Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Roger of Pont l'Evêque

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
686003Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 49 — Roger of Pont l'Evêque1897William Holden Hutton

ROGER of Pont l'Evêque (d. 1181), archbishop of York, a ‘Neustrian’ scholar, was brought up in the court of Theobald [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury (Brompton, ed. Twysden, col. 1057). His surname, ‘De Ponte-Episcopi’ (sometimes translated Bishop's-bridge), was probably derived from Pont l'Evêque in Normandy. He was an able student, but by temperament ambitious and masterful; and he soon fell out with young Thomas of London, afterwards Archbishop Becket. ‘He was not only consumed internally by envy, but would often break out openly into contumely and unseemly language, so that he would often call Thomas clerk Baillehache; for so was named the clerk with whom he first came to the palace’ (Materials for the Life of Archbishop Thomas Becket, iv. 9). Twice he procured the dismissal of Thomas (ib. iii. 16, cf. ii. 362); but Walter, archdeacon of Canterbury, the archbishop's brother, procured Thomas's restoration to favour. On the consecration of the archdeacon, Walter, to the see of Rochester, 14 March 1148, Roger was made archdeacon of Canterbury (Gervase of Canterbury, ed. Stubbs, Rolls Ser. i. 133). He shortly afterwards became one of the king's chaplains. He was present at the council held at Rheims by Eugenius III in the same year (1148; Historia Pontificalis, ed. Pertz, xx. 523). He was also involved in controversy about his rights as archdeacon, and sought the intervention of Gilbert Foliot [q. v.], bishop of Hereford (Epistolæ G. Foliot, i. 30, 124). In 1152 he was sent by King Stephen to Rome to procure a reversal of the papal prohibition of the crowning of Eustace (letter of Becket to Boso, Materials, vi. 58). He was unsuccessful, but is asserted to have endeavoured to foment discord between the king and Archbishop Theobald (ib.) Probably he received about the same time the provostship of Beverley (ib. iv. 10, 11; but Raine, Archbishops of York, i. 234 n., denies this). On the death of William, archbishop of York, Archbishop Theobald, with the assistance of the dean, Robert, and the archdeacon, Osbert, procured the election of Roger as William's successor (Will. Newb. Rolls Ser. i. 81–2). He was consecrated by Theobald, at the request of the chapter of York (see Walt. Hem. i. 79), on 10 Oct. 1154 in Westminster Abbey, in the presence of eight bishops. He then went to Rome and received the pall. He was present at the coronation of Henry II.

On the election of Becket to the see of Canterbury, Roger of York claimed ex officio the right of consecrating him (Gervase, i. 170), but his claim was rejected. He obtained a few weeks afterwards authority from the pope to carry his cross and to crown kings (13 July 1162; Materials, v. 21). Becket protested and appealed (ib. pp. 44–6), and the right was temporarily withdrawn (ib. pp. 67–8). Eventually he was ordered not to carry his cross in the southern province (ib. pp. 68–9). He was present with Becket at the council of Tours, Whitsuntide 1163, where he sat on the pope's left hand (Ralph de Diceto).

During the earlier stages of the controversy concerning criminous clerks, Roger, in whose diocese a case submitted to the king had arisen in 1158, asserted the privilege of his order, and at the London council in 1163 opposed the king's claims. Henry, however, succeeded in winning him over to his side (Materials, ii. 377), and Becket, learning his defection, spoke of him as ‘malorum omnium incentor et caput.’ Roger now threw himself boldly into the contest in support of the king, and from the first gave full assent to the constitutions of Clarendon. He continued to negotiate with Becket, though he proposed to Henry that Becket should be imprisoned for contumacy (ib. i. 37). Henry asked of the pope that Roger should be appointed papal legate in England, and he received a papal commission dated Sens, 27 Feb. 1164 (ib. v. 85–7). Roger, now immersed in intrigue, had envoys in France supporting his interests at the king's court and in the papal curia (ib. p. 117), and claiming the primacy of the Scottish church (ib. p. 118). He himself was sent by Henry, with other envoys, to Sens to lay his causes of complaint against Becket before Alexander III. They visited Louis VII on their way, but Louis warmly supported the archbishop of Canterbury. Speaking before the pope, Roger declared that he had known the character of Thomas from his youth, and that there was no way but by papal rebuke to correct his pride (Alan of Tewkesbury, c. 22). The pope temporised, but eventually ordered Roger to aid his legates, Rotrou, archbishop of Rouen, and Henry, bishop of Nevers, in compelling Henry to do justice to Becket. Roger, however, caused the clergy of his diocese to take an oath, at the king's command, that they would not obey the pope's orders in the matter of the archbishop of Canterbury.

