Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ridel, Geoffrey (d.1189)
RIDEL, GEOFFREY (d. 1189), bishop of Ely, was probably a great-nephew of Geoffrey Ridel (d. 1120) [q. v.] He was a clerk in the service of Thomas the chancellor, and his name follows that of the chancellor as witness to a charter of Henry II, dated between 1156 and 1162 (Du Monstier, Neustria Pia, p. 638). In 1161 he was presented by the king to the living of Woolpit in Suffolk (Joc. Brakelond, p. 36, for date cf. p. 126). Early in 1163 he succeeded Thomas in the archdeaconry of Canterbury (Materials, iii. 120; Rog. Wend. i. 24). Throughout the next eight years Geoffrey was occupied, less with archidiaconal functions than with the affairs of the king, and in active opposition to Thomas as primate. He began, indeed, by thrusting himself uninvited into the royal council-chamber and giving his advice unasked upon a lawsuit which was proceeding there (Gesta Abb. i. 153). In February 1164 Henry sent him, with John of Oxford [q. v.], to the pope at Sens to request the grant of a legatine commission for Thomas's rival, the archbishop of York [see Roger of Pont l'Eveque] (Mat. iv. 38). At the council of Northampton (October) he was, or boasted of being, the confidant of Henry's plans for the humiliation of his metropolitan (Gerv. Cant.. i. 185). In September 1165 he was sitting as a baron of the exchequer at Westminster (Madox, Form. p. xix). In July 1166 he was trying to get the king's leave to go abroad in order to avoid a citation from Thomas which he knew to be on its way (Materials, v. 421, cf. vi. 34); in August he was in Normandy, and there, on the 15th, he appealed to the pope against the primate (ib. vi. 77). In November Henry withdrew the custody of the great seal from Walter de Lisle and gave it to the archdeacon of Canterbury (ib. vi. 10, 77). Eyton thought that Geoffrey had been keeper of the seal ever since Thomas resigned it in 1162, and that Walter was merely his deputy (Itin. pp. 100, 174 n. 1); but the authorities do not fully establish this point.
On Palm Sunday, 13 April 1169, Thomas cited Geoffrey again, and threatened to excommunicate him on Ascension Day if the summons were not obeyed (Materials, vi. 558–9, 572). Instead of obeying it, ‘our archdevil,’ as Thomas thenceforth called his contumacious archdeacon (ib. vii. 20, 59), undertook, in conjunction with the bishop of Séez, a mission from Henry to Louis of France to demand the expulsion of the primate from French territory (ib. p. 27). On Ascension Day Thomas fulfilled his threat (ib. vi. 594). The excommunication was disregarded by the king and by Geoffrey himself. On 1 Sept., at Bures, he and two other excommunicate persons were conditionally absolved by papal legates, and he was one of the commissioners sent by the king to treat with the legates at Caen, a week later, about the terms of the archbishop's restoration (ib. vii. 70, 74, 80). To Geoffrey and to the bishop of London Thomas attributed the failure of the negotiations (ib. pp. 130–2); and, as this failure involved the non-fulfilment of the conditions on which Geoffrey had been absolved, he was in October replaced under excommunication (ib. pp. 113, 115–16). He was one of the three justiciars to whom Henry shortly afterwards addressed ten ordinances for preventing the delivery of papal letters in England (ib. p. 147). About the same time he was made custos of the vacant see of Ely (Pipe Roll, 16 Hen. II, p. 95). His insolent interference at the meeting of Henry and Thomas at Fréteval, on 22 July 1170, would have prevented their reconciliation had it not been for the tact of Henry himself (Materials, vii. 336). The letter in which Henry announced the reconciliation to the English bishops was witnessed by Geoffrey (ib. p. 344). In September he was reported to be ‘raging more than ever against his mother the Church,’ and the pope handed him over unreservedly to the discretion of Thomas (ib. pp. 358–9). On 5 Oct. he was at Westminster with the ‘young king,’ and conveyed a discouraging message from him to some clerks of Thomas, who came to arrange about the restitution of the archiepiscopal property (ib. pp. 389–90). Geoffrey was himself occupying the archbishop's living of Otford, and had no mind to give it up (ib. pp. 402, 404). On 1 Dec., when Thomas reached Canterbury, Geoffrey was there with the archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Salisbury, who next day sent him—a willing messenger—to ‘persuade the young king that the primate wanted to depose him’ (ib. p. 406). From the boy-king's court Geoffrey was proceeding with Richard of Ilchester [q. v.] to follow the three bishops to Normandy, when at Southampton they were overtaken by a message from young Henry, asking their advice how to answer Thomas's request for leave to come and visit him. Geoffrey sent word back: ‘I know your father's wishes; and never will I be a party to admitting into your presence a man who purposes to disinherit you’ (ib. i. 111). Geoffrey did not sail with his brother archdeacon, and did not reach Normandy till some time after him (ib. iii. 127). He seems to have been there again in the summer of 1171 (Eyton, pp. 157, 159–60). He must have been released from excommunication before 1 May 1173, when he was chosen bishop of Ely (Ann. Mon. ii. 61). On 17 May, Ascension Day, he was enthroned in his cathedral church (Hist. Elien. p. 631; R. Diceto, i. 368). The young king appealed to the pope against the appointment, accusing Geoffrey of ‘many things,’ particularly of complicity in the murder of St. Thomas, and of immorality; but on the new archbishop's return to England [see Richard, (d. 1184)] in September 1174, Geoffrey came to meet him in London, and in St. Catherine's Chapel at Westminster publicly purged himself of the crimes laid to his charge (R. Diceto, i. 392). He was consecrated at Canterbury on 6 Oct.
