Biographies – Men of the Clergy

Lucky last at the end of the month. A couple of mini biographies of influential men of the clergy.

• Roger, Bishop of Salisbury

Roger, Bishop of Salisbury
Birth: –
Death: 11 December 1139, Salisbury

Although he was not formally educated, Roger had a great talent for administrative business and was an effective bureaucrat. Henry I appointed him Chancellor in 1101, an office which he held until late 1102. Roger devoted himself to the administrative business of the realm, The Court of Exchequer, and became its chief minister or Justiciar. He received the bishopric of Salisbury on 29 September 1102 and held this until his death in 1139. Although Roger, along with the rest of the clergy and nobility, had sworn allegiance to Matilda, he supported Stephen’s claim to the throne after Henry’s death. Stephen relied on him and his nephews, the bishops of Ely and Lincoln, yet at the same time was irritated by Roger’s overwhelming influence. At a council held in June 1139, Stephen found a pretext for demanding the surrender of their castles. When they refused Stephen had them arrested and after a short struggle all Roger’s wealth and possessions were seized. Stephen’s attack on Roger incensed the clergy, including his brother Henry, who perceived it as an attack on the church itself. It proved to be a poor decision that would come to cost Stephen dearly.

• William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury

William of Corbeil
Birth: –
Death: 21 November 1136, Canterbury, Kent
Burial: Canterbury Cathedral

Elected in 1123 to succeed Ralph d’Escures, William is best known as the builder of the Keep of Rochester Castle and for his decision to crown Stephen. In this the Archbishop was persuaded by Henry of Blois and Roger of Salisbury who argued that the oath Henry had made the clergy and barons swear to recognise Matilda had been forcefully imposed. He was also influenced by the statement of Hugh Bigod, who claimed that he had been present at Henry’s deathbed and the dying king had released the barons and the bishops from their oath of fealty. The claim was untrue but no one present was willing to dispute it.

• Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury

Theobald of Bec
Birth: –
Death: 18 April 1161, Canterbury, Kent
Burial: Canterbury Cathedral

Theobald was elected to fill the vacant archbishopric of Canterbury in 1138, a move which earned him the enmity of Stephen’s brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester. He is best known for refusing to consecrate Stephen’s son and heir, Eustace, and as the patron of his successor Thomas Becket.

• Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester

Henry of Blois
Birth: c.1101
Death: 8 August 1171
Burial: Winchester or Cluny
Father: Stephen II, Count of Blois and Champagne
Mother: Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror

Henry, Abbot of Glastonbury 1126-1171, Bishop of Winchester 1129-1171, Papal Legate 1139-1143, was the younger brother of King Stephen. Henry was educated at Cluny and adhered to the principles of Cluniac reform. He is known for his passion for literature and architecture. Except for a those months in 1141 when he changed his support to Matilda when he thought he was on the winning side, Henry supported and advised Stephen and is credited as one of the clergy who, rightly or wrongly depending on your point of view, helped convince William of Corbeil, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to crown Stephen.


Biographies – Other Notable Barons

Short biographies of other notable barons during the years 1135-1154

• Aubrey de Vere II and Alice FitzRichard de Clare

Aubrey de Vere II
Birth: –
Death: 1141
Burial: Colne Priory, Essex
Father: Aubrey de Vere
Mother: –
Marriage: Alice FitzRichard de Clare
Aubrey de Vere, 1st Earl of Oxford m. (1) 1139 Beatrice de Guises, daughter of the Comte de Guises. He and Beatrice de Guises were divorced c.1146. (2) c.1162 Agnes of Essex, daughter of Henry of Essex, Lord Rayleigh and Haughley
Rohese, m. Geoffrey de Mandeville II, 1st Earl of Essex
Juliana, m. Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk
William, Bishop of Hereford
Gilbert, Prior of the Knights Hospitaller in England
a daughter m. Roger de Ramis

Aubrey de Vere was appointed Lord Great Chamberlain by Henry I in 1133. He served both Henry and Stephen as well as being appointed Sheriff of several Shires. In 1139 when Stephen was summoned to a church council to answer for the seizure of castles held by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, it was Aubrey who represented the King. Aubrey died in 1141. Eventually, his son would be created 1st Earl of Oxford. It was the de Vere family who built the still well preserved Keep, Hedingham Castle, in Essex.

