Passelewe, Robert (DNB00)
|←Passelewe, Edmund de||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 43
PASSELEWE or PASSELEU, ROBERT (d. 1252), deputy-treasurer, was a clerk in the employ of Falkes de Breauté [q. v.] and was, in 1224, sent by him, Ranulf, earl of Chester, and other malcontents to represent to the pope their grievances against Hubert de Burgh [q. v.] the justiciar. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton [q. v.] made him and his fellow commissioners swear, before they left England, that they would attempt nothing to the hurt of the king or kingdom. Nevertheless they tried to persuade the pope to send a legate to England to compel the king to restore the royal castles to the custody of the barons. Being successfully opposed by John Houghton, archdeacon of Bedford, the archbishop's chancellor, they were unable to accomplish their design. They were not allowed to re-enter England, for they were held to have acted treasonably (Walter of Coventry, ii. 263; Annals of Dunstable, p. 89). After the fall of Falkes de Breauté, Passelewe accompanied him to Rome and assisted him in pleading his cause before the pope in 1225 (Wendover, iv. 103). The illness, followed by the death, of the archbishop in 1228 seems to have opened the way for the reconciliation of the king with Passelewe, who soon became one of Henry's favourites, for he attached himself to the Poitevin party. This party became powerful in 1232, and at Christmas Henry changed his ministers, and the treasurer, Walter Mauclerk [q. v.] bishop of Carlisle, being dismissed to make room for Peter de Rievaux [q. v.] one of the adherents of Peter des Roches, the Poitevin bishop of Winchester, Passelewe was appointed treasurer of the exchequer and deputy-treasurer of the kingdom under Peter de Rievaux (ib. p. 264). He received the custody of several of the manors belonging to Hubert de Burgh, then in disgrace with the king, eight of which manors were, in 1234, given by the king to Hubert's wife.
The magnates of the kingdom were indignant at the predominance of the Poitevin party, and specially denounced Passelewe, who is described by Roger de Wendover as treasurer (ib. p. 276). Attacks were made on the ministers' lands in the spring of 1234, and Passelewe's manor of Swanbourne in Buckinghamshire was invaded by a band of outlaws under Richard Siward. Moreover, they made prisoner Sir William de Holewer, sheriff of Hertfordshire, who had married Passelewe's sister, and forced him to pay a heavy ransom. Under the pressure of Edmund Rich [q. v.] archbishop of Canterbury, and other bishops, Henry at last dismissed his ministers in April. A few days later, on the 26th, Passelewe's barns and crops near Staines were burnt by Siward's band. The archbishop compelled the king to call Passelewe and the other dismissed ministers to account for their doings, and he was summoned to appear at Westminster on 24 June. Knowing that his life was in imminent danger—for many were prepared to slay him—he went into hiding, and it was generally supposed that he had gone to Rome (ib. p. 314). He had, however, taken refuge in the New Temple, where he lay close, feigning sickness, and though after a while the king's summons reached him, he did not for some time dare to obey it (Matt. Paris, iii. 293). Commissioners were appointed in July to inquire into his dealings with the lands of Hubert de Burgh (Royal Letters, i. 449). When he at last ventured forth, the displaced justiciar, Stephen de Segrave, in order to shield himself, accused his late fellow ministers before the king of the various acts of maladministration that had rendered their rule odious, and Passelewe forthwith again withdrew into hiding (Matt. Paris, iii. 296). Hubert de Burgh recovered from him, by process of law, certain lands which had been given to Passelewe by the king. In February 1235 Passelewe made his peace with the king on payment of a heavy fine, but was not, as he had hoped, immediately restored to full favour. In the course of the next year, however, he was again admitted to favour and employed by the king (Annals of Dunstable, p. 144).
In or about 1243 Passelewe advised the king to make, as a means of raising money, an inquisition into encroachments on the royal forests, and, having been appointed justice of the forests south of the Trent, held an inquisition with such severity as to bring ruin on many persons of all ranks, while he enriched the treasury by fines amounting to several thousand marks. In these proceedings he was assisted by Sir Geoffrey Langley, whom he had brought up, and whom he caused to be associated with himself in his office. His success in this matter rendered him highly acceptable to the king. He was already a prebendary of St. Paul's and archdeacon of Lewes when, in April 1244, the canons of Chichester, seeing that he was a good man of business, and being desirous of pleasing the king, elected him bishop. Many of the bishops were determined to prevent his promotion, and being assisted by Boniface of Savoy [q. v.] archbishop-elect of Canterbury, they set Robert Grosseteste [q. v.] bishop of Lincoln, to examine him. He was unable to answer the exceedingly hard questions which Grosseteste put to him, and Boniface accordingly rejected him as ignorant and declared the election void. Henry, in great wrath, appealed to the pope, and sent Lawrence of St. Martin, afterwards bishop of Rochester, to represent him at the Roman court (Matt. Paris, iv. 401, 412). Innocent IV, however, confirmed the rejection by a bull dated 21 July 1245 (Fœdera, i. 261). Langley, who, although he owed much to Passelewe, proved ungrateful to him, appears to have supplanted him in the royal favour, removed the bailiffs of the forests that he had appointed, and greatly injured him. Disgusted at this treatment, Passelewe determined to give up the service of the court and devote himself to spiritual things. Accordingly, on 9 Dec. 1249, he was ordained priest by the bishop of Ely, and received from him the church of Dereham in Norfolk, holding also, as it seems, the church of Swanbourne (Paris, v. 85, 94, 137). The king was highly incensed against him, for he wanted the living of Dereham for his half-brother Aymer de Valence [q. v.]; he insulted Passelewe with abusive words, gave Langley a commission to inquire into his proceedings as justice of the forests, and at Christmas extorted rich gifts from him. It seems probable that he made his peace with the king by these gifts, for Henry is said to have acted by his advice in unjustly depriving the abbot of Ramsey of his market at St. Ives in 1252. Passelewe died at Waltham on 6 June of that year. To the notice of his death Matthew Paris adds, ‘his works do follow him’ (ib. p. 299). His family, probably through his instrumentality, became possessed of property in Surrey and Sussex. Another Robert Passelewe was soon after knight of the shire for Sussex, and appears to have left a son Edmund [q. v.][Matt. Paris, iii. iv. v. passim, vi. 73, Ann. Dunstable ap. Ann. Monast. iii. 89, 107, 137, 185, Ann. Osney, ib. iv. 78; Walt. of Coventry, ii. 261, Royal Letters Hen. III, i. 449 (all Rolls Ser.); Roger of Wendover, iv. 103, 264, 276 (Engl. Hist. Soc.); Rymer's Fœdera, i. 209, 254, 261 (Record edit.); Manning's Hist. of Surrey, ii. 257.]