Ralph de Diceto notes how Geoffrey's career had kept pace with that of his fellow archdeacon and justiciar, Richard of Ilchester [q. v.]; ‘contemporaneously holding the foremost rank at the court of the same sovereign, both archdeacons, both called to be bishops at the same time, consecrated together, enthroned in their respective sees’—for the second time, it seems—‘on the same day, 13 Oct.’  (R. Diceto, i. 395). The parallel runs on nearly to the end of their lives. Like Richard, Geoffrey was at the archbishop's council at Westminster, 18 May 1175, and at a royal council at Woodstock in July, and witnessed Henry's treaty with the king of Connaught at Windsor on 6 Oct. (Gesta Hen. i. 84, 93, 103); and next year, in July, he shared with his old comrade the duty of meeting at Northampton a papal legate who was on his way to Scotland, and of making him swear not to infringe the rights of the English crown (ib. p. 118). At a council held by another legate at Westminster, 14 March, Geoffrey had sided strongly with his own metropolitan in a quarrel with Roger of York; and a formal complaint of having suffered personal violence at the hands of the bishop of Ely was laid by Roger before the court assembled at Winchester on 15 Aug. Geoffrey, however, cleared himself by taking a solemn oath, in the king's presence, that he was not the doer of the act of which the archbishop complained (ib. i. 113, 119). At the end of the month Geoffrey, with the archbishop of Canterbury, sailed for Normandy as escort to the king's daughter Joanna; they accompanied her on her way to Sicily as far as St. Gilles, and returned to England before Christmas (ib. pp. 119–20, 127).
In this year, 1176, Geoffrey became custos of the honour of Eye (Eyton, p. 208). He was one of the three prelates commissioned by the king to dissolve the college of secular canons at Waltham, 20 Jan. 1177 (Gesta Hen. i. 135). Soon afterwards Henry sent him, with the archbishop of Canterbury, on an embassy to Flanders (cf. ib. pp. 116 and 136, with Eyton, p. 205 n. 2, and p. 210 n. 2). In March he was in London, witnessing Henry's award between the kings of Castille and Navarre. Early in June he went, with others, on a mission from Henry to the young king in Normandy, and to Louis of France. He was one of the four bishops who were with the king at Stanstead on 12 July, when tidings came that the realm was threatened with an interdict, against which they immediately appealed (Gesta Hen. i. 144, 154, 168, 175, 177, 181). At Christmas 1178 he was with the court at Winchester (Eyton, p. 224). In 1179 he was head of the justices itinerant on the midland circuit (Gesta, i. 239); and from April 1179 to April 1180 he shared with his old comrades, the bishops of Winchester and Norwich, the office of chief justiciar (R. Diceto, i. 435). From 1180 to 1185 there are notices of him—frequently in company with Bishop Richard of Winchester—as justice of the curia regis and baron of the exchequer (1180, Dugdale, Baronage, i. 700; 1181–2, Feet of Fines, p. 1; cf. Eyton, p. 244 n. 6, and p. 249 n. 2; 1183, Eyton, p. 251; 1184, Madox, Exch. i. 215 d; 1185, Eyton, p. 266). About August 1181 he was with the king at Nottingham. He assisted at the marriage of the king of Scots, at Woodstock, on 5 Sept. 1186, and at a council at Marlborough on 14 Sept. (Gesta Hen. i. 280, 351, 352); at Christmas he was with the court at Guildford (ib. ii. 3). In 1189 he held pleas in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, and Cambridgeshire (Pipe Roll, 1 Ric. I, pp. 69, 160, 194). On 4 June he was present at a conference between Henry and Louis at La Ferté Bernard (Gesta Hen. ii. 66). He had apparently returned to England before Henry's death on 6 July. He was trustee for some of the bequests in Henry's will (Gerv. Cant. i. 298–299), but cannot have had time to act in that capacity before, ‘hastening with a great train and full of pride’ to meet the new king, Richard I, on his return to England, he fell sick at Winchester (ib. p. 457), and there died on 27 July (Angl. Sacra, i. 63] n. from Obituary of Ely; the Gesta Hen., ii. 78, say 20 Aug., and Ralph Diceto, ii. 68, says 21 Aug.) He was buried at Ely. As he left no will, his treasures, amounting to 3,200 marks in coin and much gold and silver plate, horses, fine clothes, corn, and other stores, passed to the king.
Geoffrey was a benefactor to his cathedral church and monastery; he presented it with several rich vestments, repaired two sides and part of the silver cover of St. Etheldreda's shrine, ‘painted the chair of the high altar and the middle part of the choir, and almost completed the new building to the west, with the tower’ (Hist. El. pp. 631–2). The whole eastern limb of Ely Cathedral has been rebuilt since Geoffrey's day, and his painting has therefore vanished, together with the ‘chair of the high altar’ (cathedra magni altaris), probably a throne for the bishop, placed in the apse behind the altar. Of his ‘new building,’ i.e. the western transept, the southern half, with a clerestory added probably by the next bishop, still remains, as well as the great west tower, of which the upper portion is of later date (cf. Joc. Brakelond, pp. 52–3). At the enthronement of his successor, 6 Jan. 1190, it was discovered that his tomb had been broken open, and his episcopal ring stolen.[Materials for Hist. of Becket, Gesta Abbatum S. Albani, Ralph de Diceto, Gervase of Canterbury, Gesta Henrici, Roger of Wendover, Annales Monastici (all in Rolls Ser.); Jocelyn of Brakelond, Camden Soc.; Historia Eliensis in Wharton's Anglia Sacra, vol. i.; Pipe Rolls 14 & 16 Hen. II (Pipe Roll Soc.), 1 Ric. I (Record Comm.); Feet of Fines, Pipe Roll Soc. vol. xvii.; Eyton's Itinerary of Henry II; Madox's Exchequer and Formulare Anglicanum.]