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Susanna Gregory will be adding exclusive articles on the background to the Chronicles of Matthew Bartholomew on this page. We begin with a look at the origins of the college at the heart of the stories, Michaelhouse.

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Michaelhouse's founder

Michaelhouse was founded in 1324 by a wealthy lawyer-churchman called Hervey de Stanton. Stanton not only held the wealthy livings of a number of churches, but was a successful lawyer and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer (1316) and Chief Justice of the Pleas (1323). He had amassed a great fortune by then, so much that Queen Isabella (wife of the unfortunate Edward II) made off with £800 that he had casually deposited in St Edmundsbury Abbey when she was on her way to oversee the plot to murder her husband. This was a vast sum of money in the fourteenth century.

Contemporary Court records suggest Stanton led an active life, and he was probably in his late fifties by 1324 when he founded his college - like many people of his age, he probably believed such an act would atone for past sins, as well as providing him with a chantry (his statues stipulate a set number of masses to be said annually for his soul.