Berksted, Stephen (DNB00)

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BERKSTED, BIRKSTED, or BURGHSTED, STEPHEN (d. 1287), bishop of Chichester, was chaplain of Richard Wych, bishop of Chichester (d. 1253), and was himself consecrated to the same see 24 Sept. 1262. He was poorer than the other canons of the church, and his election is said to have been due to private influence. In the first year of Berksted's episcopate the church of Chichester sent a deputation to Rome, which secured the canonisation of Bishop Richard. Berksted is described as an exceedingly simple and innocent man (Wykes). He was a strong partisan of the Earl of Leicester. On the eve of the battle of Lewes the earl sent him to make a last attempt to come to terms with the king, bidding him, it is said, choose men learned in the faith and in the canon law to settle the conditions of peace (Political Songs, p. 81). The bishop's proposals were scornfully rejected, and the next day, 14 May 1264, the two armies met in battle. On 23 June the bishop and the Earls of Leicester and Gloucester were chosen by the barons, and received authority from the king, to nominate a council of nine, by whom the royal power was to be exercised. Having joined with the barons and certain other bishops in forbidding the papal legate, the Cardinal Guido Falcodi, to land in England, Berksted and the other bishops of the baronial party were summoned to appear before the legate at Boulogne. The bishops excused themselves on the plea that they were not allowed to leave the country, and sent their proctors instead. The cardinal having refused to admit their excuse, they appealed to the pope, and their conduct was approved by the whole body of the clergy in a council held at Reading. Some of the bishops, however, and Berksted, as it seems, among them, voluntarily crossed the Channel in the hope of making peace. They were ordered to publish the sentence of excommunication against Earl Simon and his party. On their return the men of the Cinque Ports boarded their ship, and with many threats tore the papal rescript in pieces and threw it into the sea, the bishops looking on without displeasure. In 1266, after the overthrow of the baronial party, the cardinal-legate Ottobuoni cited Berksted and the other bishops who had upheld Earl Simon to appear at Westminster. There he pronounced sentence of suspension on them, and commanded Berksted and the bishops of London and Winchester, who appealed to the pope, to appear at Rome within three months. Berksted appears to have been obliged to remain at Rome until the end of Henry's reign. On his return he grievously offended King Edward by his indiscretion in bringing with him Amauri of Montfort, who was in orders ; for the king was very wroth at the murder of his cousin, Henry of Almain. For this reason probably Edward, in 1272, seized the temporalities of the see of Chichester. The bishop, however, must after a while have made his peace ; for on 16 June 1276 he assisted in the king's presence at the translation of the body of St. Richard by Archbishop Kilwardby. During the later years of his life Berksted suffered from blindness. He died 30 Oct. 1287.

[Annals, Winton, Waverley, Dunstaple, Wykes. Osoney, Annales Monastiei , i.-v. ed. Luard, R.S. ; Matt. West. ; Liber de Antiquis Legibus, Camden See. 84, 157-9; Political Songs, Camden Soc. 81-2 ; Rymer's Foedera, i. 444 ; Prothero's Barons' War ; Pauli's Simon de Montfort.]

W. H.