Archbishop William Melton


  • Richest of the Rich position: 159
  • Birth/Death: died 1340
  • Origin of wealth: Church
  • Wealth: £20,000
  • Net National Income: £5.2m
  • Net National Income Percent: 0.38%
  • In Today’s Money: £4.217 billion

Unusually, Archbishop Melton proved to be an efficient and honest administrator in fourteenth century England. A Yorkshire-born cleric, Melton was recruited into government by Edward I and Edward II. He had two spells as treasurer of the Exchequer and one as Chancellor. In 1317, he was nominated by the king to be Archbishop of York, and he went there to live until his death in 1340.

He was a prodigious pluralist, holding several ecclesiastical benefices. As Archbishop, he proved to be kind to the poor and relieved his poor tenants of their debts. But he was able to afford it. As Archbishop he made a total of at least 388 loans totalling £23,551, some at hefty interest rates. He died in 1340, leaving substantial bequests to his nephews and nieces. He built up a large Nottinghamshire estate for one nephew, raising the Meltons into a leading county family.

In his death, Melton was worth around £20,000, equivalent to about 0.38% of the £5.2m net national income. In today’s money that would be £4.2bn.

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