Robert Flemming (1416 -
ecclesiastic and humanist
Robert was born in the diocese of York, being the
illegitimate son of Robert Flemming, esquire, of Wath, near Ripon.
He was of a strong Lancastrian family, with his uncle, Richard
Flemming, being the bishop of Lincoln and his aunt Cecily was married
His uncle obained a papal dispensation, dated 20th
January 1427, for Robert to hold from his twelfth birthday, a canonry
and subdiaconal prebend at Lincoln Cathedral. On 2nd April 1428
he was installed by proxy as prebendary of Frandon-cum-Balderton.
Two years later he transferred to Milton Ecclesia and in 1467 he
exchanged for Leighton Manor. Finally, in 1478, he exchanged for
Leighton Buzzard which he held until his death. He additionally
held a number of benefices which combined with the prebend, funded
his academic career and his exceptional library.
Robert attended University College, Oxford graduating
in 1437-8 with an M.A. The following year he was made the university's
junior proctor. He proceeded to holy orders, being ordained priest
21st May 1440, and went on to study theology at University College
until summer 1443, having that year become rector of Menthley (the
family living). Robert subsequently went to the University of Cologne
and matriculated from there in 1445. By 1446 he had left Cologne
to go to the studium of Padua, and received their BTh degree the
Having heard Guarino da Verona lecture at Paudua,
he decided to follow him to the studium of Ferrara where between
1447 and 1450 Robert attended Guarino's lectures and learned Greek.
1450 Robert was back in England and in 1452 was collated as dean
of Lincoln. By 1453 he had become one of Henry
VI's chaplains - effectively an honory post he probably retained
until 1461 when Henry was deposed.
He was named as royal proctor at the papal curia
in 1455, 1456 and 1458. In 1457, whilst still in Rome, Robert
was appointed as one of the representatives to renew the King's
In 1458, after the election of Pope Pius II, he was
appointed apolistic protonotary. Following the pope's call for
a crusade to recover Byzantium, Robert was appointed as one of
the English envoys to attend the diet at Mantua in 1459, however,
on arrival the pope decided not to receive the delegation. Subsequently,
he returned to England and to University College, Oxford, however,
his royal associations had ceased at Edward VI's accession.
By 1473 he had returned to Rome and was made Lateran
count palatine. At this time he wrote a poem
in two books entitled
Tibutinae lucubrationes in the pope's praise.
In 1478 he returned to England for the last time,
taking up his duties as dean of Lincoln. Flemming died on the
12th August 1483, and was buried in the cathedral. His extensive
library was bequeathed to Lincoln College, Oxford
(a college his uncle had founded in 1427).