• Brian Fitzcount and Matilda de Wallingford

Brian Fitzcount
Birth: –
Death: –
Burial: –
Father: Alan IV, Duke of Brittany
Mother: –
Marriage: Matilda of Wallingford
Children: None

Brian (Brien) Fitzcount, Lord of Wallingford and Baron Abergavenny, was the illegitimate son of Alan IV Fergant, Count of Brittany. He was sent to the court of King Henry I as a child and, like Robert of Gloucester, gained high favour and almost certainly a good education at court. The letters he exchanged with Gilbert Foliot indicate that this is the case. He married Matilda de Wallingford who brought him the lands of her father, Robert D’Oyly, and those of her late husband, Miles Crispin.

He declared for Matilda in 1139 and was a staunch supporter of her claim. Stephen unsuccessfully laid siege to Wallingford Castle, a place which would become a recurring irritation throughout his reign. Brian’s later years are shrouded in mystery and because he and his wife had no heirs their lands and titles reverted to the crown after their deaths. Although an authentic charter of 1141/2 proves that he held Abergavenny by right of his wife, the story in the Abergavenny Chronicle that he went on crusade is unreliable.

• Miles of Gloucester and Sybil de Neufmarché

Miles of Gloucester
Birth: c.1100
Death: 24 December 1143
Burial: Llanthony Priory
Father: Walter of Gloucester
Mother: Bertha
Marriage: Sybil de Neufmarché
Roger, 2nd Earl of Hereford

Miles of Gloucester was the son of Walter Fitz Roger and the grandson of Roger de Pîtres. He held the office of hereditary Sheriff of Gloucester after the death of his father in 1121. He married Sybil de Neufmarché who was the daughter of Bernard de Neufmarché, Lord of Brecon and Nest, in 1121 and with her had eight children. He was in the service of Henry I between 1130 and 1135 and held the office of King’s Constable. After Henry’s death he, like many of the barons, at first declared for Stephen but when Matilda arrived in England in 1139 he declared for her and put Gloucester at her disposal. He remained loyal to her cause and was created Earl of Hereford by Matilda on 25th July 1141 and retained as her Constable. Miles died on 24th December 1143 in the Forest of Dean, the result of a hunting accident, and was buried at Llanthony Priory in southeast Wales.

• Waleran, Count of Muelan, 1st Earl of Worcester and Robert, 2nd Earl of Leicester

Waleran, Count of Meulan
Birth: 1104
Death: 9 April, 1166
Burial: St Peter of Préaux, Normandy
Father: Robert, Count of Meulan and 1st Earl of Leicester
Mother: Elizabeth de Vermandois
Marriage: 1141/2 – Agnes de Montfort
Robert, Count of Meulan
Raoul (Ralph)
Etienne (Stephen)

… and his brother

Robert, 2nd Earl of Leicester
Birth: 1104
Death: 5 April, 1168
Burial: –
Marriage: 1121 – Amice de Montfort
Robert, 3rd Earl of Leicester
Isabel, m. Simon II of St Liz (Simon II de Senlis), Earl of Huntingdon and Northampton

The brothers were taken into the royal household of Henry I shortly after their father’s death in June 1118. Despite Waleran’s rebellion in 1122, in which Robert appears to have played no part, and his imprisonment until 1129, the twins were present at Henry’s court after this date and at his deathbed in 1135. There is more information to come with regards to their involvement in the struggles between Stephen and Matilda.

Robert of Leicester’s son in law, Simon II of St Liz (de Senlis), who was the son of Simon I of St Liz (de Senlis), 1st Earl of Huntingdon and Northampton, was also prominent figure in The Anarchy. He fought for Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 and despite the King’s defeat continued to loyally support Stephen’s cause. He died in 1153.

• King David of Scotland and Matilda, Countess of Huntingdon

David of Scotland
Birth: 1085
Death: 23 May 1153, Carlisle
Burial: Dunfermline Abbey
Father: Malcolm III
Mother: Saint Margaret of Scotland
Marriage: 1113 – Matilda, Countess of Huntingdon
Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumbria

David was the younger brother of Queen Edith and after the death of Henry I, he supported the claim of Matilda, his niece, to the throne of England. This brought him into conflict with Stephen and despite his defeat at the Battle of the Standard in 1138 David was able to expand his power in northern England. It was King David who later knighted the future Henry II in 1149. More information about his role in the disputed succession between Matilda and Stephen will be forthcoming in the discussions of Stephen’s reign.

