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John de Stratford, Archbishop of Canterbury 1333-48

On 3 November 1333 Stratford was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and resigned as chancellor in the following year; however, he held this office again from 1335 to 1337 and for about two months in 1340. In November 1340 Edward III, humiliated, impecunious and angry, returned suddenly to England from Flanders and vented his wrath upon the archbishop’s brother, the chancellor, Robert de Stratford, as well as briefly imprisoning Henry de Stratford. Fearing arrest the archbishop fled to Canterbury, and entered upon a violent war of words with the king, and by his firm conduct led to the establishment of the principle that peers were only to be tried in full parliament before their own order (en pleyn parlement et devant les piers). But good relations were soon restored between the two, and the archbishop acted as president of the council during Edward’s absence from England in 1345 and 1346, although he never regained his former position of influence.

He died in October 1348, possibly from the Black Death, which was then ravaging Europe. Under the feudal system of sede vacante the property of the Church reverted to the monarch during an interregnum, that is, before the appointment of a successor by the pope whose prerogative it was. Hence, when King Edward III decided to celebrate Christmas here with his Court, he came to Otford as landlord, not as a guest. The lavish festivities lasted five days, after which the court returned to Westminster.