Was anyone Regent of England in 1360….?

Far left: arms of John Bokyngham/Buckingham (Gules, a cross bottony or) on a chest made to hold the Treaty of Calais,[1] signed in 1360 between Edward III of England and John II of France

John Bokyngham (or Buckingham; died 1399) was Bishop of Lincoln and was (according to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bokyngham) “….appointed Chamberlain of the Exchequer from 1347 until 1350, Keeper of the Great Wardrobe in 1350 until 1353, Keeper of the (Household) Wardrobe in 1353 until 1357, and a Baron of the Exchequer in 1357 until 1360….” He was also “….keeper of the seal of Thomas, regent in England from March to July 1360….”

Now, I know we can scorn Wikipedia but in general I do find it incredibly useful. However, I’m puzzled by the above. The link to Thomas, regent in England, takes you to the page of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, who was only five in 1360. Gloucester was never Regent, nor was there any Regent at all in 1360 – Edward III was in fine fettle at that time, and certainly not in need of a regent, although Henry, Earl of Lancaster had been Regent during that king’s minority. So, of whose seal was Bokyngham the keeper in 1360? Or was it simply that he was appointed Lord Privy Seal in that year? But that still doesn’t explain the reference to Thomas of Woodstock.

I wondered if I was missing something obvious, and so ventured to ask Kathryn Warner, who is a true expert on 14th-century England. I’m glad I did, for she was very helpful and informative. She tells me that “….Edward III was constantly going on military campaigns to France, and 1360 was one of them. You may know that John II of France was imprisoned in England at the time, and Edward was demanding an unpayably enormous ransom which the regents of France refused, so Edward invaded again. He took his four adult sons with him and left 5-year-old Thomas of Woodstock as nominal regent. It was standard for Edward III to make one of his sons regent or ‘keeper of the realm’ whenever he was out of England; in the summer of 1346 when he fought at Crecy, Lionel of Antwerp was left as nominal regent though he was only 7. Of course, the boys weren’t really in charge, but that’s always what Edward III did, every time he left his kingdom. The royal writs of that period all say ‘witnessed by Lionel as keeper of the realm’. Edward I, as another example, left his 13-year-old son the future Edward II as nominal regent in 1297, with a regency council advising him. So on this occasion at least, Wiki is actually correct….”

So the puzzle is solved. Five-year-old Thomas of Woodstock was indeed regent in his father’s absence, and Wikipedia is cleared of this possible blooper. The blooper was mine! 😧

To read more about Kathryn Warner and her excellent books, go here. Her work is widely available and thoroughly recommended.

Flagstone commemorating John Buckingham, Bishop of Lincoln, from the center aisle of the nave of Canterbury Cathedral


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