became wards of their kinsman Antony I, the great bishop of Durham. (1) Of John there is nothing that need be said. (2) Antony II was bishop of Norwich from 30 March 1337 till his death, 19 Dec. 1343 [see below]. (3) Thomas II was consecrated bishop 7 July 1342, and died on 2 Feb. 1340-7 [see below].
[The chief authority for the Beks is the MS. Harl, 3720, which is of the fourteenth century, and appears to have been drawn up as a family chronicle some time in the reign of Edward III. There are notices of the various members of the family in the Rolls of Parliament, the Chronicles, and other publications issued by the Master of the Rolls. The identity of name is likely to cause confusion.]
BEK, ANTONY I (d. 1310), bishop of Durham, was the son of Walter, baron of Eresby, in Lincolnshire. As a young man he attracted the notice of Edward I, and was nominated by him bishop of Durham in 1283. He was already well provided with ecclesiastical preferments; for he held five benefices in the province of Canterbury, and was archdeacon of Durham. At the time of his nomination to the see the monks of Durham were at variance with the archbishop of York about his rights of visitation. They knew that the archbishop would not accept anyone unless he were supported by the king, and they accordingly elected the king's nominee without opposition on 9 July 1283. Bek was consecrated at York on 9 Jan. 1284-5, and immediately after his consecration the archbishop, John Romanus, ordered him to excommunicate the rebellious monks. Bek refused, saying, 'Yesterday I was consecrated their bishop: shall I excommunicate them to-day?' At Bek's enthronement the claims of the archbishop of York led to another dispute. The official of York contested the right of the prior of Durham to instal, and Bek, in the interests of peace, set them both aside, and was installed by his brother Thomas, bishop of St. David's.
Antony Bek was a prelate of the secular and political type. He was one of the most magnificent lords in England, and outdid his peers in profuse expenditure. His ordinary retinue consisted of a hundred and forty knights, and he treated barons and earls with haughty superiority. Besides the revenues of his bishopric he had a large private fortune; and though he spent money profusely he died rich. He delighted in displaying his wealth. Once in London he paid forty shillings for as many herrings, because he heard that no one else would buy them. At another time, hearing that a piece of cloth was spoken of as 'too dear even for the Bishop of Durham,' he bought it, and had it cut up for horse-cloths. Yet he was an extremely temperate man, and cared nothing for pleasure. He was famed for his chastity, and it was said that he never even looked a woman in the face. At the translation of the relics of St. William of York he was the only prelate who felt himself pure enough to touch the saint's bones. He was a man of restless activity, who needed little sleep. He used to say that he could not understand how a man could turn in his bed, or seek a second slumber. He spent his time in riding, with a splendid retinue, from manor to manor, and was a mighty hunter, delighting in horses, hawks, and hounds.
Such a man was sure to find political employment, and Edward I used him for his negotiations with Scotland. In 1290 he was one of the royal commissioners at Brigham to arrange the marriage of the king's son I Edward with Margaret, the infant queen of Scotland. When this was agreed to, Bek was made lieutenant for Margaret and her husband; but this office soon came to an end by Margaret's death (Rymer, Fœdera, ii. 487-91). Next year Bek accompanied Edward I to Norham, and, on account of his eloquence, was one of those appointed to address the Scottish estates. Throughout the proceedings which led to the recognition of Baliol as king of Scotland, Antony Bek was one of the chief advisers of Edward I. In 1294 he was sent as ambassador to Adolf of Nassau, to arrange an alliance with Germany against France. In 1296 Bek joined Edward I in his expedition against Scotland. He led one thousand foot and five hundred horse, and before him was carried the sacred banner of St. Cuthbert. Baliol was helpless before Edward's army, and Bek was deputed to receive Baliol's submission in the castle of Brechin. When the war of Scottish independence broke out, Bek again joined Edward I in his second expedition to Scotland in 1298. His first exploit was the siege of the castle of Dirleton, which he had great difficulty in taking. In the battle of Falkirk Bek commanded the second division of the English forces, and, when he came near the foe, ordered his cavalry to await reinforcements before charging. 'To thy mass, bishop,' cried a rough knight, ' and teach not such as us how to fight the foe.' He spurred on, was followed by the rest, and routed the enemy.
Soon after his return from this campaign Antony Bek seems to have lost the king's favour, and was involved in ecclesiastical disputes which lasted for the remainder of his lifetime. In 1300 he proposed to hold a visitation of the convent of Durham, where