Somerset Historical Essays/Peter of Blois
PETER OF BLOIS
Peter of Blois, archdeacon of Bath, was a man of letters who flourished towards the end of the twelfth century. There is something ironical about this summary account of him, true as it is. For in the first place there is remarkably little to connect him with Bath; though a letter describing some annoyance to which he was put on a return journey from his archdeaconry is evidence that once at least he visited it. Secondly, while he certainly was a man of letters in the accepted sense of that term, yet his original works and his wide acquaintance with the literature accessible in his day would never have gained him a place in history, had he not been also a great letter- writer, writing letters not merely on his own account, but also for some of the most notable personages of his time, who had discovered his value as a secretary. Lastly, to say of him that he flourished at any period of his career is to use a technical phrase which is in cruel contrast with the actual conditions of weak health, disappointment, and debt, which are the prominent features of his personal story. He was a Frenchman by birth, though of Breton origin: but first Normandy and then England drew him away; and, often as he sighed for his native land, he found no attraction sufficient to recall him to it. He nursed his grievance as an exile, but it was only one of many grievances; and we may be content to accept his statement that, though his friends had bitterly disappointed him and his detractors were very spiteful, his life as he looked back on it had not on the whole been unhappy. He was an adventurer, no doubt; but it was an age of adventurers; and, though Peter was ambitious and self-important, he was free from avarice, and his frequent praise of poverty was quite sincere.
He had some means of his own, but he never understood how to keep out of debt; and he was far too conscientious to make money as he easily might have made it in the various positions of trust which he filled. His morals were beyond reproach; and his standard of clerical piety was so high that it was only at an advanced age that he could be persuaded to take priest's orders. But notwithstanding his unblemished character and his literary attainments there was something which held him back from the highest preferment; perhaps an incapacity for business, perhaps a defect of temper. So he died an archdeacon—not of Bath indeed, but of London; and his latest letters are pathetic protests to the pope that he has no revenue to support his title, and that the new precentor of St Paul's has ousted him from his stall which was the second in honour to that of the dean.
It is impossible to make a hero of Peter, but his story has much of human interest, and it runs in and out among the great events of a fascinating period of history. His letters indeed are indispensable to the historian; for again and again they take him behind the scenes. Not only do they present him with a famous picture of K. Henry II, but they show him the back-stairs of the court, and quaintly portray the sufferings of the courtiers of second rank as they were hurried from place to place, wearied and famished, fleeced by officials, and distracted by the caprice of a monarch for ever changing his plans. Clerical and monastic life is also vividly depicted; the bishop with his hawks, his nephews and his flatterers; the monk who would leave the Chartreuse for a less exacting order, and is urged to join the Cistercians rather than the less devout Cluniacs with their tedious musical repetitions and 'farcing' of psalms; the abbot, so lately a humble, contemplative monk, now pestered with legal business and forced to expend 'the patrimony of the Crucified' not on feeding the poor, but on over-feeding proud nobles who else would work woe to his house.
Peter collected and published his letters, as he tells us, at K. Henry's request. The collection must have appeared in more than one edition; it never was arranged chronologically, and as it grew it became an inextricable tangle which no editor has yet attempted to unravel. Some two hundred letters are preserved which are certainly genuine, though some of them present inconsistencies, which may be partly due to the writer's own revision at a later date. An accurate text is greatly needed, and there is a multitude of manuscripts waiting to be used. Meanwhile something can be done to straighten out Peter's own story, and to correct the mistakes of fact and date which mar the current accounts of his career.
Of the father of Peter of Blois we should know nothing had he not been unkindly spoken of after his death in a controversy concerning Peter's claim to the provostship of Chartres. Peter in his indignant rejoinder (Ep. 49) tells us that his father and mother were of good Breton stock; that his father was an exile, of small means but not actually poor, of high character and ability, though not trained in letters. Of other members of his family we hear only of William his brother, who had some talent in writing poems and plays, and who after being abbot for a short time of a monastery in Calabria returned to France; and of Ernald, a nephew, who became abbot of S. Laumer at Blois.
Peter's name suggests that he was born at Blois: yet in a letter which he writes in 1176 to John of Salisbury, the bishop-elect of Chartres (Ep. 223), he speaks of having received ' all the sacraments of the Christian faith ' in the church of the Virgin there; so that unless his baptism was deferred, we should naturally think of Chartres as his birthplace. The date of his birth may be placed about 1135: this would agree with the statement that he was offered more than one bishopric when he was in Sicily in 1168, and would make him a little over seventy when he died.
Where he obtained his first education we are not told; but he gives us (Ep. 101) some interesting details of his early studies. When he wrote Latin verses as a boy, his themes were taken from history and not from fable. Besides the ordinary school books he read much history; and, in view of the particular department of literature in which he achieved his permanent fame, we may note that he was made as a youth to learn by heart as models of epistolary style the letters of Hildebert bishop of Le Mans. The clever and ambitious lad presently found his way to Paris, where he continued his studies and supported himself by teaching. From Paris he went to Bologna, where he studied both canon and civil law (Epp. 8, 26). Near the beginning of the pontificate of Alexander III he visited the Roman court; and on the way thither his party was captured by the adherents of the antipope, Victor IV (1159-64) and Peter himself narrowly escaped being thrown into prison. He returned to Paris, and devoted his whole attention to the study of theology. He found himself in some pecuniary difficulty, but he was relieved by the timely liberality of his friend Reginald the archdeacon of Salisbury.
The earliest letter which Peter writes for a person of eminence is one in which Rotrou, the archbishop of Rouen, addresses K. Henry II, and pleads in the name of the bishops of Normandy that the young prince who is to be his successor may receive a thorough training in letters (Ep. 67). Rotrou had been translated from Évreux to Rouen in 1165, and at that time Prince Henry, though but ten years old, already had a separate establishment of his own. We may place this letter either before the spring of 1167 or after the summer of 1168. The intervening period includes Peter's year of adventure in the Sicilian court, the most curious and exciting incident of his whole career.
The Norman Kingdom of Sicily, founded in the eleventh century by the heroic sons of Tancred de Hauteville, was now at the height of its prosperity. It included the Southern States of Italy—Calabria, Apulia, and the principality of Naples. Under Roger II and William I it had become one of the strongest and best administered of existing kingdoms, exercising great influence not only in the West but also in the East.
The death of William in 1166 left the succession to his young son, William II, whom K. Henry had marked out as the future husband of his daughter Joan. Walter, an Englishman, had already been sent to undertake the education of the prince. The queen-mother Margaret, a descendant of the counts of Perche, now urged her cousin, Archbishop Rotrou, to send out some of their relations to assist in the duties of the Sicilian court. Thereupon Stephen, son of Rotrou the late count of Perche, went to Sicily with a company of thirty-seven persons. This party of Frenchmen, in which Peter of Blois was included, reached Palermo in the spring of 1167. Stephen was immediately made chancellor by the queen, and she also obtained his election as archbishop of Palermo, although he was too young to be consecrated, and indeed had only just been ordained subdeacon at her request. The two highest posts in the realm were thus combined in his person, to the great dissatisfaction of some of the older courtiers. His rule was just, and for a time not unpopular; but the avarice and folly of a subordinate estranged the people; his life was in constant danger, and soon after Easter 1168 a bloody revolt broke out. Stephen was besieged in his own palace, and though valiantly defended by the French knights he barely escaped with his life. Surrendering his claim to the archbishopric he sailed for Syria, and died soon afterwards in Jerusalem. Of all who had come with Stephen from France two only, according to Peter of Blois, returned in safety from 'poisonous Sicily'.
Peter as we learn from his letters had succeeded Walter as the young king's instructor (Ep. 66), and held that office for a year. His learning and ability gained him a position of importance in the court, where he acted as official sealer (sigillarius, Ep. 131 ). He tells us that his influence in state affairs aroused so much envy that repeated attempts were made to detach him from the court, and that he refused offers of two bishoprics and of the archbishopric of Naples.
At the moment of Stephen's flight Peter was sick. He was sheltered and cared for by Romuald, the archbishop of Salerno; and on his recovery the archbishop and Richard Palmer, the bishop-elect of Syracuse, urged him by the king's desire to remain at the chancery (in sigilli officio). He insisted, however, on returning to France; and, as the journey through Calabria was too hazardous, the king gave him a Genoese vessel which had been captured by Sicilian pirates. The crew were bound by solemn oaths of fidelity, and Peter set sail with a company of about forty persons: he was becalmed, and took more than a month on his voyage; but he reached Genoa safely and was well received, especially by persons of note who had seen him in what he calls his palatial grandeur in Sicily (Ep. 90).
This account of his return he writes to his brother William, who seems to have followed him to Sicily, and who had become the abbot of Matina in Calabria. In the same letter (or, according to some manuscripts, another written soon after) he urges his brother to refuse the pope's grant of the mitre and other episcopal ornaments, as being unseemly for an abbot; entreating him to resign his abbey rather than wear them. A subsequent letter (Ep. 93) congratulates him on having taken the latter course, and having returned from poisonous Sicily to the enjoyment of his native air and the wines of Blois. He speaks of William as his only brother (frater unice), and he rapturously concludes: 'Sumus, frater, in dulci Francia.' This letter was written after Peter had learned of the death of Stephen of Perche, and of the avenging earthquake which had consumed Catana on 4 Feb. 1169.
