1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Peter des Roches

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PETER DES ROCHES (d. 1238), bishop of Winchester under John and Henry III., and conspicuous among the foreign favourites to whom these sovereigns owed much of their unpopularity, was a Poitevin by extraction He received the office of chamberlain towards the close of Richard's reign, and under Richard's successor became an influential counsellor. In 1205, doubtless through John's influence, he was elected to the see of Winchester. His election was disputed but, on appeal, confirmed by Pope Innocent III, who honoured Peter by consecrating him in person. None the less, the new bishop stood by his royal patron during the whole period of the interdict. In 1213 he was made justiciar in succession to Geoffrey Fitz Peter. This promotion was justified by the fidelity with which Peter supported the king through the barons' war. At the battle of Lincoln (1217) Peter led a division of the royal army and earned some distinction by his valour; but he played a secondary part in the government so long as William Marshal held the regency. After Marshal's death (1219) Peter led the baronial opposition to Hubert de Burgh, with varying success At first the justiciar was successful. In 1221 Peter meditated going on crusade; 1223-1224 saw his party broken up by Hubert's energetic measures, in 1227 was himself dismissed from his office and turned his back on England to join the crusade of the emperor Frederick II. He was absent from England until 1231; but in the meantime enhanced his reputation both as a soldier and diplomatist. After the fall of De Burgh he kept in the background, but offices and honours were heaped on his dependants, especially on his nephew, Peter des Rievaulx, and other Poitevins. This foreign party triumphed over the revolt which was headed by Richard Marshal in 1233. But the primate, Edmund Rich, voiced the general feeling when he denounced Peter as a mischief maker, and demanded that he should be dismissed from court. The king complied, and threatened the bishop with charges of malversation. Peter was however permitted to leave the country with a pardon (1235); he conciliated Gregory IX. by rendering efficient aid in a war with the citizens of Rome (1235); and in the next year returned without molestation to his see. He was invited to go as the king's envoy to the court of Frederick II., but refused apparently on the score of ill health. His public reconciliation with De Burgh (1236), effected through the mediation of the papal legate, provided a dramatic close to their long rivalry, but had no political significance, since both were now living in retirement. Peter died in 1238, and was buried at Winchester. He was undoubtedly a man of a winning personality, a good diplomat and financier, a statesman whose unpopularity was due in some measure to his freedom from the insularity of the Englishmen, against whom he matched himself. But his name is associated with a worthless clique of favourites, and with the first steps which were taken by Henry III. to establish a feeble and corrupt autocracy.

See C. Petit Dutaillis, Vie et regne de Louis VIII. (Paris, 1894); Lecointre Dupont, Pierre des Roches (Poitiers, 1868); Stubbs's Constitutional History of England, vol. ii; H. W. C. Davis, England under the Normans and Angevins (1905); T. F. Tout in the Political History of England, vol. in. (1905). (H. W. C. D.)