Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury

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Thomas FitzAlan

Also Known As: "Thomas /Fitzalan/"
Birthplace: Arundel Castle, Sussex, UK
Death: February 19, 1414 (56-65)
Canterbury, London, Middlesex, UK
Place of Burial: London, Middlesex, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel and Eleanor of Lancaster, Countess of Arundel and Warenne
Father of Katherine DeBourgogne
Brother of Richard FitzAlan, 11th Earl of Arundel; Joan Fitzalan, Countess of Hereford; John FitzAlan, 1st Baron Arundel; Alice FitzAlan, Countess of Kent; Lady Eleanor Fitzalan and 1 other
Half brother of Sir Edmund Fitzalan; Henry de Beaumont, 3rd Baron Beaumont; Joan de Beaumont and Elizabeth Goushill

Occupation: Bishop of Ely 1373. Chancellor 1386-1388 and 1391-1396. Archbishop of York 1388. Archbishop of Canterbury 1396., Archbishop of York, Archbishop of Canterbury
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About Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury

Thomas Arundel

Thomas Arundel

Archbishop of Canterbury Province Canterbury Diocese Canterbury Enthroned unknown

Reign ended 19 February 1414

Predecessor William Courtenay

Successor Henry Chichele

Consecration Translated in 1396

Personal details

  • Born 1353
  • Died 19 February 1414
  • Nationality English
  • Denomination Roman Catholic

Thomas Arundel (1353 – 19 February 1414) was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1397 and from 1399 until his death, an outspoken opponent of the Lollards.

Ecclesiastical career

Bishop of Ely

A younger son of Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel, he was papally provided as Bishop of Ely on 13 August 1373 entirely by reason of his father's status and financial leverage with the Crown during the dotage of Edward III, happily abandoning his student days at Oxford, from which he gained little pleasure.[1] A hugely wealthy near-sinecure, Ely seems to have captured the young bishop's genuine interest until his brother's political opposition to Richard II's policies both at home and towards France grew rancorous and dragged him in. In an extremely grave crisis, teetering towards civil war, 1386-8, the bishop found himself, at least in formal terms, right at the front of the dangerous attempts by five leading temporal lords to purge the king's advisors and control future policy.

Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor

On 3 April 1388, he was elevated to the position of Archbishop of York at a time when Richard II was, in effect, suspended from rule. Given Ely's wealth and ease, this promotion was clearly as much to do with status and consolidating the conspirators' control in the north as with remuneration.[2]

Arundel served twice as Lord Chancellor, during the reign of King Richard II, first, entirely against the king's wishes, from 1386 to 1389, and again from 1391 to 1396.[3] For whatever reason, the king, working his way astutely back into real authority, contrived to assure Arundel of his confidence right until the 'counter-coup' of 1397, when the archbishop was deceived into bringing his brother out of hiding under a royal safe conduct—to his death. Throughout his life Arundel was more trustful than was good for him. Despite his political preoccupations, which certainly led to him being largely absent from York, he has been credited with sponsoring a lively revival of personal religious piety in the northern province. Besides, as was to prove the case at Canterbury too, he was also a very good spotter of administrative talent.

Archbishop of Canterbury, period of exile, return to Canterbury and Lord Chancellorship

On 25 September 1396, he was made Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England[4] The king's nomination seemed to wish him nothing but success. Yet, within a year, he was exiled by the king during Richard's fierce counter-attack against his enemies of ten years earlier, and was replaced by Roger Walden.[4]

He spent his exile in Florence, where in 1398, at Richard II's request, the Roman Pope Boniface IX translated him to become Bishop of St. Andrews, a cruel, empty fate because Scotland during the Great Schism recognized the Pope in Avignon, already had a bishop in place and would probably never have accepted him anyway, even in peaceful times. However, shortly afterwards, he joined up with his fellow-exile Henry Bolingbroke. Although not soul-mates, they invaded England together and forced Richard to yield the crown to Henry IV. Arundel played a hugely prominent part in the usurpation and may have been the most hawkishly determined of all that the king should be removed entirely: whether he actually lied on oath to Richard II to lure him out of Conway remains altogether open to debate. The new regime of course secured the reversal of several of Richard's acts, including the pope's installation of Walden at Canterbury. Arundel returned to his primacy[4], while Walden—actually with the support of Arundel—was eventually translated to the important see of London.

As the king collapsed into ill-health from 1405, Arundel returned to the front of government. At one point, he even took the sick king into Lambeth Palace itself for care. In 1405–06 he had to deal with the crisis with the papacy provoked by the king's decision to execute Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York who had participated in the Percy rebellion. Formally, under Henry IV, Arundel served twice as Lord Chancellor, first in 1399 and again from 1407 to 1410.[3] When Henry IV's son succeeded as Henry V, Arundel's influence at court decreased.

Thomas Arundel died on 19 February 1414.[4]

Opposition to the Lollards

Arundel was a vehement opponent of the Lollards, the followers of John Wycliffe, who in his 1379 treatise De Eucharistia had opposed the dogma of Transubstantiation.

King Henry IV passed the De Heretico Comburendo statute in 1401, which recited in its preamble that it was directed against a certain new sect "who thought damnably of the sacraments and usurped the office of preaching." (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia} It empowered the bishops to arrest, imprison, and examine offenders and to hand over to the secular authorities such as had relapsed or refused to abjure. The condemned were to be burnt "in an high place" before the people. This act was probably pushed through by the authoritative Arundel. Its passing was immediately followed by the burning of William Sawtrey, a London priest. He had previously abjured but had relapsed, and he now refused to declare his belief in transubstantiation or to recognize the authority of the Church.[5]

In 1407, Arundel presided at a synod at Oxford, which passed a number of constitutions to regulate preaching, the translation and use of the Scriptures, and the theological education at schools and the university.[5] In 1410, a body of Oxford censors condemned 267 propositions collected out of Wyclif's writings. These different measures seem to have been successful at least as far as the clergy were concerned, and Lollardy came to be more and more a lay movement, often connected with political discontent.[5]

The death penalty was seldom carried out. Until 1410, no further Lollards were executed. The 1414 Oldcastle Revolt saw a minority of the seventy or so who were hanged also burned. Thereafter, executions were again few until the Tudor period. Arundel had a stroke which left him unable to speak shortly afterwards. Henry V, who had had uneasy relations with Arundel, installed Henry Chichele in his place.