Peter's Sicilian experience was unfortunate, and left behind it a permanent embitterment. He had nearly touched greatness in his youth, and never rose quite so high again. From that time forth he was a disappointed man, for ever discoursing on the uses of adversity and vainly protesting that he had left ambition behind him.
When Peter got back to France the Becket controversy was nearing its miserable close. Every one was thoroughly tired of it, except the archbishop himself; and he had succeeded in alienating almost all his English friends. Even the good bishop Jocelin of Salisbury had come under his ban; and so a breach had been made between Archbishop Thomas and Reginald the archdeacon of Salisbury, Jocelin's son, who resented the unjust treatment of his father. Reginald was a man of importance in the king's court, and was just now returning from a second mission to the pope, on which he had started early in 1169. He was with K. Henry at Domfront, when the legates Gratian and Vivian, sent to make peace at last, arrived there in the month of August. It would appear that Peter had travelled with these legates from Benevento to Bologna, and had gathered that a reconciliation would certainly be effected, or else that Thomas would be transferred 'to the eminence of a greater patriarchate'. There is however a chronological difficulty in so interpreting the letter which relates this (Ep. 22), as it refers to the coronation of the young Henry (14 June 1170) which had roused Becket to fresh anger: yet it does not seem possible to explain otherwise the reference to the legates of the apostolic see, and the letter may have suffered from re-editing.
Peter had betaken himself to Reginald, who had befriended him in earlier days in Paris. He was at the time quite unaware of the archbishop's anger against the archdeacon, and when he was reproached on having joined the enemy's camp he wrote to the friends of the exiled prelate to defend his own action on the ground of pressing necessity, and at the same time to urge that Thomas would send a kindly word to Reginald, who was greatly distressed at the alienation, and who was a man worth making a friend: 'I know at any rate,' he says, 'his goodness to me' (Ep. 24). We cannot follow Peter's movements for a while after this; but we have a letter (Ep. 61) which belongs to this period and illustrates his outspokenness towards his friends. 'You must give up your hawks,' he writes to the archdeacon of Salisbury, 'with all your benefices you have received the care of souls, and not the care of birds: a bishop you soon will be; so turn from your birds to your books.'
For two years after the murder of Becket (29 Dec. 1170) we lose sight of Peter. Possibly he returned to Paris, and taught pupils there. He expected two nephews of Bishop Jocelin of Salisbury, but they did not come; nor did he receive a pension which that bishop had promised him (Ep. 51). He wrote to Reginald the archdeacon, begging him to secure for him the next vacant prebend at Salisbury (Ep. 230).
In the spring of 1173 Peter reappears in the service of Rotrou archbishop of Rouen. It was a moment of great distress and of serious danger for the English king. His sons, with the connivance of their mother Eleanor, had broken into open revolt, and many of the barons both of Normandy and of England had taken their side. In his anxiety to prevent a fratricidal struggle after his death, the king had apportioned the various provinces of his empire among his sons, and had caused the young Henry to be crowned as king of the English, But he had refused to relax his own personal control over any part of his wide dominions, or even to supply his sons with independent revenues adequate to the positions which they held. Early in March 1173 the young Henry suddenly left his father, and fled to the court of the king of France, Louis VII, where he was presently joined by his brothers Richard and Geoffrey. The king sent Archbishop Rotrou and Arnulf the bishop of Lisieux on an embassy to the French king at Paris. Peter of Blois went with them — we should have supposed in attendance on the archbishop; but he appears to regard himself as sent directly by the king (Ep. 71). It was by his pen that the two envoys made the report of their unsuccessful mission (Ep. 153). This letter contains the remarkable statement that the envoys could not induce the king of France 'to return the king's salutation': he had heard with patience all that they said, 'sola salutatione excepta.' The obscurity of the phrase is made clear when we read the account of this mission which is given by William of Newburgh (Rolls Ser. i. 170). The king, he says, sent honorable envoys with pacific messages, asking on a father's authority for the return of his son. The French king at once put the question, 'Who sends me such a message as this?' 'The king of England,' was the reply. 'But,' said he, 'that is not so: for the king of England is here, and he sends me no message by you. If it is his father, the late king of England, whom you still are calling the king, you must know that that king is dead.' It is this scene which is judiciously covered up by the words of the formal report, in which the envoys speak of their inability to extort any response to the king's salutation. The two documents which alone record this unlucky embassy corroborate each other in a remarkable way, and we may learn from this instance that the letters of Peter of Blois are a source of information which the historian cannot afford to neglect.
Four other letters were written by Peter for Archbishop Rotrou at this critical time (Epp. 28, 33, 154, 155). In Ep. 33 he urges the young king to return to his allegiance; and in Ep. 154 he reprimands Q. Eleanor for leaving her husband, and threatens her with the censures of the Church unless she returns to him and ceases to excite the young princes against him. The queen shortly afterwards endeavoured to join her sons, but she was intercepted in her flight, and was thereafter held in captivity for many years.
The bishopric of Bath had now been vacant for nearly seven years. When Bishop Robert died, 31 August 1166, the king was in Brittany and Thomas the archbishop was in exile at Pontigny. There was no prospect of filling this or other sees which presently fell vacant, so long as the great quarrel lasted. But towards the end of 1170, as soon as a reconciliation had been effected, the king summoned six persons from each of the widowed churches to come to him in Normandy, in order that elections might be made without further delay. This method of procedure was regarded as a serious breach of custom, on the ground that the elections of bishops ought not to take place 'in another kingdom'. The project was in any case frustrated by the murder of the archbishop at the close of the year.
At length in May 1173 Peter's forecast for his friend proved correct, and Reginald the archdeacon of Salisbury was elected to the see of Bath. Peter declared that on the second Sunday after Easter he had an extraordinary dream, in which this promotion was foretold. Then on 3 June Richard, the prior of Dover, was elected to the vacant see of Canterbury; and when the young king, who was now in open rebellion, appealed to the pope against these and other episcopal appointments as having been made without his royal consent, both Richard and Reginald started for the papal court. The new archbishop, after a tedious sojourn in Rome, was at length consecrated by the pope himself on 8 April 1174: Reginald's consecration was deferred, but it took place on 23 June at S.Jean de Maurienne in Savoy. On 24 November the archbishop was present at the enthronement of the new bishop of Bath. K. Henry and the young king his son were by this time reconciled, and they returned to England together in May 1175.
There is no evidence that up to this date Peter of Blois had ever been in England. He tells us more than once that it was the king who urged him to come (Epp. 127, 149); but it is not inconsistent with this that his friend, the new bishop of Bath, should have had something to do with his migration. It is commonly stated, indeed, that in 1175 Peter became the archdeacon of Bath; but we shall presently see that he did not receive this promotion until seven years later. As a matter of fact he entered the service of Richard, the new archbishop of Canterbury, and acted as his chancellor; and we may fairly suppose that he was introduced to the archbishop by Bishop Reginald.
The ecclesiastical policy of Archbishop Richard seemed a timid one to the admirers of his martyred predecessor. But it must be remembered that Thomas had little sympathy or support in England either from clergy or from monks during this struggle with the king: his praise and popularity began with his death. Richard had no intention of quarrelling with K. Henry; and there are indications that he disapproved of some of the immunities for which Thomas had contended. His relations with Alexander III were not cordial; and the great papal chancellor Albert, who himself was to be pope for a few weeks at the end of 1187, received a letter from Peter, 'the insignificant chancellor' of the archbishop (modicus domini Cantuariensis cancellarius) defending his master from complaints which had reached the Roman court (Ep. 38). Archbishop Richard was indeed a good husband of the resources of his see; but even the king, as we learn from a frank remonstrance of Peter's, desired to see him more active in the reform of ecclesiastical abuses (Ep. 5).
In one direction he was zealous enough: he was strongly opposed to the attempts which one monastery after another was making to escape diocesan supervision and to obtain exemption from all jurisdiction except that of the pope himself. A letter which Peter writes for him to Alexander III (Ep. 68) tells how the abbot of Malmesbury, refusing obedience to the bishop of Salisbury, had gone off to Wales and got his benediction from the bishop of Llandaff. And the archbishop had a struggle of his own of many years' duration with Roger, the abbot-elect of St Augustine's, who refused to make him the oath of obedience and appealed to the pope. This struggle took Peter to Rome, on what was perhaps his third visit to the papal court. In the autumn of 1177 he and Master Gerard la Pucelle left England as proctors in this suit, and after some months a conclusion favourable to the archbishop seems to have been reached. But suddenly the tables were turned, as Peter narrates in a letter to John of Salisbury, the bishop of Chartres (Ep. 158). 'I had nicely finished my business,' he says, 'and was starting for home, when the pope called me back. The elect of St Augustine's had turned up, and all was to begin over again. Master Gerard and I did our best against him; but he so silvered the wings of the dove and covered her back with gold, that we could hardly get a hearing. Indeed he was to have been blessed the very next Sunday; but by an immense effort I managed to stop that. At last with a bad fever on me, as July came in, I went out, and left the Roman court.' The facts to which reference is made were these: on 3 April 1178 the pope, writing as he says in the presence of Masters Gerard la Pucelle and Peter of Blois, decides in favour of Roger; and on 17 April he writes to the bishop of Worcester to bless the abbot, if the archbishop should still refuse. Yet Roger failed to get the benediction either way, till he returned to Rome and received it from the pope himself on 28 January 1179. Even that, as we shall see, was not quite the end of the struggle.
