Thomas Cranley

Thomas Cranley DD (aka Thomas Craule; c.1337–1417) was a leading statesman, judge and cleric in early fifteenth-century Ireland, who held the offices of Chancellor of Oxford University,[1] Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland.

Early career

He was born in England about 1337; little seems to be known about his family. He entered the Carmelite order: he is recorded as a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, in 1366, became Warden of New College in 1389[2] and Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1390.[3] He was a Doctor of Divinity and a judge.[4]

Irish career

In 1397, on the death of Richard Northalis, he was made Archbishop of Dublin and arrived in Ireland the following year. After the accession of King Henry IV, Cranley undertook a diplomatic mission on the King's behalf to Rome before being made Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1401. When Henry's son Thomas, Duke of Clarence, was made Lord Deputy of Ireland, Cranley was appointed to his council. A letter which he sent to the King around the end of 1402 painted a grim picture of the state of English rule in Ireland. Cranley assured the King of his absolute loyalty and duty to both the King and his son, but implores the King to send money and aid since "your son is so destitute of money that he has not a penny in the world ... and his soldiers have departed from him, and the people of his household are on the point of leaving."[5] The King, who was generally short of money, is not known to have responded.

The pressure of official business, combined with the effects of ill health and old age made Cranley increasingly unfit to perform his duties, and in latter years the office of Chancellor was usually carried out by his deputies, first Thomas de Everdon, then Laurence Merbury. Cranley resigned as Chancellor in 1410, but in 1413 the new King Henry V reappointed him to that office. This is a tribute to the high regard in which the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl of Shrewsbury, held him; he also acted as Justiciar of Ireland, following the sudden death of Sir John Stanley, although in view of his age and ill health it was understood that this was only a temporary appointment. As Justiciar he was assisted by a military council, made up of such noted soldiers as Sir Jenico d'Artois.[6]

He became prebendary of Clonmethan in 1410: in 1414 he was sued for recovery of the profits of the prebend for the previous two years, on the grounds that he had been an absentee prebend, but the lawsuit was dismissed on Cranley's producing the King's letters patent authorising his absence.[7]

In 1417 he was asked to present a memorial on the state of Ireland to the English Crown; he reached England, but he was an old man even by modern standards, and in frail health. He died at Faringdon in Berkshire on 25 May. He was buried in New College, Oxford: the inscription on his tomb hails him as "the flower of prelates".[3]

Appearance and character

Early historians praised Cranley for both his mental and physical qualities: "thou art fair beyond the children of men, grace is diffused through thy lips because of thine eloquence" wrote one particularly eloquent admirer. He was described as tall and commanding in appearance, with fair hair and a ruddy complexion; in personality he was witty, eloquent and learned. As a cleric, he was described as charitable to the poor, a notable preacher and a great builder of churches.[5]


  1. Hibbert, Christopher, ed. (1988). "Appendix 5: Chancellors of the University". The Encyclopaedia of Oxford. Macmillan. pp. 521–522. ISBN 0-333-39917-X.
  2. Salter, H. E. and Lobel, Mary D., eds. (1954). "New College". A History of the County of Oxford. Volume 3: The University of Oxford. Victoria County History. pp. 144–162.
  3. 1 2 Ball, F. Elrington (1926). The Judges in Ireland 1221–1921. London: John Murray.
  4. Wood, Anthony (1790). "Fasti Oxonienses". The History and Antiquities of the Colleges and Halls in the University of Oxford. Google Books. p. 33.
  5. 1 2 O'Flanagan, J. Roderick (1870). Lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal in Ireland. Two volumes. London.
  6. Otway-Ruthve, A.J. History of Medieval Ireland Barnes and Noble reissue 1993 p.348
  7. John D'Alton History of the County of Dublin 1838 Hodges and Smith
Academic offices
Preceded by
Nicholas Wykeham
Wardens of New College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Richard Malford
Preceded by
Thomas Brightwell
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Succeeded by
Robert Rygge
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