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The College statutes, though largely modelled on those of New College (of which Chichele had once been a Fellow), made clear the unique nature of this ninth Oxford college. Chichele demonstrated his personal interest by making himself and his successors in the See of Canterbury Visitors of his foundation. Its numbers he restricted to a Warden and forty Fellows, all of whom were to have studied for three years in the University and to be between eighteen and twenty-five years of age on election. They were to be of legitimate birth, to receive (apart from quarters and commons) an annual livery of cloth, and were to be sufficiently instructed in grammar (these requirements were doubtless responsible for the bene nati, bene vestiti et mediocriter docti gibe first recorded in Thomas Fuller's Church History in 1655). Chichele's twofold aim was that his College should produce a learned clerical 'militia' to serve church and state, and that it should also be a chantry where the Fellows should pray for the souls of the faithful departed and of those killed in the French wars – in particular for members of the House of Lancaster, with whom Chichele had close political connections. The Fellows were accordingly under a double obligation: to take orders and to engage in higher studies. Twenty-four of them were to study for the doctorate of theology and sixteen for doctorates in the two laws: canon and civil. The statutes do not refer to medicine, the third higher faculty, but a number of Fellows (including Thomas Linacre, Fellow in 1484) proceeded to medical doctorates.

As was not uncommon at the time, the statutes accorded a preference in elections to students in certain categories: in the first place, to those who could claim to be of the kin of the founder (the Founders' Kin provision), and then to those born on College land. Birth in the Province of Canterbury was an absolute requirement.