We have now reached the year of the great Lateran council, which was held 5-19 March 1179. The archbishop started for it, but in fact got no further than Paris. Reginald the bishop of Bath was at the council, with other English bishops; and so was Peter of Blois. Peter may have brought the archbishop's excuse; but he did a little business besides on his own account. This comes out incidentally on two occasions in later years. We shall find him pleading that Bishop Reginald had infringed a privilege then obtained, by which Peter and his subordinates were not to be molested by excommunication or suspension unless after trial and conviction. Moreover Lucius III wrote (c. 1181) to the archbishop of Canterbury to compel Master Peter of Blois his chancellor to make good certain pecuniary engagements into which he had entered at the time of the Lateran council (Jaffé, 14963): and one of the very few short letters in Peter's collection (Ep. 39) is addressed to his friend E., begging his aid: 'I come straight to the point. The Roman court, as its manner is, has tied me up with a multiplicity of debt: if I can once escape from Scylla by God's grace I shall not fall back into Charybdis.'
During the earlier years of his residence in England Peter was still cherishing the hope of getting some substantial preferment in his native land. A number of his letters refer to this matter, and it will be convenient to deal with them together. It would appear that about the year 1171 Peter was drawn away from scholastic work, and hoped to find a settled position in France as a clerk of the archbishop of Sens, with a prebend, and presently the provostship, in the cathedral church of Our Lady of Chartres. Thus he writes to William (aux Blanches Mains), archbishop of Sens (1168–76), saying that he has waited patiently for the fulfilment of a promise brought him by Master Gerard: he is getting on in years, and the grey hairs are coming: many offers have been made him, but the hope of a prebend at Chartres prevents him from accepting them at present (Ep. 128). About the same time he writes to a relation of his own, Peter Minet bishop of Périgueux (1169–82), postponing the acceptance of a place in his household, on the ground of great offers from 'that lord whom you know of', for whose promised bounty he is still waiting patiently: he mentions in this letter that his father and mother are both dead (Ep. 34). Another letter (Ep. 72) shows that his hope was vain: it is written to 'G., once friend and companion'. 'The archbishop of Sens', he says, 'drew me away from the schools, to join his household in hope of a benefice at the earliest moment: you boast that you have ousted me and got another man into the post.' Peter pelts him with endless quotations from five ancient poets and from Macrobius. 'I have nothing but my patrimony,' he says in conclusion, 'and that I am distributing to my kinsfolk. In Sicily they sought to ruin me by offers of bishoprics: you take the opposite course, and after cheating me of more than one prebend, you have supplanted me also in the provostship. God spare you from the fate of the Sicilians: for I wish you no harm.'
We shall see that the provostship of Chartres, on which Peter seems to have had some kind of claim, was again to escape him to his intense chagrin: meanwhile he left France for Normandy, and betook himself once more, as we have already observed, to Rotrou, the archbishop of Rouen. Here he obtained a small prebend, which seems to have been more trouble than it was worth. Chance has preserved the record that he was forty shillings in arrear for his contribution to the building of the new chapter- house at Rouen; and a letter written to Walter of Coutances, who succeeded to the archbishopric in 1185, shews that he had farmed out his prebend, but had got nothing for it in the five past years (Ep. 142).
On 8 August 1176 the great scholar John of Salisbury was consecrated to the bishopric of Chartres. We have already mentioned two letters written to him by Peter: one during the exile of Archbishop Thomas, and another in 1178 describing his visit to the Roman court. If Ep. 223 ('to the elect of Chartres') was written to John, as seems almost certain, it follows that Peter had never met him until his appointment was made known, and that then he had hastened to see him. After speaking of the need of such a bishop to restore the broken fortunes of the church of Chartres,. he begs him to 'give his voice the voice of power', and to claim 'him, not half but whole, for the service of the glorious Virgin. But the bishop's first favour was shown to another Peter of Blois, whom our Peter describes as his double as well as his namesake (Ep. 114). Peter praises the bishop for thus caring for the clergy of Blois (clerus Blesensis), who as a body have been scattered and proscribed: he must not however forget something else which he had promised, and which is Peter's own secret: 'You will give your voice the voice of power,' he says again; 'there will be no Yea and Nay with you.' He adds that his archbishop had bidden him write a memorial of the blessed Thomas; but happily he had found that John of Salisbury had done it. It appears that this other Peter of Blois was chancellor of Chartres under Bishop John. Two letters of our Peter are written to him: in one (Ep. 72) he asks him to correct his work De praestigiis fortunae, in which he has recorded the deeds of K. Henry II: his brother William has indeed gone over part of it, but he wishes a severer critic: the other (Ep. 76) is a denunciation of his wasting his gifts upon profane letters, when he ought to devote himself entirely to theology. In this connexion it is interesting to note that Peter the chancellor of Chartres is recorded to have written a commentary on the Psalms.
The re-foundation of the dean and chapter of S. Sauveur at Blois is the subject of another letter which belongs to this period (Ep. 78). This was the work of a knight named Geoffrey, undertaken under the auspices of Bishop John. Peter indeed speaks of himself as 'first among the first' in the restoration: but this perhaps only means that he had urged it upon the new bishop. In a curious letter (Ep. 70), which he may afterwards have regretted, Peter protests against the flatterers who try to prevent the bishop from giving promotion to his own nephew, Robert of Salisbury: it is not right, he says, to prefer a less fit stranger to a fit nephew. In this letter to the bishop Peter writes as 'suus canonicus', and there is other evidence that he held for a time a canonry at Chartres. In writing to the dean of Chartres and the archdeacon of Blois he speaks of himself as having been their 'concanonicus'. It is in this letter (Ep. 49) that he defends his father's memory against the charges brought up in the suit with Robert of Salisbury for the provostship of Chartres. This office he still claims as his rightful due; he had designed to devote the remainder of his days to Our Lady of Chartres, but foes of his own household have conspired against him: God however has provided him with a more fruitful benefice. Perhaps we should put even before this letter another which he writes to the dean and chapter of Chartres, when his duties with the archbishop of Canterbury prevent him from coming to them as he had planned (Ep. 234). He is grateful to the dean for an offer of a pecuniary kind, but says he will take nothing from him or any one during his persecution. This melancholy story comes to a close with another letter to Bishop John (Ep. 130), repudiating charges of attempts to bring various influences, royal or papal, to bear in order to secure the provostship which Robert the nephew now holds. He writes as the archbishop of Canterbury's chancellor; and this office may be the better benefice referred to above. Some years afterwards, in 1182, Peter wrote to congratulate Rainald, a new bishop-elect of Chartres, and said nothing at all as to his own troubles and hopes (Ep. 15): a little later, however, he writes to two members of the bishop's household, and says: 'Your lord had promised to recall me from exile: but there are frogs in bishop's chambers' (Ep. 20).
We must now come back to England and to the household of Archbishop Richard, where Peter's real work lay. To what extent be was from time to time attached to the royal court it is difficult to say; but it is certain that he was there on occasions in the archbishop's interest. Once he was sent abroad on a mission to the king, and on reaching the other side of the channel he wrote back a lively description of his perilous passage: 'The king is off to Gascony, and I after him post-haste (duplomate utens).' He adds what must be meant for humour, if it is not a misreading: 'Bene valeant magni rustici nostri, magister G. et archidiaconus Baiocensis.' These were two clerks of the archbishop's household, Gerard la Pucelle, who had been with Peter at Rome; and Waleran, who on 9 Oct. 1182 was elected to the see of Rochester. This letter was written probably at the end of June 1182: in its opening clause Peter styles himself archdeacon of Bath; and, though we often have to set aside this title as a later addition to the original letters, there is good reason for maintaining its genuineness here.
We must go outside the printed editions and even the manuscripts of his letters to settle the date at which Peter of Blois became archdeacon of Bath. The earliest occurrence of his name in any charter which can be approximately dated is his attestation of the grant by Richard de Camville of the church of Hengstridge for a prebend of Wells. This grant can be dated with practical certainty between March and May 1176, and it was confirmed at the same time by Archbishop Richard. Both the grant and the confirmation are attested by ' Master Peter of Blois '. This is enough to throw serious doubt on the common assertion that he was archdeacon of Bath in 1175. There are at least three other charters known to us which he attests without the title of archdeacon, and they may all be placed before 1182. In the letter of Alexander III, to which we have already referred, he is spoken of as 'Master Peter of Blois' on 3 April 1178; so too in the letter of Lucius III. who was elected pope on 1 September 1181.
