Bloet, Robert (DNB00)

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BLOET, BLUET, or BLOETT, ROBERT, bishop of Lincoln (d. 1123), a Norman by nation, and brother of Hugh, bishop of Bayeux, was chancellor of William the Conqueror. When the king lay on his death-bed at Rouen, he sent Bloet to England with a letter praying Archbishop Lanfranc to crown William Rufus. Bloet crossed the Channel in company with Rufus himself, and became the new king's chancellor. After the death of Remigius in 1092, the see of Lincoln was kept vacant for a year. Rufus, however, repented of his evil ways while he lay sick at Gloucester in the spring of 1093, and at the same time that he made Anselm archbishop he gave the bishopric of Lincoln to Robert Bloet. The consecration of the new bishop was delayed, for Thomas, archbishop of York, objected to the claim of the archbishop of Canterbury over the see of Lincoln. Anselm might, if he chose, consecrate a bishop to the ancient see of Dorchester, but Lindesey Thomas claimed as part of the northern province. Bloet was at length (12 Feb. 1094) consecrated at Hastings, in the chapel of the castle, on the day after the dedication of Battle Abbey, by Anselm and seven other bishops who had assembled to take part' in the ceremony at Battle. As the king appointed Bloet during his short-lived repentance, he received nothing for his grant of the bishopric. To make up for this loss, Bloet had to pay no less than 6,000l. for the decision in favour of the rights of Canterbury which enabled Anselm to perform the ceremony of his consecration. Although he resigned the chancellorship on his elevation to the episcopate, he held the higher office of justiciary under Henry, and was his most trusted adviser. In 1102 he besieged Tickhill, the castle of Robert of Belesme, for the king. His manner of life was magnificent, and his household, in which the king’s son Richard and other noble youths were trained, was large and splendid. Towards the end of his life he was much harassed by suits brought against him by an inferior justiciary. His wealth was diminished by heavy fines, and his archdeacon, Henry of Huntingdon, who was brought up in his household, quotes him in his ‘De Contemptu Mundi’ as an instance of the instability of earthly greatness. The bishop, he tells us, was deeply grieved at his reverse of fortune, speaking of it with tears, and ascribing his trouble to King Henry, who, he said, never spoke well of a man withbut at the same time meaning to ruin him. Bloet was a liberal benefactor to his cathedral church, which had been built by his predecessor, Remigius. He dedicated the church, furnished it with many rich ornaments, and doubled the number of prebends, making them forty-two in all. In spite of these benefactions his character has been painted in dark colours. In the earlier edition of William of Malmesbury's ‘Gesta Pontificum,’ the historian describes him as a man of loose and godless life. In his later edition he gives a less unfavourable picture, representing him, indeed, as a worldly man, but bringing no special charge against him. Later writers, such as Higden and Knighton, adopt and insist on the darker picture, accusing him of immorality, and adding that his ghost haunted his tomb at Lincoln until it was laid by masses and alms. On the other hand, Henry of Huntingdon represents him as a father of the fatherless, dear to his friends, gentle and pleasant with all men, and even William of Malmesbury allows that he was a genial man. In reading accusations of the monkish chroniclers, allowance must he made for the light in which the Lincoln people and the monks looked on some of Bloet's doings. Giraldus Cambrensis, writing in the interest of Lincoln, disapproves the partition of the see and the creation of the independent diocese of Ely (1109), for a bishopric at that time was looked on much as a lay fief, and its division implied a diminution in the profits of jurisdiction. The creation of the see of Ely was, however, the work of the king himself, and Bloet had no power to interfere. Giraldus speaks also of the bishop's folly in charging his church with an annual gift to the king of a rich gown of sable of the value of 100l., though it is likely that the church received an ample equivalent. By removing the monks of Stow to Eynsham, Bloet was enabled to grant Stow to his church. While, however, Giraldus held this to be a good deed, the monks, who lost by the exchange, looked on it in a wholly different light, and the memory of Bloet at Lincoln has suffered from their indignation, for his effigy on the west front of the church, known by the horn at its mouth (blow it), is called the ‘swineherd of Stow’ (Dimock). Bloet still more deeply offended the monastic party by joining Roger, bishop of Salisbury, in leading the bishops to petition the king in February 1123, that they might choose a secular priest as archbishop of Canterbury a petition which the prior and monks of Canterbury and all other men of the monastic order who were at the council ‘withstood for full two days, but it availed nought’ (A.-S. Chron. 1123). The character of the bishop of Lincoln has been strenuously defended by Mr. Dimock in his preface to Giraldus Cambrensis, vii., in the Rolls Series. He was, in truth, a magnificent prelate, wise, generous, and kindhearted, worldly indeed in life, as many of his fellows also were, but by no means the evil man monkish chroniclers would have us believe him to have been. The charge of immorality made against him doubtless arose from the fact that he had a son born while he was chancellor of William the Conqueror. The death of Bloet is told in graphic terms by the Peterborough chronicler. It happened that on 10 Jan. 1123, the king was riding in his ‘deer-fold’ at Woodstock, and with him on either side were the bishops of Salisbury and Lincoln, ‘and they were there riding and talking.’ Then the bishop of Lincoln sank down and said to the king, ‘Lord king, I am dying.’ The king alighted and took the bishop in his arms. He was borne to his lodgings, and ‘he was then forthwith dead.’ He was buried ‘with great worship’ in his cathedral church before St. Mary's altar. His son Simon, whom he made dean of Lincoln, is also quoted in the ‘De Contemptu Mundi;’ for after having risen to great favour at court, he was disgraced and imprisoned, and, though he escaped from prison, lived in poverty and exile. The name Bloet is said to be the same word as ‘blond.’

[A.-S. Chron.; Henry of Huntingdon, De Contemptu Mundi, Anglia Sacra., ii. 695; William of Ma1mesbury, Gest. Pont. 313. ed. Hamilton, R.S.; Bromton, 988, Knighton, 2364, T. Stubbs, 1708, Twysden, Decem Scriptt.; Orderic. 763; Eadmer, Hist. Nov. i. 376, ed. Migne; Giraldus Camb. ed. Dimock, vii., pref. xxiii, and p. 31; Freeman’s Will. Rufus, i. 395, ii. 584-588; Browne Willis, Survey of Cathedrals, vol. iii.]

W. H.