• Robert D’Oyly and Edith Forne

Robert D’Oyly
Birth: –
Death: possibly c.1142
Father: Nigel D’Oyly
Mother: –
Marriage: Edith Forne
Henry, d.1163

Robert D’Oyly the younger was the son of Nigel D’Oyly, Lord of Oxford Castle, and nephew of his namesake Robert D’Oyly d.1091 who was Lord of Wallingford, High Sheriff of Berkshire, builder of Oxford Castle, and one the largest landholders in England.

Robert D’Oyly the younger’s marriage to Edith Forne, a former mistress of Henry I, brought him the Manor of Cleydon, Buckinghamshire.

In 1141 Robert declared his support for Matilda against the King and gave her protection in Oxford. Stephen besieged the castle for three months, and it was during the winter that Matilda is said to have escaped by being lowered down the castle walls and, dressed in white as a camouflage against the snow and fleeing across the frozen ground, made her way to the safety of Wallingford in a story that has now became legendary.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. There are other notable barons of the era, for example, Richard de Lucy who became an important landholder in Essex toward the end of Stephen’s reign, however I think the biographies I have posted to date covers all of the main players. A brief post about the men of the clergy is to follow.

Biographies – Geoffrey de Mandeville II

Hmmm … perhaps I should have entitled this post ‘A Rogue’s Gallery’, but please do read on …

• Geoffrey de Mandeville II, 1st Earl of Essex and Rohese de Vere

Geoffrey de Mandeville II
Birth: –
Death: 1144
Burial: Temple Church, London
Father: William de Mandeville
Mother: Margaret, daughter of Eudo de Rie also called Eudo (Dapifer) and Rohese de Clare
Marriage: Rohese de Vere, daughter of Aubrey de Vere II
Ernulf, disinherited, exiled for supporting his father in rebellion
Geoffrey III, 2nd earl of Essex (d.1166)
William II, 3rd earl of Essex and Count of Aumale (d.1189)
Robert (d. c.1189)

It seems Geoffrey was not only a bit of a rogue but that he also took great delight in playing both Stephen and Matilda, The Empress, for fools until he met his demise in 1144. He changed sides and supported either one more than once and his prime objective, at least in the beginning, seems to have been the restoration of his family’s estates which had been seized by Henry I after his father, William de Mandeville, got into trouble and fell foul of the king. He at first supported Stephen who duly made him Earl of Essex in late 1139 or during 1140 and then in 1141 appointed him custodian of the White Tower in London.

He, like many barons, supported Matilda after Stephen’s defeat at the Battle of Lincoln and she reconfirmed his possessions and granted him the Norman lands of his paternal grandfather, Eudo de Rie (Dapifer), and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London. After Stephen’s release he turned his support back to the King but it must have been short-lived because he rebelled and Stephen confiscated his castles in 1143.

During 1143 and 1144 Geoffrey set up his headquarters in the fen country of East Anglia and used the Isle of Ely and Ramsey Abbey as a base for his rebel operations. From this position it was difficult for Stephen to effectively contain Geoffrey’s activities, although he was eventually besieged by Stephen. Geoffrey died in September 1144, the result of an arrow wound he had received in a skirmish while attacking Burwell Castle in August 1144.

• Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk, Juliane de Vere, and Gundreda

Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk
Birth: 1095
Death: 1177
Father: Roger Bigod
Mother: Alice (Adeliza) de Tosny
Marriage: (1) 1140 Juliane de Vere
Roger Bigod, 2nd Earl of Norfolk
Marriage: (2) Gundreda
Hugh Bigod
William Hugh Bigod

Infamous as the man who swore an oath that Henry I had disinherited his daughter Matilda in favour of Stephen on his deathbed, Hugh Bigod had become heir to his father’s estates in East Anglia after the death of his elder brother, William Bigod, in the White Ship disaster of 1120. Hugh was married twice. His first marriage was to Juliane de Vere, the daughter of Aubrey de Vere II and Alice FitzRichard de Clare, and produced one son, Roger. His second marriage was to Gundreda, the daughter of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick, which produced two sons, Hugh and William.

Hugh Bigod was another one of the barons who appears to have frequently changed his loyalties between Matilda and Stephen depending on which way he thought ‘the wind was blowing’ in his own best interests.

Actually, I was almost tempted to include Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, the younger brother of King Stephen, in this post as well because his loyalties and actions toward both his brother and Matilda, The Empress were, at times, questionable as well. However, I’ve decided to include a short biography of him with the other men of the clergy.