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Walter Langton













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WALTER LANGTON (d. 1321), bishop of Lichfield and treasurer of England, was probably a native of Langton West in Leicestershire. Appointed a clerk in the royal chancery, he became a favourite servant of Edward I., taking part in the suit over the succession to the Scottish throne in 1292, and visiting France more than once on diplomatic business. He obtained several ecclesiastical preferments, became treasurer in 1295, and in 1296 bishop of Lichfield. 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 Boniface in 1303. 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. 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 and his removal from office. 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; 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 in 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.



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