For a lad born on a Westmorland fellside
farm, the life of Christopher Bainbridge followed a startlingly distinguished course,
and finally achieved the high office of Cardinal. The Bainbriggs (now spelled Bainbridge)
were originally a Lunesdale family, but were already settled in Hilton, near Appleby,
when Reginald Bainbridge was born in 1437. He married Isabella Langton, whose brother
was Archbishop-elect of Canterbury.
The Reginald Bambridges were a large family. The eighth child Thomas succeeded his
father on the farm, and in 1472 is described as 'gentleman of the schyer,' (shire)
- what today would be called a gentleman - or yeoman-farmer. Thomas's grandson Reginald
became Headmaster of Appleby Grammar School from 1578 to 1613.
It is the second son who concerns us here. He was born at the farm at Hilton in 1460.
Following the educational pattern of other Appleby scholars, he went to Queen's College,
Oxford, where he succeeded his uncle as Provost in 1495, when he was 35 years of
age. He studied law at the Universities of Ferrara and Bologna, and the astuteness
thus inculcated was a strong factor in his advancement in the Church of the time.
Oxford, preferment followed rapidly. Progressing through a succession of appointments
as Prebendary of Salisbury, then of Lincoln, and several other places, he was Master
of the Rolls when he was appointed Bishop of Durham in 1507. After only one year at
Durham, he was elected Archbishop of York in iSOg. Hhis appointment was even more
short-lived, as, after only three months in office, king Henry VIII selected him
as Ambassador Extraordinary to the Papal Court in Rome. He was obviously a man marked
for advancement, for in 1511, Pope Julius II c~ated him Cardinal of St Praxis.
Alas, Christopher Bambridge's rise to high office was cut short when his steward,
Rivaldus de M~nena, murdered him by poison on 14th July 1514. It iis said that he
had caned the man for a misdemeanor, and the act was one of vengeance, though it
is possible that political intrigue was the underlying cause of his death.
Bambridge was buried in Rome, where his tomb may still be seen at the English College.
The house 'Lane End' in Hilton is said to stand on the on the site of the farm where
he was born
Further reading: D S chambers. Cardinal Bambridge in the Court or Rome. (Oxford,
1965) G Atkinson, The Worthies ol Westmorland, (London, 1849)