William Warham
Archbishop of Canterbury
Portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger (1527)
ChurchCatholic Church
Appointed29 November 1503
Term ended22 August 1532
PredecessorHenry Deane
SuccessorThomas Cranmer
Consecration25 September 1502
by Richard Foxe
Personal details
Bornc. 1450
Died22 August 1532
Hackington, Kent,
BuriedCanterbury Cathedral, Kent
SignatureWilliam Warham's signature

William Warham (c. 1450 – 22 August 1532) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1503 to his death in 1532.

Early life and education

Warham was the son of Robert Warham of Malshanger in Hampshire. He was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford.[1]

Legal career

After graduating, Warham practised and taught law both in London and Oxford.[2] His father was a tenant farmer,[3] but his brother, Sir Hugh Warham, acquired an estate at Croydon, which passed to his daughter Agnes, who married Sir Anthony St Leger.[4]


Later, Warham took holy orders, held two livings (Barley and Cottenham) and became Master of the Rolls in 1494. Henry VII found him a useful and clever diplomatist. He helped to arrange the marriage between Henry's son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon. He went to Scotland with Richard Foxe, then bishop of Durham, in 1497. He was partly responsible for several commercial and other treaties with Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, also Count of Flanders and Regent Duke of Burgundy, on behalf of his son Philip IV of Burgundy.


In 1502, he was consecrated Bishop of London and became Keeper of the Great Seal, but his tenure of both offices was short, as in 1504, he became Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1506, he became Chancellor of Oxford University, a role he held until his death. In 1509, he presided over the wedding of and then crowned Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

Warham's tomb in Canterbury Cathedral

On 28 September 1511, he made a visit to the hospital at Maison Dieu, Faversham.[5]

As archbishop, Warham seems to have been somewhat arbitrary; for example, his actions led to a serious quarrel with Foxe, then Bishop of Winchester, and others in 1512. That made him gradually withdraw into the background after the coronation. He resigned the office of Lord Chancellor in 1515 and was succeeded by Thomas Wolsey, whom he had consecrated as bishop of Lincoln in the previous year. His resignation was possibly because of his dislike of Henry's foreign policy.

Warham was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520 and assisted Wolsey as assessor during the secret inquiry into the validity of Henry's marriage with Catherine in 1527. Throughout the divorce proceedings, Warham's position was essentially that of an old and weary man. He was named as one of the counsellors to assist the queen, but, fearing to incur the king's displeasure and using his favourite phrase ira principis mors est ("the king's anger is death"), he gave her very little help and signed the letter to Pope Clement VII that urged the pope to assent to Henry's wish. Later, it was proposed that the archbishop himself should try the case, but the suggestion came to nothing.

Warham presided over the Convocation of 1531, when the clergy of the Province of Canterbury voted £100,000 to the king to avoid the penalties of praemunire and accepted Henry as supreme head of the church with the face-saving clause "so far as the Law of Christ allows".

In Warham's concluding years, however, the archbishop showed rather more independence. In February 1532, he protested against all acts concerning the church passed by the parliament that met in 1529, but that did not prevent the important proceedings which secured the complete submission of the church to the state later in the same year. Against this further compliance with Henry's wishes, Warham drew up a protest in which he likened the action of Henry VIII to that of Henry II and urged Magna Carta in defence of the liberties of the church.[6] He attempted in vain to strike a compromise during the Submission of the Clergy.

Death and legacy

Having been munificent in his public and moderate in his private life, he died on a visit to his nephew, also William Warham. He was buried in the Martyrdom (north) transept of Canterbury Cathedral. He was succeeded as archbishop by his rival, Thomas Cranmer.[7] Warham Guild was named after him.


  1. ^ Waad-Warwright Pages 1550-1577 Alumni Oxonienses 1500-1714
  2. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1899). "Warham, William" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 59. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 384.
  3. ^ Gwyn, Peter The King's Cardinal- the rise and fall of Thomas Wolsey 1990 Pimlico Edition p.26
  4. ^ Lee, Sidney, ed. (1897). "St. Leger, Warham" . Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 50. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 167.
  5. ^ Hasted, Edward (1798). "Parishes". Hospitals: Ospringe, A History of the County of Kent. 2. Institute of Historical Research: 222–224. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  6. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Warham, William" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 325.
  7. ^ Stephen Taylor (1999). From Cranmer to Davidson: A Church of England Miscellany. Boydell & Brewer. pp. 11–. ISBN 978-0-85115-742-9.


Political offices Preceded byHenry Deane(Keeper of the Great Seal) Keeper of the Great Seal 1502–1504 Succeeded byThomas Wolsey(Lord Chancellor) Lord Chancellor 1504–1515 Catholic Church titles Preceded byThomas Savage Bishop of London 1502–1504 Succeeded byWilliam Barnes Preceded byHenry Deane Archbishop of Canterbury 1503–1532 Succeeded byThomas Cranmer Academic offices Preceded byRichard Mayew Chancellor of the University of Oxford 1506–1532 Succeeded byJohn Longland