On 5 April 1166 Pope Alexander III withdrew his permission to Roger to crown kings, on the ground that he had learnt that, by immemorial custom, the privilege belonged to Canterbury (Thomas Saga; Materials, v. 323). On 17 June 1167, however, he formally authorised Roger to crown the young Henry (Materials, vi. 206; the authenticity of the letter has been doubted by Roman catholic writers, such as Berington, Henry II, pp. 606–8; Lingard, ii. 153; but the manuscripts seem conclusively to prove its genuineness; cf. Materials, vi. 269 sqq.). But Becket's remonstrances induced the pope to withdraw his license to Roger to crown the young Henry, and on 26 Feb. 1170 Alexander forbade the archbishop of York to perform the ceremony of coronation during the exile of the primate of all England (ib. vii. 217). Nevertheless, on 14 June 1170, the coronation took place at Westminster. Roger of York performed the ceremony, assisted by the bishops of London, Salisbury, and Rochester, and in spite of the protests of Becket. The pope eagerly took up the cause of Becket, and suspended Roger (ib. vii. 398). Henry, under fear of excommunication, was (22 July 1170) brought to a reconciliation, and the archbishop of York was thus left unprotected. Roger endeavoured to prevent his rival's return to England; but Becket, before sailing, sent over on 31 Nov. a letter suspending Roger, which was delivered at Dover on the following day. Becket, on his return in December, met with great opposition from Roger, who dissuaded the young Henry from admitting him to his presence, and eventually crossed to Normandy to lay his complaints before the king. He bitterly urged upon Henry that he would have no peace so long as Thomas was alive (ib. iii. 127), and, according to one authority, himself urged the four knights to take Becket's life, giving them money, and suggesting the very words they used when they saw the archbishop of Canterbury (Garnier de Pont S. Saxence, ed. Hippeau, pp. 174 sqq.). When the murder was accomplished, Roger hastened to purge himself of all complicity. He took oath before the archbishop of Rouen and the bishop of Amiens that he was innocent, and that he had not received the pope's letter prohibiting the coronation of the young king. He was thereupon absolved. In a long and joyful letter to Hugh de Puiset [q. v.] he announced his absolution and return, and he sent his thanks to the pope (Materials, vii. 502, 504).

Roger's relations with Richard (d. 1184) [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury, were hardly more happy than with his predecessor. He was absent from the Westminster synod of 1175, but sent claims to carry his cross within the province of Canterbury, and to have supervision of the sees of Lichfield, Worcester, Hereford, and Lincoln. He appealed to Rome against the archbishop of Canterbury. His power to carry his cross was restored provisionally (ib. vii. 568). He claimed also the rule over the church of St. Oswald at Gloucester (Benedict of Peterborough, i. 89, 90). Later in the year an agreement was arrived at by which that church was yielded to York, ‘sicut dominicam capellam Domini regis’ (ib. p. 104), and the other matters were referred to the decision of the archbishop of Rouen. On 25 Jan. 1175–6, in a council at Northampton, Roger claimed that the Scots church should be subject to the see of York as metropolitan, and a new dissension broke out with Canterbury, to whom also the subjection was declared to belong [see Richard, d. 1184]. On 15 Aug. 1176 the two archbishops made peace for five years. In the Lateran council of 1179 it was declared that no profession of obedience was due from York to Canterbury. No further controversy appears to have occurred between the sees during the life of Roger.

