the journed was continued on hired mounts and rides in carts. They were ambushed at Dauphine on the way there and in Nice on the return journey he was robbed of his cloak. Abbot William lies buried in Westminster Abbey, and on his tomb and on his seal may be seen his arms - a chevron between three mullets (five-pointed, straight sided stars). His cash account is still preserved in the Abbey two entries of interest being one for 3/4d in March 1389 given to John Colchester and another for 40/-d on 31 May 1389 to buy a gold ring set with diamonds for the wife of his brother Thomas Colchester. Was this Thomas Colchester, monk of Westminster, who followed William to Oxford from 1380 to 1390? If so, it shows how little the requirement for celibacy was regarded. It is also known that William had a sister living at Cambridge in 1389/90. William was very fond of music and a patron of musicians. He became Lord of the Manor of Pyrford in Surrey, and when he stayed there he was accustomed to take choir and orchestra with him to entertain himself and his guests. During his Abbacy he commissioned the extension of the nave of Westminster Abbey for which another William Colchester was the architect.

Bio by: Giles Colchester


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 28 Feb 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20612
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for William de Colchester (unknown–1420), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20612, citing Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .