William de Croÿ (bishop)

Not to be confused with his uncle, William de Croÿ

William de Croÿ (known as Guillaume de Croÿ in French and Guillermo de Croÿ in Spanish); (1497 7 January 1521) was Archbishop of Toledo from 1517–21. He was born in the Burgundian Netherlands and died in Worms, Germany.

Appointment as Archbishop

William de Croÿ was the nephew of the powerful William de Croÿ, one of the most important advisers to Charles of Ghent, the future Holy Roman Emperor. Thanks to this connection, he was granted the lucrative bishopric of Soria. As an absentee bishop, this entailed no duties or work, and merely gave him an income source.[1] Pope Leo X appointed William the additional office of cardinal on 1 April 1517.[2]

On 8 November 1517, the Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, died. The Archbishopric of Toledo was the richest and most powerful in Spain. The main other claimant to succeed Cisneros was Alonso de Aragón, Archbishop of Saragossa and King Ferdinand II of Aragon's illegitimate son and young King Charles's half-uncle. However, the seventeen-year-old Charles's biggest influence was still William de Croÿ, who maneuvered his twenty-year-old nephew into the Archbishopric. The decision was made on 9 November, although complications meant he was only appointed in the first week of 1518. Most notably, Queen Isabella I of Castile's will had specifically prohibited the granting of ecclesiastical offices to foreigners. Charles resolved this problem by issuing a writ of naturalization on 14 November to William decreeing him a Castilian. Pope Leo X had granted an indult on 12 October freeing William from any current or future residency requirement to an office. It had been originally meant to legitimize his holding of the Bishopric of Soria, and was now used to justify the Archbishopric of Toledo.[1]

This appointment was immensely scandalous in Castile. Cisneros had been universally respected, and William was an unknown foreign boy. The representatives at the Cortes of Valladolid in 1518 presented petitions protesting the act. The petitions demanded that no further foreigners be granted naturalization writs and that Croÿ reside in his see. Charles agreed, but ignored the petition anyway; Croÿ never lived in Toledo. The outrage at this act of patronage would be one of the many sparks of the Revolt of the Comuneros in 1520.[1]


William was injured by a fall from his horse while in Emperor Charles V's train on 6 January 1521. The Emperor's court had been at Worms, Germany at the time, and William died the next day, aged 23. The news was concealed for a time while the royal authorities considered what to do, and as a result the death was only announced on 11 January. This date was incorrectly used as his death date when initially announced.[3]

De Croÿ's death provoked a clamor back in Spain, which his death was known by 25 January. Antonio Osorio de Acuña, bishop of Zamora and comunero rebel, dropped his campaign in the North of Castile around Palencia to head south to Toledo and attempt to succeed William as Archbishop.[3] The comuneros were eventually defeated, though, and Alonso III Fonseca became the new Archbishop of Toledo in 1523. Little pity was shown Croÿ in Castile; a contemporary account from Alonso de Santa Cruz, royal historian of King Philip II, said that "it was a just judgment of God that neither did Croy enjoy the archbishopric nor was the Marquis restored."[1] (Diego López Pacheco, the Marquis of Villena, had been one of the very few nobles to support William's appointment, likely in an attempt to gain the elder de Croÿ's favor, but failed to regain his lost lands.)[4]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Seaver, pp. 32-33.
  2. Profile, fiu.edu; accessed 16 June 2015.
  3. 1 2 Seaver, p. 234.
  4. Haliczer, p. 123


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