Hilary (d.1169) (DNB00)

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HILARY (d. 1169), bishop of Chichester, was nominated to the bishopric in 1146 (Chr. Petrob.), and consecrated by Archbishop Theobald at Canterbury 3 Aug. 1147 (Gervase, i. 132). On the deposition of William, archbishop of York, in the same year, the majority of the chapter chose Hilary, but Pope Eugenius III preferred Henry Murdac [q. v.], the candidate of the minority. Hilary seems to have gone to France at this time, and to have endeavoured to defend King Stephen before the pope (see R. de Diceto, i. 263). Next year he was instrumental in effecting a reconciliation between Theobald and Stephen, and for not attending the council of Rheims incurred the sentence of the pope, from which he obtained absolution in November (Gervase, i. 136, 138). In 1157 Hilary was involved in a dispute with the abbot of Battle, who under a charter granted by William I, and confirmed by Lanfranc, claimed exemption from episcopal control. In spite of this Hilary endeavoured to exercise episcopal authority over the abbot, and excommunicated him for resistance. He also obtained letters from the pope to support his claims, though when charged indignantly with this by Henry I he denied it. The dispute was heard before the king at Colchester in 1157. Becket was present as chancellor, and took a decided part against the bishop, which may probably have influenced his after conduct. Henry obliged the bishop to abandon his claims, and to give the abbat the kiss of peace (see Materials for History of Becket, iv. 244). Hilary was one of the two bishops sent by the king from abroad with Richard de Lucy to convey to the chapter of Canterbury his will that Becket should be elected archbishop. At the council of Westminster (1163), when the king urged Becket and the bishops to accept unreservedly the ‘avitæ consuetudines’ while they contended for the qualifying clause of ‘salvo ordine suo,’ Hilary, thinking to effect a compromise, proposed the substitution of the words ‘bonâ fide’ for ‘salvo ordine suo;’ but this pleased neither side, and was rejected. After the meeting at Northampton in the same autumn, Henry induced Hilary and some of the other bishops to use their influence with Becket, and Hilary accordingly went to the archbishop's house at Teynham, but failed to produce any effect by his arguments. At the council of Northampton in October 1164 Hilary was present, and was one of the bishops who on 10 Oct. went to Becket's lodgings and urged him to yield to the king's demands. Becket refused, but three days later when he appeared in the royal court, Hilary, speaking on behalf of the other bishops, once more urged Becket to have regard to the dangers of the time, and ‘yield to the royal will, though only for a while.’ Again the archbishop rejected his advice, and then Hilary declared that Becket was guilty of breaking his oath of fidelity to the king, and summoned him to appear before the pope on a fixed day. The archbishop said, ‘I hear you.’ Soon, however, after this outburst Hilary made another attempt at compromise. He proposed that Becket, instead of paying the sum demanded of him, should offer to give up to the king certain manors belonging to the see. The archbishop indignantly refused, saying he would rather lose his head. Then followed Becket's flight and his honourable reception by the pope at Sens. The embassy which Henry immediately despatched after him (in November 1164) included the bishop of Chichester. Here the ambitious eloquence of Hilary was destined to receive a terrible downfall. In the course of his appeal to the pope to check Becket's presumption he used in his excitement ‘oportuebat’ instead of ‘oporteret.’ A loud laugh interrupted the unfortunate speaker. Some one shouted out, ‘You have got into port at last, but not without damage.’ ‘The bishop stood dumb and speechless.’ Hilary seems to have fallen out of favour with the king after this (Mat. Hist. Becket, v. 218), but to have afterwards recovered his position, and was one of those who granted absolution to those excommunicated by Becket in 1167, and on 27 Nov. of the same year was present at the meeting of Agentan. Hilary assisted at the consecration of a number of bishops, including that of Becket (see Gervase, i. 138, 142, 148, 162, and 171). He died in 1169 (Ann. Monast. ii. 59, 339, iv. 382).

Hilary would appear to have been a man of moderate opinions, who, endeavouring to steer a middle course, lost the confidence of either side, and Becket spoke of him as ‘the one among the brethren who played the part of Judas the Traitor.’ He is described as a man wonderful for learning, and having at his command ‘words many and full of persuasion,’ and as ‘much given to pompous speech.’

[Materials for History of Becket, Gervase of Canterbury, and Annales Monastici, all in the Rolls Series; Life of Becket by J. C. Robertson, London, 1859.]

G. G. P.