The first evidence of his having become archdeacon of Bath is perhaps to be found in a charter by which Archbishop Richard confirms the English possessions of the abbey of St Stephen at Caen. Its first two witnesses are Walter bishop of Rochester and Master Peter of Blois, archdeacon of Bath: it must therefore be earlier than 26 July 1182, when Bishop Walter died, and consequently earlier than Peter's crossing of the channel at the 'summer solstice' of that year. There is however a Wells charter which gives what may possibly be yet earlier evidence: namely, Gerard de Camville's confirmation of his father's grant of Hengstridge. This is dated at Westminster in 1182: and both it and its confirmation by Archbishop Richard are attested by 'Peter archdeacon of Bath'. It was made in the presence of Ranulf de Glanville, 'Justice of England', a title which he obtained at the end of February 1182, on the eve of the king's departure for Normandy. It may be dated between the beginning of March and the end of June when Peter went abroad. We may consider it therefore established that Peter became archdeacon of Bath in the earlier part of the year 1182.
Whatever may have been the nature or extent of Peter's new archidiaconal responsibility—and this point we shall have to consider later—it was not such as to sever his connexion with the archbishop. We have seen that he crossed the sea for him at Midsummer 1182; and the next year he was abroad again in attendance on the primate at the king's court. The year 1183 was to bring the greatest anxiety and sorrow to K. Henry. It began with a revolt of Prince Richard, and after his reconciliation there followed a fresh revolt of Prince Henry, the young king. Archbishop Richard, who had left England the previous November, remained abroad until the beginning of August. Peter was with him at the court at Poitiers on 8 March and attested an agreement which the king had at length required Roger the abbot of St Augustine's to make with the archbishop. Early in May he was still with him; for the archbishop then wrote, by Peter's hand, a letter to the young king (Ep. 47), appealing to him to submit to his father and not behave like a captain of brigands: if he does not come to a better mind, the archbishop will fulfil the pope's order and excommunicate him within fifteen days. On 26 May the archbishop, with Waleran the newly consecrated bishop of Rochester and four Norman bishops, excommunicated at St Stephen's Caen all who had fostered the dissensions between the kins; and his sons. It is said by Roger de Hoveden that the young king was excepted from this sentence: perhaps, however, the excommunication was in such general terms that some may have held that he was excepted and others that he was included. For we have a letter written by Peter to Ralph the bishop of Angers, urging him to punish with ecclesiastical censures the Angevins who had deserted K. Henry, and adding that the archbishop of Canterbury had, at the pope's bidding, excommunicated at Caen all who broke the peace not excepting the young king (Ep. 69). Suddenly on 11 June the young king died. As his body was being taken to Rouen, it was forcibly detained at Le Mans and buried there: shortly afterwards, however, K. Henry and the archbishop removed it to Rouen. The second letter of Peter's collection—the first, that is, after the prefatory epistle—is addressed to the king at this time, exhorting him not to yield to excessive grief for the loss of his son. It may well be that this letter of consolation was appreciated by the king and led to the request that Peter would publish his letters (see Ep. 1).
The archbishop returned to England on 11 August, and eight days afterwards Peter was present in the chapter-house of Christ Church, when the new bishop of Rochester, who had been consecrated abroad, did fealty to the church of Canterbury. Peter's service to the archbishop was soon to close, for Archbishop Richard died on 16 Feb. 1184.
The king returned to England in June, and the Christ Church monks were ordered to proceed to the election of an archbishop. Of their four nominees none satisfied the king. Then the bishops elected Baldwin the bishop of Worcester: he had been the protégé of the good bishop Bartholomew of Exeter, who made him his archdeacon: after this he had joined the Cistercians, and had become abbot of Ford in Devonshire. It took much negociation before the monks of Canterbury would agree to elect him; but they did so at last, after his election by the bishops had been formally quashed, in the king's presence at Westminster on 16 Dec. 1184. Baldwin's old patron, the bishop of Exeter, had died the day before. At the end of January 1185 Heraclius, the patriarch of Jerusalem, arrived to plead for a new Crusade: he stayed in England till April. Among other inducements he offered the kingdom of Jerusalem to Henry or any one of his sons. Peter, in a letter written some years later to Geoffrey the archbishop of York, mentions that he himself was present when the offer was made, and it was hoped that Geoffrey might accept it (Ep. 113). On 19 May Baldwin received his pall at . Peter, who seems at once to take his old position in the archbishop's court, writes in Baldwin's name to urge the bishops of the province to promote the Crusade; and his letter expressly mentions the visit of Heraclius (Ep. 98). Then we find him writing for the archbishop to the new pope, Urban III, who was elected on 25 Nov. 1185.
In the service of Archbishop Baldwin Peter of Blois was destined to play a prominent part in an ecclesiastical struggle, which but for the loss of Jerusalem, the death of the pope, and the death of the king might even have brought about the severance of the Church of England from the papacy. It was only the monks of a single monastery who were fighting to preserve privileges of exemption to which they had in fact no longstanding claim. But with eminent ability and indomitable courage they succeeded in identifying their cause with that of the papal jurisdiction in England, and showed by the sufferings which they wittingly drew upon themselves that they would die sooner than yield. They were confronted by an archbishop, pious, austere, and as unyielding as themselves, supported by the entire episcopate, a few names only excepted; and they had to deal with a subtle king, who held himself in the background at first, but presently declared that he would sooner lose his crown than see the monks victorious.
The monks of Christ Church Canterbury held a unique position. They claimed the sole right of electing the primate of all England — a claim which neither bishops nor king could possibly admit. When he was enthroned, the archbishop was nominally their abbot; but the prior and his monks claimed to be 'the church of Canterbury', 'the mother church of England'; and they held .that the archbishop was bound to their allegiance on that ground. They had gained an independent control of their estates, and even of the offerings made in what was the archbishop's own cathedral church. They treated him as if he were there on sufferance, and jealously watched his every act. In Theobald's days indeed they had been in straits, and were glad to look to his aid in matters of property. In Thomas's time they were by force of circumstances left to themselves, and they showed little or no sympathy with his troubles. But his death in their midst had raised them to glory and to opulence: and his successor Richard had allowed them to control the new wealth which poured in from the offerings of pilgrims, and had yielded other points out of a weak benevolence which secured peace in his time.
Baldwin was a Cistercian monk, accustomed to a stricter interpretation of the monastic rule than he found at Canterbury, and accustomed as an abbot to be obeyed. He set himself at once to recover some of the property rights of his see which his predecessor had alienated; and he obtained sanction for his acts from Lucius III. He then initiated a scheme which, as he claimed, and doubtless with some justice, had been contemplated by St Thomas and even long ago by St Anselm—the erection of a collegiate church in the suburbs of Canterbury. It was to be dedicated not only (as they had intended) to St Stephen, but now also to St Thomas as well; for the English martyr had as yet no church of his own in his native land. For this design Baldwin obtained the sanction of the new pope, Urban III, who however soon repented of his consent and became the archbishop's bitter enemy.
The monks were quick to see that this new church would be their ruin. It was to be a college of canons of no ordinary eminence. A number of bishops would receive stalls; it was even whispered that one would be assigned to the king himself: others would be given to the most learned clerks of the kingdom. What would this mean but a college of cardinals, with the archbishop sitting as a kind of pope? A new patriarchate would be formed: all causes ecclesiastical would be heard in this court, and none would henceforth cross the sea: England would be to all intents and purposes severed from Rome. The monks, of course, would cease to be 'the church of Canterbury': the new cathedral would supersede the old by sheer force of wealth and influence: it might even claim the body of the martyr in whose name it was dedicated. These were the terrors of their mind as the project advanced: these at any rate were the*fatal consequences which they assured the pope must inevitably follow, if he did not crush the scheme at the very outset.
It may be that the archbishop entered on the undertaking with a much more modest intention. He wished to surround himself with learned clerks, he wished to be able to reward meritorious services; he wished also to create a counterpoise to the excessive influence of the monks. In a letter written by the abbot of St Denys on behalf of the convent of Christ Church to Pope Clement III we find it stated that the archbishop's simplicity had been imposed upon by the wiliness of certain scholars; and it is interesting to compare with this the more explicit statement of Gervase the Canterbury monk, that it was Peter of Blois who was the cunning deviser of the obnoxious plan. We may well believe that, at its first inception, the reward of scholarship among the secular clergy held a prominent place in the scheme; but shrewder heads than Peter's got to work upon it. Henry and his statesmen, who were for the most part bishops and clerical lawyers, saw its possibilities: the archbishop and his scholar-priests were their unconscious tools.
The story of this great contest has been vividly told by Bishop Stubbs in his introduction to the Epistolae Cantuarienses (Chron. of Rich. I, Rolls Series, II, xxxvii. ff.): we are only concerned here with the part played in it by Peter. This we learn chiefly from the the Canterbury historian Gervase, and we must make some allowance, as we read, for the natural bias of the writer.
