Roger (d.1179) (DNB00)

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ROGER (d. 1179), bishop of Worcester, was either the youngest, or the youngest but one, of the five sons of Robert, earl of Gloucester [q. v.], and his wife Mabel of Glamorgan (cf. Materials, vii. 258, and iii. 105). His father's favourite, and destined from infancy for holy orders, he shared for a while in Bristol Castle the studies of his cousin, the future Henry II (ib. vii. 258, iii. 104), who in March 1163 appointed him bishop of Worcester (Ann. Monast. i. 49). He was present as bishop-elect at the council of Clarendon in January 1164 (Materials, iv. 207, v. 72), and was consecrated by Archbishop Thomas at Canterbury on 23 Aug. (Gerv.Cant. i. 182; Ann. Monast. i. 49). At the council of Northampton in October, when Thomas asked his suffragans to advise him how he should answer the king's demand for an account of his ecclesiastical administration, Roger ‘so framed his reply as to show by negatives what was in his mind.’ ‘I will give no counsel in this matter,’ he said, ‘for if I should say that a cure of souls may be justly resigned at the king's command, my conscience would condemn me; but if I should advise resistance to the king, he would banish me. So I will neither say the one thing nor recommend the other’ (Materials, ii. 328). He was one of the three bishops whom Thomas sent to ask the king for a safe-conduct on the night before his flight (ib. iii. 69, 312). He was also one of those charged to convey to the pope the king's appeal against the archbishop. But his part in the embassy was a passive one; in the pope's presence he stood silently by while his colleagues talked (ib. iii. 70, 73; Thomas Saga, i. 283). On Candlemas Day, 1165, he was enthroned at Worcester (Ann. Monast. i. 49, iv. 381). It is doubtful whether he joined in the appeal made by the English bishops as a body, under orders from the king, against the primate's jurisdiction at midsummer 1166. Roger was soon afterwards, in company with Bartholomew of Exeter (d. 1184) [q. v.], who had protested against the appeal, denounced by the king as a ‘capital enemy of the kingdom and the commonwealth’ (Materials, vi. 65, 63); while the appellants in general were overwhelmed with reproaches by the archbishop and his partisans, Roger seems never for a moment to have forfeited the confidence and the approval of his metropolitan; and the martyr's biographers talk of him as ‘the morning star which illuminates our sad story, the brilliant gem shining amid this world's darkness’—the Abdiel who, alone of all Thomas's suffragans, not only never swerved from his obedience to his spiritual father, but even followed him into exile.

Soon after his flight Thomas summoned Roger to join him, and Roger made a fruitless application to the king for leave to go over sea, on the plea of wishing to complete his studies, ‘he being a young man’ (ib. iii. 86). Later in the year (1166) a clerk of Robert de Melun [q. v.], bishop of Hereford, came to the king in Normandy, and stated that his own bishop and ‘Dominus Rogerus’ had both been cited by the primate and intended to obey the citation, ‘unless the king would furnish help and counsel whereby they might stay at home,’ i.e. would make some arrangement which might enable them to do so without incurring the guilt of disobedience to their metropolitan. Henry ‘complained much of the lord Roger,’ and threatened that if they went they should find the going easier than the return (ib. vi. 74). This Dominus Rogerus is probably the bishop of Worcester, who certainly went over sea next year (Ann. Monast. i. 50), and without the royal license, for Thomas's friends immediately began to rejoice over him as one who had voluntarily thrown in his lot with them in their exile, and was prepared to lose his bishopric in consequence. Henry, however, was not disposed to proceed to extremities with his cousin. Some of the archbishop's party urged that Roger might be more useful to the cause at home than in exile, and accordingly Roger sought direction from the pope as to the terms on which he might return. The pope bade him go back to his diocese if he could exercise his office there without submitting to the royal ‘customs’ (Materials, vi. 393–4, 390). On this he seems to have rejoined the court in Normandy. In November he was present, with several other English bishops, at a conference between the king and the papal legates at Argentan, when he appears to have acquiesced in the renewal of the bishops' appeal; and he was even reported to have spoken very disrespectfully of the primate and of his cause (ib. pp. 270, 276, 321). His friendly relations with Thomas, however, seem to have continued unbroken. Early in 1169 he endeavoured to persuade the archbishop to delay his threatened excommunications, and asked for instructions how to frame his own conduct towards their victims when once the sentences were issued. Thomas bade him have no dealings whatever with excommunicate persons (ib. vi. 577–9, vii. 50; accordingly when Geoffrey Ridel [q. v.] entered the royal chapel one day, just as mass was about to begin, Roger at once walked out. The king, on hearing the reason of his withdrawal, ordered him out of his dominions, but recalled him immediately (ib. iii. 86–7). Roger was the one English prelate summoned to attend the king at a conference with the legates Vivian and Gratian at Bayeux on 1 Sept. 1169; but he did not make his appearance till the next day, when the business of the meeting was practically over (ib. vii. 72). He was one of the commissioners sent to convey the king's offered terms to the legates at Caen a week later (ib. p. 80). In March 1170 Henry bade the bishop of Worcester follow him to England to take part in the coronation of the ‘young king’ [see Henry II]. Thomas, on the other hand, also bade him go, but for the purpose of conveying to the archbishop of York and the other bishops a papal brief forbidding the coronation (ib. vii. 259–60). The queen and the seneschal of Normandy, discovering this, gave orders that no ship should take him on board, and he could get no further than Dieppe. On Henry's return (midsummer) the cousins met near Falaise. The king upbraided the bishop for his disobedience, and denounced him as ‘no true son of the good earl Robert.’ Roger explained how he had been prevented from crossing. Henry angrily demanded whether he meant to shift the blame on the queen. ‘Certainly not,’ retorted Roger, ‘lest, if she be frightened into suppressing the truth, you should be more angry with me; or, if she avow the truth, you should turn your unseemly wrath against her. Matters are best as they stand; never would I have shared in a rite so iniquitously performed; and if I had been there it never should have taken place. You say I am not earl Robert's son. I know not; at any rate I am the son of my mother, with whose hand he acquired all his possessions; while from your conduct to his children nobody would guess that he was your uncle, who brought you up and risked his life in fighting for you.’ He went on in the same bold strain till a bystander interrupted him with words of abuse, whereupon Henry suddenly declared that ‘his kinsman and his bishop’ should be called names by no one but himself, and the cousins went amicably to dinner together (ib. iii. 104–6).

