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William Courtenay
(1342-1396)

Bishop of Hereford
Bishop of London
Archbishop of Canterbury
Born: 1342 at Exeter, Devon
Died: 31st July 1396 at Maidstone, Kent


William the son of Henry, 2nd Earl of Devon, and Margaret De Bohun, a grandaughter of King Edward I. He was born in Exeter about 1342, and studied law at Stapledon Hall, Oxford. He was elected Chancellor of the University, and held Prebends at Exeter, Wells, and York. At the age of twenty-eight he was consecrated Bishop of Hereford, and six years later became Bishop of London. He took part with William of Wykeham in defending the rights of the clergy: on the one hand, against the attacks made upon them by John of Gaunt, and on the other, against the exactions of the Pope. In 1381 he was translated to Canterbury, and exerted himself for the suppression of Lollardism. Wyclif's opinions were formally condemned at a Council held in his presence at Blackfriars in 1382.

Courtenay died in 1396 at Maidstone, and is thought by some to have been buried there, but there is more reason to believe that his body was transferred to Canterbury where his eggigial monument can still be seen today.

Edited from G.M. Bevan's "Portraits of the Archbishops of Canterbury" (1908).

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