The archbishop, as we have said, had obtained a general approval of his scheme from the pope, and in the last days of 1186 he came to Canterbury with the intention of at once installing some of his new canons in the church of St Stephen at a little distance outside the city. The alarmed monks appealed against such action to the Roman court, but the archbishop pursued his course, suspended the monks who were sent to forbid him and also Honorius their prior. Thereupon Honorius immediately set out to carry the appeal in person to the pope. At home the controversy became daily more bitter. The king sent envoys to negociate a settlement, but in vain. Then on Ash-Wednesday 1187, on his way to Dover, he came to Canterbury to try the effect of his personal persuasion. The scene in the chapter-house, as Gervase describes it, is a curious one. The king entered with the archbishop alone, and ordered the doors to be guarded, that none might come in unless they were summoned. The first to be called were the bishop of Norwich, the bishop of Durham, Hubert Walter, and Peter of Blois, the 'impudent contriver of almost the whole of this mischief'. Next, the subprior and four monks were summoned: they sat apart with their eyes on the ground, but with no sign of fear, 'as sheep appointed to the slaughter'. Grouped on the other side were the archbishop, his bishops and 'his Peter', as Gervase scornfully adds. The king moved from one group to the other, bearing their proposals and replies. But all his skill could achieve nothing. So he went on to Dover, and all his company. The archbishop soon came back, and changing the site of his new church began to dig its foundations about half a mile nearer to Canterbury on 18 February. A fearful hailstorm marked the day.
Then the archbishop despatched Peter of Blois and other envoys to the papal court. Peter on his way through France obtained letters in the archbishop's favour from certain persons of note: he was also the bearer of letters from some of the English bishops. Meantime the prior Honorius had reached Verona, where he was received with much favour. The pope at once wrote to command the archbishop to cancel his sentences of suspension and to annul all action that he had taken since the appeal had been announced to him. His only reply was to build a chapel of wood and form a fraternity to gather funds for the new church throughout England. In May the pope wrote again, and then sent two further letters, one commanding him to stop building, the other warning prelates that the fraternity must be quashed. But the archbishop was undeterred, and the only result was, as Gervase says, that the chapel of wood began to turn into a church of stone.
During all these months the pope got no word at all from the archbishop. It became known that his envoys would not enter Verona while Honorius was there. So the prior by the pope's advice withdrew to France, and Master Pillius was left as the convent's advocate. Then the envoys came; but still they refused to approach the pope unless they could be heard by themselves. Their position was indeed a difficult one; for since their departure from England the archbishop had persistently disregarded the pope's commands, and the case could no longer be considered on its merits alone. Doubtless the pleas which they would chiefly urge were other than ecclesiastical arguments. The king was behind them, and at that moment he was seeking peace with France; while the papacy was once more being harried by the emperor. So the pope heard them alone: the letters of the archbishop and the king were read; the bishops' letters, so Gervase had heard, were thrown out of the window. Presently Master Pillius was called in, and a been entertained both by St Anselm and by St Thomas. At this the pope caught him up and said: 'Stay, brother, stay: did St Thomas wish to build a church in his own honour?' In this way the debate went on for several days.ensued between him and Peter. Then the pope asked whether the archbishop designed to move his throne and to translate the body of the martyr to the new church dedicated to St Stephen and St Thomas. To this Peter replied that he intended neither, and that the project of building this church was not a new one, but had
From the correspondence which passed at this time between the Canterbury monks and their envoys we learn a little more. Peter's high tone, says one writer, did our cause more good than harm. Another report declared that, when Peter had urged in the king's name that the building of the church should be allowed to proceed, the pope had said: 'What has the king to do with it?' This Peter had retailed in a letter to the king, making him furious with rage.
The archbishop's envoys, notwithstanding their ill success with the pope, remained at Verona. They were not without friends among the cardinals: Albert the chancellor in particular gave them courage: 'Wait', said he, 'wait: the next pope will revise all that is being done'. In England the papal letters were unavailing. When the bishop of Bath and others were commissioned to carry them into effect, Ranulf de Glanville the justiciar interposed in the king's name, and the commission was forbidden to proceed. The papal court now moved to Ferrara. Peter, who claimed to have been an old fellow-student of the pope, rode by his side and harped on the merits of the archbishop, until the pope passionately exclaimed: ' May I never dismount from this horse, or mount this or any other again, if I do not put out that archbishop from his see.' At that moment, Peter tells us, the cross-bearer stumbled and the papal cross was broken off from its staff. That night the pope was taken ill, and could only with difficulty be brought on to Ferrara in a barge: he never rode a horse again. On 3 October he despatched a new series of letters, enforcing his commands on the archbishop and the commission, and imploring the king not to interfere. But death had set its mark on him. On 19 October 1187 Urban III was gone, and two days later Albert the chancellor became Pope Gregory VIII. This great man, who sat for less than two months in the papal chair, inaugurated a new policy of reconciliation. The last days of his predecessor had been darkened by the tidings of the capture of the king of Jerusalem and the loss of the True Cross: the fate of Jerusalem itself was still unknown, though in fact it had fallen on 3 October. A letter written by Peter of Blois to K. Henry tells of the determination of the new pope and his cardinals to command a universal truce of seven years under the severest penalties of excommunication: the cardinals were pledged to renounce all avarice and luxury, and to preach the Crusade in person. Gregory at least was in deadly earnest, and he deserves to be recognised in history as the founder of the Third Crusade. He at once made peace with the emperor, and he refused to continue his predecessor's bitter opposition to the English archbishop and king.
Peter and his fellow envoy, William of St Faith, the precentor of Wells, had written the news of Urban's death and Gregory's accession somewhat too exultantly to the archbishop, who was with the king in Normandy. The king at once took the new church under his protection, and Baldwin began to adopt more violent measures with the monks. On 11 January 1188 he returned to England, and on the following Sunday he excommunicated the subprior and certain others. But the next day news reached him that the friendly pope was dead, and that he had been succeeded on 19 December by Clement III. It was the monks' turn to rejoice: for the new pope reaffirmed the commands of Urban III, though he did not at once appoint a commission to enforce them.
The Crusade was now in all men's minds. On 21 January 1188 Henry and Philip met near Gisors, and took the Cross together. Henry returned to England, and held a council at Geddington on 11 February, when Baldwin preached the Crusade. Of Peter we lose sight for a while; but he must have left Ferrara about November 1187. He rejoined the archbishop, and was with him when Almeric the brother of Guy of Lusignan, the king of Jerusalem, told a story of Reginald de Chatillon and the True Cross. Peter's pen was set goino in the cause of the Crusade, and he wrote the Passio Reginaldi. Presently he wrote a long lament on the delay which was caused by the renewal of hostilities with France.
Meanwhile the trouble at Canterbury found no solution. At the beginning of 1189, after an interview with one of the monks at Le Mans, the king made a new effort at reconciliation. After consulting with the archbishop he charged Hubert Walter, then dean of York, to write certain proposals in a letter to Canterbury. The letter had been given to the monk and sealed in the chancery, when the archbishop insisted that he must see it. He accordingly sent Hubert Walter and Peter of Blois to fetch it. The seal was broken and the archbishop required the addition of certain clauses. Though the monks blamed Peter for this, Hubert Walter who had dictated the letter and given it to be sealed was of course responsible and within his rights. Doubtless it was his duty to make it such as the archbishop as well as the king should approve. Nothing came of this new effort. A legate from the pope—the third commissioned, for two in succession had died—came to Le Mans in May, and a fruitless conference took place. Then, on 6 July, Henry II died at Chinon, and his body was taken for burial to Fontevrault. Baldwin hastened back to England, and on 12 August an agreement with the monks was hastily patched up. K. Richard was crowned on September. The quarrel with the monks broke out again: the king intervened, and Baldwin determined to change the site of his church and build it at Lambeth. On 6 March 1190 he left England for the Crusade, never to return.
At this point it will be convenient to pause in our story, and say what little there is to be said as to Peter's archdeaconry of Bath. Among his letters (Ep. 29) is an angry remonstrance, addressed to the abbot and convent of St. Albans, against the conduct of the prior of their daughter- house at Wallingford. 'I was returning', he says, 'from the visitation of my archdeaconry, and had sent my servants on to Wallingford to prepare me a lodging. They asked the prior to allow me the use of an empty house for a single night, being ready themselves to provide what was necessary for man and beast. But all they got was savage abuse.' It may be that Peter was out of favour on the ground of his opposition to the Canterbury monks. For us the interest of the incident lies in the fact that it is our only direct proof that he ever discharged his archidiaconal duties in person. He was by no means peculiar in the lax interpretation of the duties of his office. Indeed he was but following the example of his immediate predecessor John Cumin, lately promoted to the archbishopric of Dublin, whose energies had been entirely devoted to the king's service, just as Peter's energies were to the service of two archbishops in succession. Another glimpse of him in connexion with the archdeaconry is given us in a letter (Ep. 58) in which he complains that Bishop Reginald has suspended his vice-archdeacon. This he had done in spite of the fact that at the Lateran council in 1179 Peter had obtained a privilege to the effect that no archbishop or bishop should excommunicate or suspend either him or his, save after conviction or confession of the offence. He goes on to say that the paltry arrear of twenty shillings, which was the ground of the bishop's action, was but a pretext: for he had already arranged for its payment with Ernald of Bath and Azo of Potterne. It is likely, however, that the bishop was not so capricious and vexatious as Peter tries to make him appear. It is at any rate interesting to note that twenty shillings was the archdiaconal due which John Cumin had persistently withheld for six years when the bishopric was in the king's hands: so that here again Peter may have been treading in the footsteps of his predecessor.
