Skip to main content Accessibility help

Richard Lionheart and English Episcopal Elections*

  • Ralph V. Turner

While Henry II and John's bitter quarrels with the Church have inspired much comment from both contemporaries and modern scholars, Richard Lionheart's relations with the English Church have attracted little notice. The lack of theatrical clashes with the pope or the archbishop of Canterbury has led modern scholars to assume that Richard I enjoyed fortunate relations with his clergy. Richard's most recent biographer has viewed him as “a conventionally pious man,” and contemporary chroniclers depicted him as fitting the Church's definition of the perfect knight whose financial exactions and other faults could be overlooked because of his crusader status.

Almost continuously absent from England, the Lionheart is assumed to have had little opportunity to assert his will in ecclesiastical matters. Yet, Richard I was as determined as his father and brother to defend English monarchs' traditional rights over the Church, because their mastery over such a powerful institution conferred many advantages. Their bishops were also barons who advised the king at great councils, who often held posts in the royal administration, and who owed feudal obligations, even quotas of knights. The royal right of regalia gave Richard custody of church lands during an episcopal vacancy and the right to authorize new elections and to approve bishops-elect.

Sir Christopher Cheney, a leading authority on the twelfth-century Church, observed that Richard I was “forever busy with the English Church.” An examination of the Lionheart's ecclesiastical policy proves him correct, revealing a monarch who had little respect for the Church's freedom and worked to preserve his royal predecessors's authority over it. Richard took care to oversee closely English episcopal elections.

Hide All

This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Carolinas Symposium on British Studies, Boone, North Carolina, 7 October 1995.

Hide All

1 Gillingham, John, Richard the Lionheart (New York, 1978), pp. 36–37, 161; see also comments of Richard, A., Histoire des comtes de Poitou, 2 vols. (Paris, 1903), 2: 229, 328.

2 E.g. Salmon, André, ed., Receuil des Chroniques de Touraine, Société archéologique de Touraine (Tours, 1854), Chron. Magnum Turon., pp. 144–45, obituary of Richard I: “ecclesiae patronus, et divini officii indefessus”; or Ambroise, The Crusade of Richard Lion-Heart, [Estoire de la Guerre sainte], ed. and trans. Hubert, J. H. and La Monte, John L. (New York, 1941), lines 12134–37, “the finest knight on earth.”

3 Cheney, C. R., From Becket to Langton: English Church Government 1170–1213 (Manchester, 1956), p. 10.

4 Radulphi de Coggeshall Chronicon Anglicanum, ed. Stevenson, J., Rolls Series (London, 1875) [hereafter cited as Coggeshall], p. 26; complaint against Henry II, p. 91, praise of Richard I.

5 Calculation of Richard R. Heiser, based on dates in Handbook of British Chronology.

6 William of Newburgh, Historia rerum Anglicarum, ed. Howlett, Richard, Rolls Series (London, 18841885), pp. 451–53; cited by Partner, Nancy, Serious Entertainments: The Writing of History in Twelfth-Century England (Chicago, 1977), p. 65; Bartlett, Robert, Gerald of Wales 1146–1223 (Oxford, 1982); citing Opera, ed. Brewer, J. S., et al., Vita Sancti Hugonis, 7, Rolls Series (London, 1877), p. 103.

7 In prejudicium et libertatis nostrae et regni nostri, Epistolae Cantuarienses, in Chronicles and Memorials, Richard I, ed. Stubbs, William, Rolls Series, 2 vols. (London, 18641865), 2: 404; Three Rolls of the King's Court, ed. Maitland, F. W., Pipe Roll Society, 14 (London, 1891), p. 50, Geoffrey of York's excommunication of William de Stuteville.

8 Duggan, Charles, “From the Conquest to the Death of John,” in Lawrence, C. H., ed., The English Church and the Papacy in the Middle Ages (New York, 1965), p. 93. Popes during Richard's reign were Clement III, d. March 1191, and Celestine III, March 1191 to January 1198, and then Innocent III.

9 Cheney, , From Becket to Langton, p. 91.

10 Walker, David, “Crown and Episcopacy under the Normans and Angevins,” Anglo-Norman Studies 5 (1982): 221.

11 Radulphi de Diceto Opera Historica, ed. Stubbs, William, 2 vols., Rolls Series (London, 1876) [hereafter cited as Ralph Diceto], 2: 128–29; trans, of Cheney, C. R., Pope Innocent III and England (Stuttgart, 1979), p. 127.

12 E.g., his order to the chapter of St. David's, Wales, to send four canons to Normandy to elect a new bishop, Landon, Lionel, The Itinerary of Richard I, Pipe Roll Society, n.s., 13 (1935): 138; Gerald of Wales, Opera, 1, Invectionum Libellus (London, 1861), p. 105.

