LANGTON, STEPHEN (d. 1228), English cardinal and archbishop of Canterbury, the first great Englishman in the primacy since Dunstan, was the son of Henry, lord of the manor of Langton-by-Wragby, Lincolnshire, but the date of his birth is unknown. He became early in his career a prebendary of York, and his brother Simon (d. 1248) was elected to that see in 1215. Stephen, however, migrated to Paris, and having graduated in that university became one of its most celebrated theologians. He spent some 25 years in Paris. This was probably the time when he composed his voluminous commentaries (many of which still exist in manuscript). He divided the Old Testament books of the Vulgate into chapters, and was probably responsible for the grouping of the historical apocryphal books. To this period belong his Questiones, dealing with subjects of current debate, such as the limits of obedience to episcopal authority and the papal power of dispensation. At Paris also he contracted the friendship with Lothar of Segni, the future Innocent III., which played so important a part in shaping his career. Upon becom ing pope, Innocent summoned Langton to Rome, and in 1206 designated him as cardinal-priest of S. Chrysogonus. Immediately afterwards Langton was drawn into the vortex of English politics.
John a secret pledge to elect none hut the bishop of Norwich, were released from the promise by Innocent ; and at his suggestion elected Stephen Langton, who was consecrated by the pope June 17, 1207.
On hearing the news the king banished the monks of Canter bury and lodged a protest with the pope, in which he threatened to prevent any English appeals from being brought to Rome. Innocent replied by laying England under an interdict (March 1208), and excommunicating the king (November 1209). As John still remained obstinate, the pope at length invited the French king Philip Augustus to enter England and depose him. It was this threat which forced John to sue for a reconciliation; and the first condition exacted was that he should acknowledge Langton as archbishop. During these years Langton had been residing at Pontigny, formerly the refuge of Becket. He had addressed to the English people a dignified protest against the king's conduct, but he had consistently adopted towards John as conciliatory an attitude as his duty to the church would allow, and had more than once entered upon negotiations for a peaceful compromise. Immediately after entering England (July 1213) he showed his desire for peace by absolving the king.