We may conveniently notice at this point a letter which belongs to a later period (Ep. 123: 1191-8), in which Peter refuses to comply with the desire expressed by Richard fitz Neal, the bishop of London, that he should take priest's orders. He declares with much emphasis and at considerable length that it is his high conception of the demands of the priesthood that holds him back. But he also vigorously insists, pleading many and great authorities, that it is more fitting that an archdeacon should have only the status of a deacon. In the Roman church he had seen many men of distinction who never passed beyond the diaconate: the pope himself (Celestine III, 1191-8) had more than once told him that he had served as a deacon sixty-five years, before he was called to the pontificate. Peter might have instanced Thomas of Canterbury and John Cumin of Dublin as archdeacons of his own day who never sought the priesthood until they had been elected archbishops. But he had a nearer example in Richard fitz Neal himself, the famous treasurer of England, who had written the 'Dialogue on the Exchequer', and whose public services had been rewarded by the archdeaconry of Ely and the deanery of Lincoln. 'No man', says Peter in his florid manner, 'taketh to himself the honour, save he that is called of God, as Aaron: and it may be that you would still be among the Levites and not among the sons of Aaron, had not the Lord said to you, Friend, go up higher, and adorned you with the bishop's mitre.'
It is not easy to see what the bishop of London's concern in the matter was. But we may note that, when the bishopric was vacant before Richard fitz Neal's appointment in 1189, the Pipe Roll shows a payment to Peter of Blois of forty shillings, 'which he was wont to receive annually out of the bishop's camera'. This suggests that he had already at this point some kind of connexion with the diocese of London which placed him under obligation to the bishop.
In the end Peter gave way and was ordained to the priesthood; whether while he was still archdeacon of Bath, we cannot say: but a letter (Ep. 139), which appears indeed to have been sent to more than one monastery, asks the prayers of the abbot and canons of Keynsham on the occasion, and this abbey was within the archdeaconry of Bath. It is possible that his ordination may have been occasioned by his appointment to the deanery of Wolverhampton, of which we shall speak presently.
But to return. Archbishop Baldwin died at Acre on 19 November 1190. The death of K. Henry, now followed by the death of the archbishop, left Peter somewhat stranded. He describes the desolation which he experienced at this time in a letter written in 1197 to Odo de Sully the new bishop of Paris, whom he had known as a boy in that city and had met again as a young man at the Roman court in October 1187: 'K. Henry II, your cousin, first drew me to England. His death depressed me so greatly that at one time I should have said farewell to England altogether, but for the kindness of the bishop of Worcester and the bishop of Durham and his archdeacons' (Epp. 126 f.). Henry de Sully, bishop of Worcester, was Odo's brother, and Hugh de Puiset, bishop of Durham, was his cousin; one of the archdeacons referred to was Richard de Puiset, probably another cousin. We do not know what connexion Peter had with any of these, and the reference to them may be little more than complimentary: but no doubt Peter's circumstances were changed for the worse by the loss of his patrons.
The new king was all for the Crusade. Crowned on 3 September 1189, he left England on 11 December, not to return till March 1194. Peter tells us that he himself left England with the king (Ep. 87); but it is probable that he soon returned. About this time he had got the deanery of Wolverhampton, a royal peculiar. Every one was getting appointments from the king, who sold everything to raise money for the Crusade. But the bigger things cost much, and Peter was too honest to pay anything at all: this may have been given to him as a solatium. He writes to Longchamp, the new chancellor, to implore his aid against the sheriff of Stafford, who was contravening the ancient privileges of the church of Wolverhampton. He had a sincere respect for Longchamp, and on his fall he wrote a letter of fierce remonstrance, plainly intended as a manifesto, to Hugh de Nonant, bishop of Coventry, whom he styles 'once my lord and friend'.
It was probably between March and October of the year 1191 that Peter of Blois had a long and severe illness. At the close of it he wrote a letter of apology to the prior and monks of Canterbury for the part which he had taken against them (Ep. 233). He throws the whole blame on the late king: 'He constrained and compelled me to act for the archbishop against you, yea, against God and my own self; and to toil for eight months in the Roman court at my own charges and in continual peril of my life. But the Lord hath chastened me; and. as for eight months I stood against you, so for eight months He has afflicted me with a very grievous sickness.' The abject terms in which he writes may be due to his physical breakdown, but in any case he might well wish to make peace. His own bishop Reginald, who had constantly taken the side of the monks, was about this time elected to fill Baldwin's place, and it seemed as if the controversy had thus found a natural end. As it fell out, however, Reginald died within a month of his election to Canterbury, and the trouble was soon to break out afresh.
Peter was still on his bed of sickness when the news of Longchamp's fall reached him. He wrote him a letter of condolence, in which he reminded him that before leaving England he had personally warned him in advance of the malice of his enemies (Ep. 87). We learn from this letter that on his recovery Peter had gone to the queen-mother. He probably spent Christmas with her in Normandy, and returned with her to England in February 1192. We find him in her service when the tidings of K. Richard's capture arrived. A letter which she writes from London about the fortifications of Canterbury is attested by the archdeacon of Canterbury and by Master Peter of Blois, archdeacon of Bath. Moreover he writes three urgent letters in her name to Celestine III concerning the king's captivity. Another he writes in the name of Walter of Coutances, archbishop of Rouen, then in England, urging the pope to take action: and on his own behalf he writes a like exhortation to Conrad archbishop of Maintz. When the queen went to Germany at the beginning of 1194, Peter seems to have joined himself to the new primate, Hubert Walter, thus taking his place once more in the archbishop's household.
With Archbishop Hubert Walter, however, Peter's relation does not appear to have been so close or so constant as it had been with his two predecessors. More than one reason suggests itself to account for this. In the first place, as justiciar of England the archbishop was the chief ruler of the country in K. Richard's continual absence; and, though the new pope, Innocent III, insisted early in 1198 upon his resigning the office, he soon afterwards became chancellor under K. John and was once more immersed in secular affairs. For legal and political business such as these offices involved Peter of Blois had not the requisite qualifications. Moreover, when the archbishop renewed the attempt of his predecessor to found a college of secular canons at Lambeth in opposition to the monks of Canterbury, Peter was disqualified in another way from rendering him assistance. We may well believe that he had no heart to engage afresh in the controversy, and in any case, he had solemnly promised the prior and convent that he would never side against them any more. Moreover he was getting on in years, and his health was failing him. He must have been nearly sixty, and in a letter to the archbishop, in which he is excusing himself for prolonged absence, he speaks of recurrent fevers from which he has been suffering for full two years (Ep. 109). He was certainly no longer vigorous enough to be the archbishop's proctor at the Roman court: this task was now undertaken by the Cistercian abbots of Boxley and Robertsbridge. The struggle lasted four years, until in June 1201 it found a sudden close in a compromise which secured to the monks nearly all their demands. Peter's name never appears in the matter.
We have only two letters written by Peter in the name of Hubert Walter. The first (Ep. 122) is addressed to William archbishop of Rheims, and it begins with a graceful reference to the peace made by his intervention between the English and French kings. Now we know that in June 1197 Hubert Walter, having concluded an arrangement between K. Richard and the archbishop of Rouen, Walter de Coutances, in the matter of Andely, went on into France to make a truce with K. Philip. The reference may perhaps be to Archbishop William's services on this occasion. The letter goes on to recall with gratitude the hospitality shown to St Thomas in earlier days when William was archbishop of Sens. But the point of the letter is only reached when the archbishop says: 'Do not listen to the detractions of our brother, who has inherited from his predecessors a quarrel with our church. We grieve for his present troubles, and would help him, if only he would take reasonable advice.' The reference is undoubtedly to Geoffrey archbishop of York; and we must read 'frater noster' (with some of the MSS), not 'frater vester'. But Geoffrey's troubles were too persistent to be any guide in fixing the date of this letter, and the only sure indication is given by the title of legate which Hubert Walter enjoyed after March 1195.
The other letter (Ep. 135) is one which Peter must have written with a peculiar satisfaction. It requires the dean and chapter of Salisbury to dispense from residence Master Thomas de Husseburne, one of the king's justices. It goes on to assert the archbishop's right to claim a similar exemption for canons whom he requires for his own service. Moreover the law of residence must be interpreted with reasonableness, and such pleas as ill-health and the smallness of a prebend are not to be disregarded. As the archbishop writes as legate, the letter cannot be earlier than 1195. Richard Poore became dean of Salisbury in 1198, and the pressure upon absentee canons probably originated with his reforming zeal. The statutes of Bishop Osmund, which had made Salisbury the model of a reformed cathedral after the Norman Conquest, had expressly recognised the right of the archbishop to call away one canon at any time for his own purposes; but they did not contemplate an unlimited demand, nor could they properly be interpreted to cover all the pleas which Peter had introduced into the archbishop's letter. But the disintegration of the cathedral system had gone far in the hundred years since those statutes were drawn up. The prebends were too small to attract men of distinction unless they could be held in plurality; and the king's business, far more than the archbishop's, continually drew off the abler canons. In 1215, the last year in which Richard Poore was dean, his reforms were embodied in a 'new constitution', which required that a fourth part of the canons, besides the quatuor personae, should always be in residence; if for reasonable cause (other than the admitted exemptions) a canon did not keep his turn, he was to pay one-fifth of the value of his prebend. Peter of Blois was no longer living at this date, but we shall see that this particular regulation was of older standing and had been bitterly resented by him.