During the next few years Roger was actively engaged in pushing his claims to supremacy over the Scots church. These he had originally asserted while Becket was still alive, and they were strengthened by the submission made by William the Lion in 1175. He claimed that the sees of Glasgow and Whitherne had always belonged to York; but the question was complicated by the claims of the archbishop of Canterbury and by the Scottish prelates' declaration that they were immediately subject to the pope. On 3 June 1177 Cardinal Vivian, papal legate, held a synod at Edinburgh, and suspended Christian, bishop of Whitherne, for his absence. Christian claimed that his bishopric belonged to the legation of Roger of York, who had consecrated him bishop according to the ancient custom of the predecessors of them both, and Roger, on his own part, supported this claim (ib. i. 166–7). The question continued to be discussed for many years; but in 1180 Alexander III recognised a certain authority over Scotland as belonging to Roger of York, when he ordered him to compel the king of Scots to compliance with his order to make peace with Bishop John of St. Andrews. He also made him legate for Scotland (ib. pp. 263–4). In 1181 Roger proceeded to excommunicate William the Lion for his contumacy.

Roger remained steadfast in his allegiance to Henry II. During the rebellion of 1173–1174 he gave valuable assistance to the royal forces. When Henry took the barons' castles into his hands in 1177, he gave Scarborough to the custody of the archbishop of York, who was constantly present at royal councils during the ten years previous to his death.

He remained a friend of Gilbert Foliot [q. v.], as well as of his great neighbour, Hugh de Puiset [q. v.], bishop of Durham. In 1181 he felt his end approaching. He called together his clergy, and ordered the distribution of his property for the benefit of the poor (Benedict, i. 282–3). He was moved from his palace at Cawood to York, where he died on 21 Nov. He was buried by Hugh de Puiset in the choir of York minster. His body was removed to a new tomb by Archbishop Thoresby.

Hugh of Durham was forced by the king to disgorge a large sum which he had taken from the treasure of the archbishop, and to apply it to pious uses.

Roger's true character is hard to discover. He is asserted to have been an opponent of monasticism, and William of Newburgh frequently speaks severely of his treatment of the monks. He was in fact engaged for many years in a quarrel with the canons of Newburgh. John of Salisbury charges him with odious vices (Materials, vii. 527), and it is certain that he amassed a very large treasure—William of Newburgh asserts ‘by shearing rather than tending the Lord's flock.’ He was, however, a munificent builder—‘the most munificent ruler that ever presided over the see of York’ (Dixon and Raine, p. 248). He erected an archiepiscopal palace at York—of which small ruins remain—and endowed many churches in his diocese. As an enemy of Becket he incurred the hate of almost all those who wrote the history of his times, and his lack of spiritual fervour, if not his personal vices, served to deepen the bad impression. He was one of Henry II's statesmen-prelates, and as a bishop he shaped his course so as to satisfy a political ambition.

[Materials for the Hist. of Archbishop Thomas Becket (Rolls Ser.); Thomas Saga Erkibyskups (Rolls Ser.); Benedict of Peterborough (Rolls Ser.); Roger of Hoveden (Rolls Ser.); Gervase of Canterbury (Rolls Ser.); William of Newburgh (Rolls Ser.); Garnier de Pont S. Maxence's Vie de S. Thomas, ed. Hippeau, Paris, 1859. Almost all contemporary writers, in fact, contain some references to his character and career. Among modern writers may be named: J. C. Robertson's Life of Becket; J. Morris's Life of St. Thomas of Canterbury; Dixon and Raine's Lives of the Archbishops of York; Radford's Thomas of London before his Consecration; Hutton's St. Thomas of Canterbury.]

W. H. H.