Nicholas de Sigillo

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Nicholas de Sigillo
Archdeacon of Huntingdon
Appointed c. 1164
Term ended after 1187
Predecessor Henry of Huntingdon
Successor Robert de Hardres
Other posts Royal clerk
Personal details
Birth name Nicholas

Nicholas de Sigillo was a medieval Anglo-Norman administrator and clergyman in England.

Nicholas derived his name from his office, as he was clericus de sigillo, the next highest office in the royal chancery after the chancellor.[lower-alpha 1] It is unknown when he first held royal office, but it is possible it was during the reign of King Stephen of England (reigned 1135-1154).[1] One document of Stephen's reign states that he was master of Stephen's writing chamber.[2] He held a prebend in the diocese of Lincoln by the middle of the 1150s.[3]

Sometime between 1148 and 1160 Robert de Chesney, the Bishop of Lincoln granted a church to Nicholas to hold for life.[1] Nicholas would lose possession of the church if he either became a monk or if he was elevated to a bishopric, however.[4] In 1157 Nicholas was a royal administrator as he was involved with King Henry II's invasion of Wales. In the years 1157 through 1159 he was a witness to the king's charters.[1] Sometime between 1164 and 1166 he was appointed Archdeacon of Huntingdon, in succession to the medieval chronicler Henry of Huntingdon. The most likely date of his appointment is 1164 or early 1165.[2] After his appointment, John of Salisbury wrote to him, congratulating Nicholas on his new office. John also commented that Nicholas would need to change his opinion of the chances that archdeacons had of reaching salvation now that he held that office.[1]

Nicholas, as part of his duties as archdeacon, heard disputes between clergy over church property. One such dispute was heard sometime between 1164 and 1185 by Nicholas, along with the synod of his archdeaconry, over land in Woodstone parish that was disputed between the parish and Thorney Abbey.[5] Between 1164 and 1166 Nicholas put canons from Malton Priory as the clergy of the church at King's Walden in Hertfordshire.[6] Nicholas also instituted a set of "constitutions" or regulations for the clergy of his archdeaconry. This was part of Nicholas' efforts to reform the administrative and ecclesiastical affairs of his office.[7]

In 1173 Nicholas was once again working for the king, when he, along with Richard fitz Nigel and Reginald de Warenne, assessed a land tax on the royal demesne.[1] These three men assessed the tax in the counties of Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire, Kent and Sussex.[8] Nicholas is last mentioned in the historical record in 1187, as an archdeacon without territorial title.[2] During the reign of King John, a legal case documents that Nicholas gave a messuage to his niece (or possibly a granddaughter) Emma.[1] Nicholas may be the same Nicholas whose death was commemorated on 13 March at Lincoln Cathedral and gave a gift of the first volume of the Great Bible to the cathedral, where it remains as Lincoln, MS 1; the second volume is now at Trinity College, Cambridge.[2]


  1. Compare the Italian High Renaissance painter Sebastiano del Piombo, who was the Papal piombo or seal clerk.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Kingsford and Hudson "Sigillo, Nicholas de" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: volume 3: Lincoln: Archdeacons of Huntingdon
  3. Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: volume 3: Lincoln: Dignitaries and canons whose prebends are unidentified: (i) Canons holding a dignity but unidentified prebends
  4. Stenton "Acta Episcoporum" Cambridge Historical Journal p. 7
  5. Kemp "Archdeacons and Parish Churches" Law and Government p. 349
  6. Kemp "Archdeacons and Parish Churches" Law and Government p. 357
  7. Kemp "Archdeacons and Parish Churches" Law and Government pp. 362-363
  8. Richardson "Richard fitz Neal" English Historical Review p. 169 footnote 1