Modern public opinion

In 2005/2006, BBC History Magazine chose Thomas Arundel as the 15th century's entry for their Ten Worst Britons poll,[6][7] in which he tied in 9th place with Hugh le Despenser.[8]


  1. ^ Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 244.
  2. ^ Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 286.
  3. ^ a b Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 87.
  4. ^ a b c d Fryde Handbook of British Chronology p. 233.
  5. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg "Lollards" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  6. ^ 'Worst' historical Britons list, BBC 27 December 2005.
  7. ^ Are these the 10 Worst Britons?, Independent 27 December 2005.
  8. ^ Jack the Ripper is 'worst Briton', BBC 31 January 2006.


  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third Edition, revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X. ;
  • ME Aston, Thomas Arundel; R.G. Davies, 'Thomas Arundel as archbishop of Canterbury', Journal of Ecclesiastical History 1972; J. Hughes, Pastors and Visionaries.
  • "Constitutions (1408)". Umilta Website. Retrieved 11 October 2005. Latin transcription; Arundel's prohibition of Bible translation into vernacular languages.


Thomas Arundel (1353-1414). Archbishop of Canterbury in 1397 and from 1399 until his death in 1414. He persecuted the Lollards, a group calling for reform of the Catholic Church by promoting a lay priesthood and translations of the Bible.

In 2005/2006, BBC History Magazine chose Thomas Arundel as the 15th century's entry for their Ten Worst Britons poll. On the final list of 10 Worst Britons, he tied for 9th place with Hugh Despenser, The Younger.

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Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury's Timeline

Arundel Castle, Sussex, UK
January 1396
Age 43
Canterbury, Kent, England

Chalmers' General Biographical Dictionary
Volume 03
pg 23

...Canterbury being vacant by death of Dr William Courtney, archbishop Arundel was translated thither, January 1396......

Allée de l'Arundel, Château-d'Olonne, Pays de la Loire, France
February 19, 1414
Age 61
Canterbury, London, Middlesex, UK

Thomas Arundel
in the Web: Netherlands, GenealogieOnline Trees Index, 1000-2015
Name: Thomas Arundel
Gender: m (Male)
Birth Date: 1353
Death Date: 19 feb 1414
Death Age: 61
Father: Richard Fitzalan
Mother: Eleanor Plantagenet
URL: https://www.genealogieonline.n...

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Source Information Web: Netherlands, GenealogieOnline Trees Index, 1000-2015 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: GenealogieOnline. Coret Genealogie. accessed 31 August 2015.
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© 2016,
Fitzalan Arundel
in the Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-20, 22
Name: Fitzalan
[Thomas Arundel]
Birth Date: 1353
Death Date: 1414
Source Information Dictionary of National Biography, Volumes 1-20, 22 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.
Original data: Stephen, Sir Leslie, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922. Volumes 1–20, 22. London, England: Oxford University Press, 1921–1922.
This database contains Volumes 1–20 (21 is missing), and 22 of The Dictionary of National Biography, 1921–1922. Inside you can expect to find biographies of “notable” individuals including surname, birth place, parents’ names, residence, job history, schools attended, etc. Learn more...
© 2016,

Archbishop Thomas Arundel
in the Chalmers' General Biographical Dictionary
Name: Archbishop Thomas Arundel
Death Date: 20 Feb 1413
Page Number: 22
Volume Number: Volume 03
Source Information Chalmers' General Biographical Dictionary [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.
Original data: Chalmers, Alexander. The General Biographical Dictionary. 32 volumes. London: J. Nichols and Son, 1812-1817.
This database includes all 32 volumes of Alexander Chalmers’s General Biographical Dictionary, which, according to its subtitle, contains “an Historical and Critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the Most Eminent Persons in Every Nation; Particularly the British and the Irish. From the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time.” Learn more...
© 2016,

February 20, 1414
Age 61
Canterbury Cathedral, London, Middlesex, UK

Birth: 1353
Death: Feb. 20, 1414

Archbishop of Canterbury. He was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1397 and again from 1397 to 1399. He vehemently opposed the Lollards which were a political and reglious group who were in favour of the common people. Arundel insisted that the church publications should be in Latin, which meant that the common man could not understand them. The Catholic Church was fearful of the Lollards which lead Arundel to direct a backlash against them. He crowned King Henry IV in 1399. In 2006, he was recently voted as the 9th worst Britain of the last 1000 years. (bio by: s.canning)

Family links:
Richard FitzAlan de Arundel (1306 - 1376)
Eleanor of Lancaster de Beaumont (1318 - 1372)

Edmund d'Arundel (1327 - 1377)**
Henry de Beaumont (1340 - 1369)**
Richard FitzAlan (1346 - 1397)*
Joan FitzAlan de Bohun (1347 - 1419)*
John Arundel FitzAlan (1348 - 1379)*
Alice FitzAlan Holland (1350 - 1415)*
Thomas Arundel (1353 - 1414)

*Calculated relationship

Canterbury Cathedral
City of Canterbury
Kent, England

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Originally Created by: s.canning
Record added: Dec 11, 2006
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