13 Landon, , Itinerary, p. 7.

14 Benedict of Peterborough [actual author, Howden, Roger], Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi, ed. Stubbs, William, Rolls Series, 2 vols. (London, 1867) [Hereafter cited as Gesta Henrici], 2: 85. Roger of London received his benediction per preceptum regis in spite of a prohibition by Geoffrey, elect of York, p. 100.

15 Appleby, John T., England without Richard 1189–1199 (Ithaca, 1965), p. 9.

16 Gesta, Henrici, 2: 7778.

17 Ibid., p. 78; Chronica Rogeri de Hovedene, ed. Stubbs, William, Rolls Series, 4 vols. (London, 18681871) [hereafter cited as Roger Howden], 3: 7.

18 Gesta, Henrici, 2: 85, “And thus all controversy between [Hubert Walter] and Geoffrey the elect of the church of York was put at rest.”

19 Richard proposed William de Chimillé as archdeacon of Richmond and William de Sainte-Mère-Eglise as canon of York Minster, also Burchard, nephew of Hugh de Puiset, proposed as treasurer of York.

20 Gesta, Henrici, 2: 91–92, 99100; Roger, Howden, 3: 27.

21 Young, Charles R., Hubert Walter, Lord of Canterbury and Lord of England (Durham, N.C., 1967), pp. 2527; Gesta, Henrici, 2: 100; Roger, Howden, 3: 27; but Pipe Roll 2 Richard I, ed. Stenton, Doris M., Pipe Roll Society, n.s. 1 (1925): 74, records a debt of only £2,000.

22 Roger, Howden, 3: 28; Gesta, Henrici, 2: 100.

23 Lovatt, Marie B., “The Career and Administration of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Archbishop of York ?1151–1212” (Ph.D. diss., University of Cambridge, 1975). See also Douie, Decima L., Archbishop Geoffrey Plantagenet and the Chapter of York, St. Anthony's Hall Publications, no. 18 (York, 1960).

24 Ralph, Diceto, 2: 89; Annales Monastici, ed. Luard, H. R., Rolls Series, 4 vols. (London, 18641869), 3: 26, Dunstaple; 4: 44, Osney, Chronica Rogeri de Wendover, ed. Hewlett, H. G., Rolls Series, 3 vols. (London, 18861889), 1: 203. For the exact date of the election, see Greenway, Diana E., ed., Fasti, Monastic Cathedrals 1066–1300 (London, 1971), p. 100.

25 Landon, , Itinerary, p. 35.

26 Letter from Messina to his brother John, c. 25 Jan. 1191, Epist. Cantuar, 2: 329, 330.

27 Elections at Worcester, July 1190; Canterbury, Nov. 1191; Bath, Dec. 1191; Exeter, ante 1194; and Canterbury a second time, May 1193. Poggioli, Peter A., “From Politician to Prelate: The Career of Walter of Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen, 1184–1207” (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1984), p. 75.

28 Epist. Cantuar., 2: 348, 349; Gervase of Canterbury: Historical Works, ed. Stubbs, William, Rolls Series, 2 vols. (London, 18791880), 1: 509–10.

29 Letter of John, warning the monks that their election of Longchamp would be contra dignitatem et voluntatem domini regis and that they should not proceed with an election until they heard from the archbishop of Rouen, Epist. Cantuar., 2: 346.

30 Gervase of Canterbury, 1: 508; Epist. Cantuar., 2: 348; for details see Poggioli, , “Walter of Coutances,” pp. 7680.

31 Gervase of Canterbury, 1: 511; Epist. Cantuar., 2: 349, 353–54; Ralph, Diceto, 2: 103.

32 Warren, W. L., Henry II (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1973), p. 535.

33 The Chronicle of Richard of Devizes, ed. Appleby, John T. (London, 1963), p. 29, editor's note.

34 Roger, Howden, 4: 8182; see also Cheney, , Innocent III and England, p. 221.

35 Landon, , Itinerary, p. 76.

36 Young, , Hubert Walter, pp. 3442.

37 Ibid., p. 44; Epist. Cantuar., 2: 364, 362–66; Gervase of Canterbury, 1: 517–18, 522.

38 Epist. Cantuar., 2: 362–66.

39 Greenway, Diana E., ed., Fasti, 4, Salisbury (London, 1991), p. 3.

40 Turner, Ralph V., The English Judiciary in the Age of Glanvill and Bracton (Cambridge, 1985), p. 59.

41 Roger, Howden, 3: 221; Memoriale Walteri de Coventria, ed. Stubbs, William, Rolls Series (London, 18721873), 2: 40.

42 Landon, , Itinerary, p. 7.

43 Cheney, , Innocent III and England, pp. 220–21.

44 Poggioli, Peter, “Walter of Coutances,” p. 76.

45 Spear, David S., “The Norman Empire and the Secular Clergy, 1066–1204,” Journal of British Studies 21 (19811982): 10, n47.

