Walter Langton, Bishop of Coventry

Born: September 2, 1243

Langton West, Leicestershire, England

Died: November 9, 1321

Westminster, London, England (Age 78)

Coventry in History

The early life of Walter Langton is obscure to say the very least. By the early 1280s though, he was in service to King Edward I, and by the 1290s, he was a major figure within the king's household, occupying important offices such as controller of the wardrobe and treasurer of the exchequer. Langton also served in a diplomatic fashion during this time, as he helped the king to make his decision to put John Balliol on the Scottish throne and helped ease tensions surrounding the seizure of Gascony by the French king. In 1296, Langton furthered his interests by entering the church and, because of his royal favor, was able to become bishop of Conventry and Lichfield. However, due to Langton's primarily secular way of thinking, he gained the hatred of many powerful orthodox members of the clergy, including Archbishop Robert Winchelsey of Canterbury, who, with his followers, went on to form all sorts of accusations against Langton, ranging from simony and pluralism to murder. Langton was able to prove himself innocent on all charges (most of which were fabricated anyway) and remained influential at court until Edward I's death in 1307.

Without Edward I around to protect him, Langton once again fell prey to his enemies and was arrested as he was preparing the late king's funeral, most likely under direct orders from the new King Edward II, who was influenced by his recently returned favorite Piers Gaveston (who indeed benefited from some of the bishop's seized possessions). This time the bishop was accused of crimes such as extortion and misprision. The legal battle dragged on for years, but Langton's opponents were, once again, unsuccessful, and all charges were dropped by 1312. Langton's opponents still attempted to take him down, but with the death of Archbishop Winchelsey (1313), the bishop attained a bit more breathing room, though for the rest of his life he did not come close to holding the political sway he did during Edward I's reign. He died in 1321 as a man of over seventy.

Conventry in Marlowe

Appears in: Edward II

The bishop of Conventry appears briefly in Edward II when he is seen, on his way to conduct Edward I's funeral, being accosted by the king and Gaveston. Conventry is blamed for Gaveston's exile, and the king demands that he be thrown in prison and his lands be seized and given to Gaveston. Though the bishop was indeed arrested just after the accession of Edward II, it was not because he sentenced Gaveston to exile.


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