His connexion with Salisbury was of long standing. It began with the friendship of Reginald the archdeacon of Salisbury, who had helped him when he was a poor student at Paris. On his return from Sicily he had again sought Reginald, and he wrote more than once in his defence to the friends of Becket, pleading that Reginald's filial love compelled him to take the part of Bishop Jocelin his father, who had fallen under the exiled archbishop's displeasure (Epp. 24, 45).
It would seem that the bishop of Salisbury had promised to send his nephews to Paris as pupils of Peter; but in Ep. 51 Peter complains that this arrangement had fallen through, and that an annual pension which the bishop had secured to him by a written bond was not being paid. In Ep. 230 he recalls to Reginald the services which he had rendered to the church of Salisbury, and the very meagre return which he had received: he asks his aid in obtaining the next vacant prebend. He could indeed get letters directed to him from the king of England and from the pope; but he prefers to look to Reginald's own generosity. This letter may have been written about 1172: the reference to K. Henry reminds us of Peter's statement that it was at the king's request that he first came to England. At what time he obtained his prebend we do not know. It was not uncommon for a bishop to grant to a clerk an annual pension until he should be provided with a benefice, and where this was done promotion was apt to follow quickly.
Herbert Poore was appointed to the see of Salisbury in 1194. In December 1197 he followed the lead of Bishop Hugh of Lincoln in resisting the king's demand for 300 knights to serve for a year in Normandy. The revenues of both sees were thereupon confiscated. It is to this occasion that we must refer a letter (Ep. 246) in which Peter condoles with the bishop. A visit to Normandy however secured the king's forgiveness, and Herbert returned in June 1198. In March of this year his brother, Richard Poore, had become dean of Salisbury. The removal of the cathedral church from its inconvenient position within the fortifications of Old Sarum was now planned, and the consent of K. Richard was obtained. Peter writes to the dean and chapter an enthusiastic approval of the scheme, and regrets that obedience to a higher command prevents him from being present, as he had wished, at the marking out of sites for the canons' houses (Ep. 104). The attempt was, however, abandoned after K. John came to the throne, and the new church was not begun till 1220. It was probably before he wrote Ep. 135 to the dean and chapter in Hubert Walter's name that Peter had made his own protest in the following terms (Ep. 133): ' I am astonished that for a prebend of five marks you should require me to reside. Why, it would not take me to Salisbury. You want to gain by my absence rather than to profit by my presence. The fine of one-fifth is monstrous, when I cannot possibly reside. This was not the meaning of the constitution of Osmund and of Jocelin: they wanted to bring into residence the holders of the larger prebends, who could afford to build houses at Salisbury. I appeal against this exaction to the legate.' The legate doubtless was, as indeed one MS asserts, Peter's own lord and master, Hubert Walter the archbishop.
This will be a convenient point at which to notice other preferments held by Peter of Blois. Besides the prebend of Chartres, of which we have spoken above (p. 110), he held a prebend at Rouen, and also possibly at Bayeux. His connexion with Rouen had begun, as we have seen, with Archbishop Rotrou. At what date he received a prebend there we cannot say. But a curious memorandum, written between the years 1173 and 1181, is given by Dr. Round in his Calendar of Documents preserved in France (p. 3), in which we read: ' These are the pledges of all the chattels that G. Burnel has towards (erga) Master Peter of Blois for the wrong (forisfactura) which he did him: Wacio frater suus; Willelmus Alius Waconis; G. Calcun; Walterus de Must '; Osb[ertus] del Must '; Amfrei; Radulfus films Berner[ii]. These are [they] who according to the common deliberation (consideratione) of the whole chapter owed [money] for the construction of the chapter house … magister Peter Blesensis xl.[s.… S[umma] xxxv.li.'
In a letter (Ep. 141) written long after this to Walter of Coutances, archbishop of Rouen (1186-1207), with whom Peter had often been in correspondence and for whom he had written letters more than once, he complains that Elias the chaplain, to whom he had committed the custody of his prebend, has paid him nothing at all for more than five years. His messengers bring him back no answer to his demands, except the taunt that he is too well off already. He has a letter from the pope against Elias; but they are both very old men, and he does not wish for strife. He begs that the archbishop will do him justice. Peter began so soon to speak of his old age, that his references to it do not help us much, but here it is so strongly emphasised that we may perhaps put this letter near the end of Walter's tenure of the see, and we may note that in one MS Peter has the title of archdeacon of London.
The evidence which seems at first sight to connect our Peter with Bayeux is to be found in the Customary of that church (ed. Chevalier, p. 314), which records that Bishop Robert (1206-31) ordered that in future six prebends should be held only by priests who could assist in the services: among these was 'prebenda de Mara, quae fuit magistri Petri Blesensis'. The prebend of La Mare was at Douvre (ibid., p. 334): it was worth £140, and had a fine manor at La Mare, and houses to let in Bayeux. We have two letters (Epp. 50, 159), written by Peter to Henry bishop of Bayeux, who held the see for more than forty years; but they do not suggest that he had any connexion with that church. If our Peter held this rich prebend, he was a luckier man than we have had reason to suppose: but we must allow the possibility that it belonged to his namesake the chancellor of Chartres.
Coming back now to England we note that Peter of Blois held a prebend at Ripon, and also the deanery of Wolverhampton. The evidence for Ripon is quite explicit, but so far as it can be exactly dated it belongs exclusively to the closing years of his life. On the occasion of the Interdict (23 March 1208), when the goods of all the clergy were confiscated, certain favoured persons almost immediately obtained restitution. Among these was our Peter: for on 4 April a writ issued from Waverly to Robert de Vieux Pont in these terms: 'Permit Master Peter of Blois, canon of Ripon, to have all his possessions in your baily, which were seized into our hand by occasion of the Interdict, until you shall receive other instruction from us' (Rot. Litt. Claus. i. 108 b). We do not know on what ground Peter was thus favoured: there appears to be no mention of K. John in his writings, and no reference at all to the Interdict. As canon of Ripon Peter attests an undated grant to the church of Ripon (Fowler, Memorials of Ripon, Surtees Society, i. 255). Moreover Leland speaks of a Life of St Wilfrid, the patron saint of Ripon, written by Peter of Blois and dedicated to Geoffrey archbishop of York (Coll. ed. 1770, t. iii [vol. iv], p. 110).
With the neighbouring abbey of Fountains Peter was on friendly terms. Writing to the prior and monks in the absence of the abbot, he excuses his failure to visit them of late, and announces that he is departing from the province of York and returning to him who had sent him. He gives as reason for not having come to them the business of his church (circa ecclesiam nostram iugis occupatio), the claims of study, and the distress of the monks owing to a famine. If the church be that of Ripon, and the famine that of 1194, we should get an earlier date for Peter's tenure of his Ripon prebend. To the abbot of Fountains, Ralph Haget (1190-1203), he writes on another occasion telling of a fever from which he has not yet fully recovered. At some time between 1195, when Hubert Walter became legate, and 1203, when Abbot Ralph died, Peter attested a composition between the churches of Ripon and Topcliffe, which was made at Faversham in the archbishop's presence.
Peter's tenure of the deanery of Wolverhampton was singularly unhappy. We hear of it first about 1190, in a letter (Ep. 108) written to William Longchamp bishop of Ely, legate and chancellor, in which he asks him to defend the ancient privileges of the church of Wolverhampton against the oppressions of the sheriff of Stafford, as indeed he had already promised to do. The deanery was a royal peculiar, and it may be that Peter had but recently received it from K. Richard, with whom he says that he left England on 11 December 1189.
Some seven years later we find a letter (Ep. 147) written to Robert of Shrewsbury, the bishop-elect of Bangor, complaining that on the very day of his ordination as priest he had quarrelled with Peter and made trouble with the archbishop in the matter of a small prebend, to which a poor clerk had already been appointed, but which the bishop-elect wished to retain. The poor clerk has already appealed to Rome. What has the bishop-elect to do any longer with a dwelling at Wolverhampton? Will he not, before the day of his consecration, retire from the contest and spare the poor clerk the burden of carrying his appeal to the Roman court? The bishop was consecrated 16 March 1197.
Finally in 1204 Peter wrote to Innocent III a long description of the scandalous state of the church of Wolverhampton (Ep. 152). The deanery, he says, had always been in the king's gift, and the dean appointed to the prebends. But he had found the canons as undisciplined as Welshmen or Scots. They married into each other's families, and held close together. When a vacancy was caused by death, the new canon was persecuted and reduced to penury by the relatives, who claimed the patrimony of Christ as a hereditary possession. Peter had tried in vain to reform them and had at last resigned the deanery into the archbishop's hands, imploring him to change the foundation with the king's consent into a monastery of Cistercians. These in fact have already been introduced and are marking out the sites of monastic buildings. Peter prays for the pope's blessing on the new project.
