1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coutances, Walter of

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COUTANCES, WALTER OF (d. 1207), bishop of Lincoln and archbishop of Rouen, commenced his career in the chancery of Henry II., was elected bishop of Lincoln in 1182, and in 1184 obtained, with the king’s help, the see of Rouen. Throughout his career he was much employed in diplomatic and administrative duties. He started with Richard I. for the Third Crusade, but was sent back from Messina to investigate the charges which the barons and the official class had brought against the chancellor, William Longchamp. There was no love lost between the two; and they were popularly supposed to be rivals for the see of Canterbury. The archbishop of Rouen sided with the barons and John, and sanctioned Longchamp’s deposition—a step which was technically warranted by the powers which Richard had given, but by no means calculated to protect the interests of the crown. The Great Council now recognized the archbishop as chief justiciar, and he remained at the head of the government till 1193, when he was replaced by Hubert Walter. The archbishop did good service in the negotiations for Richard’s release, but subsequently quarrelled with his master and laid Normandy under an interdict, because the border stronghold of Château Gaillard in the Vexin had been built on his land without his consent. After Richard’s death the archbishop accepted John as the lawful heir of Normandy and consecrated him as duke. But his personal inclinations leaned to Arthur of Brittany, whom he was with difficulty dissuaded from supporting. The archbishop accepted the French conquest of Normandy with equanimity (1204), although he kept to his old allegiance while the issue of the struggle was in doubt. He did not long survive the conquest, and his later history is a blank.

See W. Stubbs’s editions of Benedictus Abbas, Hoveden and Diceto (Rolls series); R. Howlett’s edition of “William of Newburgh” and “Richard of Devizes” in Chronicles, &c., of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II. and Richard I. (Rolls series). See also the preface to the third volume of Stubbs’s Hoveden, pp. lix.-xcviii.; J. H. Round’s Commune of London, and the French poem on Guillaume le Maréchal (ed. P. Meyer, Soc. de l’Histoire de France). (H. W. C. D.)