Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor.
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About Walter de Gray, Archbishop of York, Lord Chancellor.
Walter de Gray (died 1 May 1255) was an English prelate and statesman who rose to be Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor.
Gray was the son of John de Gray the Elder of Eaton in Norfolk and nephew of John de Gray (the Younger), Bishop of Norwich. His sister, Hawise, married the Justiciar of England, Philip Basset. He studied at the University of Oxford, attending lectures by Edmund of Abingdon.
Walter was a favorite of King John, who named him chancellor in 1205, having paid John 5000 marks for the office. He was named bishop of Lichfield in 1210, but was not consecrated as bishop there. Gray was then elected bishop of Worcester on 20 January 1214, and resigned as chancellor in October 1214. His consecration as bishop of Worcester took place on 5 October 1214. Gray was present at the signing of Magna Carta in June 1215. While he was away from England on an errand for the king, he was appointed Archbishop of York, being elected on 10 November 1215 through the influence of John and Pope Innocent III. John had wanted Walter, but, the canons of York felt that Walter was uneducated, and selected Simon Langton, brother of Stephen Langton Archbishop of Canterbury instead. John objected, and wrote to Pope Innocent III complaining of the election of the brother of one of his staunchest enemies, and Innocent agreed. However, Walter in the end paid more than ₤10,000 to the pope in various fees to get his election confirmed. Walter attended the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
Gray was an important royal official during the minority of Henry III, who often sent him on diplomatic missions. Henry also named Gray as guardian of England when the king went to France in 1242. In 1252, Walter hosted King Henry and King Alexander III of Scotland for the Christmas feasts at York, which event cost the archbishop ₤2500. Gray attempted to assert his archiepiscopal authority over Scotland, which not only resisted by the Scots but by the Archbishops of Canterbury. Gray had little success in defending his rights to Scotland against either adversary. Gray built the south transept of York Minster purchased the village of Bishopthorpe, which became the residence of the archbishop of York. He also donated to the church at Ripon.
Gray held a series of councils in his diocese from 1241 to 1255 which endeavored to enforce clerical celibacy, keep benefices from being inherited, and improve the education and morals of the clergy. He gave generously to his cathedral and other churches, as well as working to endown vicarages. He visited many of the monasteries of his diocese and helped those that were in financial difficulties. He also oversaw the translation of Saint Wilfrid's remains to a new shrine at Ripon.
In 1255, he visited London to attend a meeting of parliament, and died at Fulham on the 1 May 1255. He was buried on 15 May 1255 at York Minster.
Gray's three nephews were William Langton (or Rotherfield) who was Dean of York and was elected archbishop of York but never consecrated, and Walter le Breton and Walter de Grey, who were canons of York.[1