46 Ralph, Diceto, 2: 128–29; cited by Cheney, , Innocent III and England, p. 126; see the quotation at note 11 above.

47 Cheney, , Innocent III and England, p. 125; Gervase of Canterbury, 1: 530; Roger, Howden, 4: 9–10, 18; Ralph, Diceto, 2: 128–29; Coggeshall, p. 70.

48 Landon, , Itinerary, p. 120; Coggeshall, p. 70. Richard had named Eustace archdeacon of Richmond and treasurer of York in 1196, Roger, Howden, 4: 12, 14.

49 Ralph, Diceto, 2: 164–66; Landon, , Itinerary, p. 138; Cheney, , Innocent III and England, p. 126. On William's career, see Turner, Ralph V., Men Raised from the Dust (Philadelphia, 1988), pp. 2034.

50 Ralph, Diceto, 2: 166; also Coggeshall, p. 89.

51 Ralph, Diceto, 2: 146; Roger, Howden, 4: 13, describes John's succession to Worcester as the “gift” of King Richard.

52 Poggioli, , “Walter of Coutances,” p. 122.

53 Roger, Howden, 4: 78.

54 Annales Monastici, 4: 390, Worcester; Knowles, David, The Monastic Order in England 940–1216, (2nd ed.; Cambridge, 1963), p. 335.

55 Roger, Howden, 4: 45; Sanders, I. J., English Baronies (Oxford, 1960), p. 100.

56 Epist. Cantuar., 2: 318.

57 Monks were Richard, prior of Dover, elected to Canterbury; Baldwin of Forde, named first to Worcester, then translated to Canterbury as Archbishop Richard's successor; and Hugh of Avalon, named to Lincoln. Curialists were Reginald fitz Jocelin named to Bath, Geoffrey Ridel to Ely, Richard of Ilchester to Winchester, Geoffrey Plantagenet to Lincoln, John of Oxford to Norwich, Walter of Coutances to Lincoln, and Hugh de Nonant to Coventry/Lichfield. Greenway, , Monastic Cathedrals, pp. 4, 100; Warren, , Henry II, pp. 535, 553; Walker, , “Crown and Episcopacy,” p. 220.

58 Turner, Ralph V., King John (London, 1994), pp. 151, 178.

59 Lovatt, , “Geoffrey Plantagenet,” p. 36. Cheney, , Beckel to Langton, pp. 3541, sees Hubert Walter as flexible enough to serve both his monarch and his church well; he takes issue with scholars who have depicted Hubert as purely secular in interests and have denigrated his spiritual qualities.

60 Knowles, , Monastic Order, p. 188.

61 Turner, Ralph V., “Clerical Justices in English Secular Courts,” Medievalia et Humanistica, n.s., 3 (1972), reprinted in Judges, Administrators and the Common Law in Angevin England (London, 1994), pp. 164–66; Magna Vita Sancti Hugonis, ed. Douie, Decima L. and Farmer, Hugh, 2 vols. (London, 19611962), 2: 2829; his reply to Hubert Walter's letter, 1: 111–13.

62 My paper, “Richard Lionheart and the Church in his Continental Domains,” presented to the Western Society for French History, Las Vegas, Nevada, 8 November 1995.

63 Baldwin, , The Government of Philip Augustus (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983), pp. 65–68, 176–77, 307–09. Elsewhere Baldwin comments that out of eighty-four episcopal elections in Philip's time, only five resulted in the selection of royal clerks, in Bautier, R. H., ed., La France de Philippe Auguste, le temps des mutations (Paris, 1982), p. 383.

64 Stubbs, , Epist. Cantuar., p. lxxxi, cited with approval by Cheney, , Becket to Langton, p. 20, n 5.

65 Knowles, , Monastic Order, p. 399; Medieval Studies Presented to Aubrey Gwynn, ed. Watt, J. A., Morrall, J. B., Martin, F. X. (Dublin, 1961), p. 289.

66 Eustace of Ely, Mauger of Worcester, and de Sainte-Mère-Eglise, William, Turner, , Men Raised from the Dust, p. 30.

* This is a revised version of a paper presented at the Carolinas Symposium on British Studies, Boone, North Carolina, 7 October 1995.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0095-1390
  • EISSN: -
  • URL: /core/journals/albion
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed