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.