Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/139

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Bek
Bek
135


some of the monks were dissatisfied with their prior, Richard de Hoton. Prior Richard declined to admit the bishop as visitor unless be came unattended. He feared to admit the bishop's retinue, which would practically enable him to enforce his decisions. Hereon Bek suspended the prior, and on his continued contumacy deposed and excommunicated him. The quarrel led to breaches of the peace, and at last the king interposed as mediator. He decided that the prior was to continue in office, and the bishop was to visit the convent accompanied by a few chaplains. He declared that he would go against that party which opposed his decision. The haughty bishop would not give way. He refused to withdraw his deposition of Prior Richard, and called on the monks to make a new election. When they demurred, he appointed Henry de Luceby, prior of Lindisfame, to the office. To set up his nominee he called the men of Tynedale and Weardale to besiege the abbey, which was reduced by hunger. Then he seized Prior Richard and put him in prison, whence Richard managed to escape, and carried his grievances before the king and parliament, which was assembled at Lincoln. There were many who joined in his complaints of the bishop*s arrogance. The barons of the palatinate were not sorry to see Bek called to account. The men of the bishopric complained that they had been compelled to serve in the Scottish war contrary to their 'haliwere,' or obligation to fight only in defence of the patrimony of St. Cathbert. Edward was irritated by Archhishop Winchelsey's adhesion to the papal policy, and was inclined to look with disfavour on clerical pretensions. He asked Bek if he had stood with him in 1297 against the earl marshal and the Earl of Hereford. Bek answered that he had been on their side because he thought they sought the honour of the king and his realm. From that time forward Edward I was Bek's enemy.

The decision of parliament was in favour of the dispossessed prior, and he went off to Rome with letters from the king in his favour. Pope Boniface VIII reinstated him in his office, and summoned Bek to answer for his doings. Bek paid no heed to the papal summons, and Boniface VIII threatened him with deprivation. On this Bek set out for Rome, without asking the king's permission, in 1302, for which breach of decorum Edward I seized the temporalities of his see, and administered them by his own officials. At Rome Bek displayed his usual magnificence to the amazement of the people. 'Who is this?' asked a citizen as he saw the bishop's retinue sweep by. 'A foe to money' was the answer. Bek won over the cardinals by his splendid presents. One admired his horses, whereon Bek sent him two of the best, that he might choose which he preferred. The cardinal kept both. 'He has not failed to choose the best,' said Bek. Bek showed that he was no respecter of persons. He gave the benediction when a cardinal was present. He amused himself by playing with his falcons even during his interviews with the pope. Boniface VIII admired a temper so like his own, and dismissed the prior's complaints against Bek. On his journey Bek was in danger through a tumult which arose in a North-Italian city between his servants and the citizens. The mob stormed the house in which he was, and rushed into his room, exclaiming 'Yield, yield!' 'You don't say to whom I am to yield,' said the bishop; 'certainly to none of vou.' His dauntless bearing soon quelled the disturbance.

When Bek returned to England he made submission to the king, and recovered the possessions of his see. But he could not endure to be defeated by Prior Richard, and on the death of Boniface VllI again accused him to Benedict XI, who died before he had time to decide the case. Still Bek renewed his complaints to Clement V, who deprived Prior Richard of his office, and conferred on Bek a mark of his special favour by creating him patriarch of Jerusalem in 1305. However, Prior Richard, nothing dismayed, took another journey to the papal court, and, furnished with a thousand marks, succeeded in obtaining a reversal of the sentence. It did him little service; for he died before he could set out homewards, and his possessions were taken by the pope's treasury. Bek was now delivered from this troublesome quarrel; but Edward I would not leave him in peace. On the ground that he had obtained instruments from Rome injurious to the rights of the crown, the king deprived him of the liberties of Barnard Castle and Hartlepool, which had been conferred on him after the forfeitures of Baliol and Bruce. The accession of Edward II saw Bek again restored to royal favour. In 1307 the young king granted him the sovereignty of the Isle of Man. Thenceforth Bek was at liberty to wreak his vengeance upon the friends of the refractory prior. In 1308 he visited the convent of Durham, and suspended for ten years those monks who had taken part against him. His injured pride led him to commit a dishonourable action, which had far-reaching effects on the history of the north of England. William de Vesci, lord of the barony of Alnwick, died in 1297 without lawful issue, and left his castle and barony of Alnwick to