In 1171, when Henry's dominions were threatened with an interdict on account of the murder of St. Thomas, Roger was one of the prelates sent to intercede, first with the legate Archbishop William of Sens, and afterwards with the pope himself (Materials, vii. 444, 474, 476, 485; Ann. Monast. i. 50). He went to England in August 1172 with the young king and queen, assisted at their crowning at Winchester on 27 Aug., and returned to Normandy about 8 Sept (Gesta Hen. i. 31). In July 1174 he was with the king at Westminster (Eyton, p. 181). According to the ‘Gesta Henrici’ (i. 84) he was there again in May 1175, at a council held by the new archbishop, Richard (d. 1184) [q. v.]; but Gervase (i. 251) says that sickness prevented his attendance. In July at Woodstock he and the archbishop as papal commissioners confirmed the election of the king's son Geoffrey [see Geoffrey (d. 1212)] to the see of Lincoln (R. Diceto, i. 401). At the legatine council at Westminster in May 1176, when the archbishops of Canterbury and York came to blows, he averted the king's wrath from his own metropolitan by turning the matter into a jest at the expense of the northern primate (Gir. Camb. vii. 63) [see Roger of Pont l'Evêque]. He assisted at Canterbury at the coronation of Peter de Leia as bishop of St. David's on 7 Nov. of the same year (Gerv. Cant. i. 260; R. Diceto, i. 415). On 29 Jan. 1177 he was sent by the king, with the bishop of Exeter, to expel the nuns of Amesbury (Gesta Hen. i. 135); in March he was present at a great council in London (ib. pp. 144, 155); at Christmas 1178 he was with the court at Winchester (Eyton, p. 224). He went over sea shortly afterwards to attend the Lateran council (Ann. Monast. i. 52), which was summoned for 5 March 1179; on the journey back he died on 9 Aug. at Tours, and there he was buried (ib. i. 52, ii. 241; Gesta Hen. i. 243; R. Diceto, i. 432).

Like St. Thomas, Roger never bestowed benefices or revenues on his own kinsfolk (Gir. Cambr. vii. 66); and he refused to assist Archbishop Richard in a consecration which he regarded as uncanonical (Anglo-Norm. Satir. Poets, i. 198), just as decidedly as he had protested to the king against a coronation which he held to be illegal. He was a great favourite with Alexander III, who called him and Bishop Bartholomew of Exeter ‘the two great lights of the English church,’ and usually employed them as his delegates for ecclesiastical causes in England (Gir. Cambr. vii. 57). The fearlessness which he displayed in his relations with the king showed itself in another way when the western tower of a great church in which he was celebrating mass crumbled suddenly to the ground, and amid a blinding dust and the rush of the terrified congregation he alone stood unmoved, and as if utterly unconscious that anything had happened (ib. p. 64). The church is said by Giraldus to have been Gloucester Abbey, but it was more probably Worcester Cathedral (cf. Mr. Dimock's note, l.c., with Ann. Monast. iv. 383 and 415). Roger's bold, independent character and his ready wit had at least as great a share as his high birth in enabling him to go his own way amid the troubles of the time, and yet to win the esteem of all parties, both in church and state.

[Materials for History of Becket, Annales Monastici, Thomas Saga, Gervase of Canterbury, Ralph de Diceto, Gesta Henrici, Giraldus Cambrensis, Anglo-Norman Satirical Poets (all in Rolls Ser.); Eyton's Itinerary of Henry II.]

K. N.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.238
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
107 ii 21f.e. Roger (d. 1179): for Roger read Robert de Melun
108 i 14f.e.  for [see Henry II] read [see Henry, 1155-1188]