Once again Peter was to be disappointed. K. John's grant of Wolverhampton to Hubert Walter bears date 28 July 1204; and in the following year he granted timber and other necessaries for the new building. But Hubert Walter died 13 July 1207: the scheme was buried in his grave, and on 5 August the king appointed a new dean in the person of Henry, son of Geoffrey fitz Peter the powerful justiciar.
The last stage of Peter's career is his ten are of the archdeaconry of London. His appointment to this office has been seriously misdated. Le Neve places it in 1192, supposing him to be the 'P., archdeacon of London', who occurs in connexion with a statute made in that year by Ralph de Diceto the dean. This date is accepted by Stubbs, who comments somewhat unkindly on the fact that Ralph de Diceto never alludes in his history to this learned and ambitious member of his chapter. But we have clear evidence that Peter of Blois was still archdeacon of Bath in 1193 (Lift. Cant. iii. 379), and also in 1202, when he was appointed by the pope to investigate, in conjunction with Abbot Samson of Bury and the dean of Lincoln, the cause of Geoffrey of Perche, archdeacon of Northumberland.
It is difficult indeed not to think that he was still archdeacon of Bath at the time of Jocelin's election to that see. Bishop Savary had died in Italy on 8 August 3205. The process of electing his successor dragged on through the closing months of that year, and was not completed until March 1206. At some point in the proceedings the chapter of Wells wrote to the pope informing him that they had chosen Jocelin, and asking for his confirmation. Among the attestations of this letter we find ' Ego P. archidiaconus Bathoniensis There is no other archdeacon of Bath about this period whose name begins with this letter: so that unless strong evidence to the contrary can be produced, we must believe that Peter of Blois was still holding the archdeaconry of Bath at the end of 1205 or the beginning of 1206.
When we come to examine the succession of the archdeacons of London, we find that Le Neve's list is for this period peculiarly misleading. It runs as follows:
1192Peter of Blois
1204Alard de Burnham (made dean c. 1204)
… Walter FitzWalter
1214Gilbert de Plesseto.
This list may with reasonable probability be reconstituted thus:
1192Peter (not of Blois)
c. 1197–c. 1204Alard (afterwards dean)
c. 1206–12Peter of Blois
c. 1214Gilbert de Plesseto.
We have no trace of another archdeacon between Alard and Peter of Blois; and therefore we should naturally incline to place Alard's accession to the deanery a little later than 1204.
There is a passage of Giraldus Cambrensis which, when isolated from its context, seems to prove that Peter obtained the archdeaconry of London in the lifetime of Hubert Walter. In order to show the archbishop's scandalous ignorance of the elements of Christian theology, he retails a story of the remark made by him to Peter of Blois, archdeacon of London, after he had preached before him on a certain Trinity Sunday. The latest possible date for this sermon would be Trinity Sunday 1205. But the context suggests that it was the Trinity Sunday which immediately followed the death of K. Richard, namely 13 July 1199: and this is made certain by the fact that Giraldus says that he referred to the incident in his suit at Rome; for to engage in this suit he had left England in August of that year. It is therefore plain that the title 'archdeacon of London' is an anachronism on the part of Giraldus; and its employment only serves to show that his book De invectionibus (or our recension of it) was not written until some time after Peter had attained to his new dignity.
Peter found the archdeaconry of London, if we are to accept literally the language of his bitter disappointment, a wholly unremunerated office. He writes to Innocent III (Ep. 151) that he had declined it when first offered to him, pleading with the bishop in the prophet's words (Isaiah iii. 7): 'In my house is neither bread nor clothing; make me not a ruler of the people.' In truth, he says, he has mounted on the wind; for that archdeaconry is a dragon that hath nought to live on save the wind. It is a bare and naked honour. For, whereas in that city there are 40,000 inhabitants and a hundred and twenty churches, no layman pays him tithes or oblations, no church pays synod-fees or procurations; nor can he extract such customary dues as archdeacons ought to have. The archdeacon could not live for a single month on the income of his office. He asks that the pope will instruct the bishops of Ely and Winchester to make enquiry on the spot, to establish the office in the status of other archdeaconries, and to obtain the royal sanction for the new establishment.
There is nothing to help us in dating this letter, unless it be the unexpected order in which the bishops whom he suggests as commissioners are named. The bishop of Ely is Eustace, who was consecrated in 1198. Godfrey de Lucy, bishop of Winchester, was consecrated in 1189 and died 11 Sept. 1204: his successor Peter de Roches was consecrated at Rome 25 Sept. 1205. If the latter be referred to, we can the more easily understand that he should be named after the bishop of Ely.
Another letter which Peter writes to the same pope (Ep. 214) may throw some light on the stricken condition of his archdeaconry. For in it he makes loud lamentation that in defiance of true Catholic order the functions of archdeacons are usurped by the officials of bishops, so that the honour of archdeacons is destroyed.
Peter had soon to complain that ' the whole honour ' of his archdeaconry had been taken from him in a still more galling fashion. In order to understand this new grievance it is necessary to observe that not all the cathedral chapters of secular canons were constituted after the model of St Osmund's foundation at Salisbury. Exeter, for example, even at this time had not a dean. And the. chapter of St Paul's appears to have been slow in developing the dignities of precentor, chancellor, and treasurer. In chapters which followed the Sarum model the precentor held the next place to the dean, occupying the first stall on the north side of the choir. But at St Paul's that was the stall of the archdeacon of London. The precentorship would seem to have been a subordinate office, and to have been unendowed until the church of Shoreditch was given to it by K. John, 26 March 1204. It had apparently been held by one of the canons, who supported himself by his prebend.
If we read the story aright, Bishop William of St Mere l'Eglise made a new departure in appointing to the precentorship Master Benedict de Sansetun, who was not already a member of the chapter. Master Benedict was a young man of considerable pretensions, who rose in time to a leading position among the king's justices and ultimately became bishop of Rochester. Already in 1191 we find him in the service of K. John; and at the close of that year he was excommunicated by the fallen chancellor William Longchamp. for presuming to bear the king's seal. It was perhaps his influence with K. John that secured the church of Shoreditch for the precentorship. His earlier quarrel with Longchamp would certainly not commend Master Benedict to Peter: and now the old archdeacon and the young precentor found themselves in direct conflict. The bishop of London had obtained from the pope a grant by which the precentor was to have a like dignity to that which other cathedral precentors enjoyed. Master Benedict accordingly claimed the archdeacon of London's stall, and at the same time deprived him of some portion of his revenues.
This claim drew from Peter two of his most doleful epistles. In Ep. 149 he appeals to J. and P., two friends at court, to get justice done for him against 'the youth' who has robbed him of the whole honour of his archdeaconry. As in the salutation Peter is made to describe himself as archdeacon of Bath, this letter has hitherto been referred to a much earlier period; and it has accordingly been supposed that he was deprived of the archdeaconry of Bath at some time in Bishop Reginald's episcopate. But the occurrence in the MSS of the titles of archdeacon of Bath and archdeacon of London can never be depended on for the dating of Peter's letters; and exactly the same language of complaint as he uses here is also found in the letter in which he appeals to Innocent III to defend him against ' B.' the new precentor of St Paul's. In this letter (Ep. 217) he declares that the pope's grant was obtained by false representations, and he demands a full investigation. Moreover according to the pope's own words the rights of others were to be duly respected, and this has not been done. He asserts that for three years the bishop had held back the papal grant, knowing full well the storm it would arouse: at last, however, Master Benedict had forced his hand.
Unfortunately we have but one letter of Pope Innocent which bears upon this controversy: and that would seem to be his response to Peter's appeal. On 4 Feb. 1209 the pope writes to the bishop of Ely to cause the precentor of London to hold such dignity in the church of London as shall not infringe the rights of the dean and others. We may take it that this brought the incident to a close. The archdeacon of London retained his pre-eminence, and the precentor had to be content with the second stall on the north side.
Besides his archdeaconry Peter held the prebend of Hoxton. We do not know at what time he obtained it. Le Neve gives, but without dates, the following series of prebendaries of Hoxton for this period:
John Cumin (cons, archbp of Dublin, 1182)
Robert de Camera
Peter of Blois, archdeacon of London
Walter, archdeacon of London.
It is a curious coincidence that John Cumin, whom Peter succeeded in the archdeaconry of Bath, should have been one of his predecessors in this particular prebend. Peter's successor in the archdeaconry of London was also his successor in the prebend of Hoxton. 
The date of Peter's death is indicated approximately by a writ of K. John (Rot. Litt. Claus. i. 117), dated 20 May 1212 (14 John). By this writ Brian de Insula is directed to permit the executors of Master Peter of Blois, late archdeacon of London, to have free and full disposal of his goods and chattels. From this it would be natural to assume that he died early in 1212. But a Rouen Necrology has the following entry: '29 Jun. Magister Petrus Blesensis, sacerdos et canonicus'. If this is to be trusted, the year must be 1211. The only objection to this date is the long interval between his death and the issue of the writ concerning his executors. Peter left to the church of St Paul a morse, silver-gilt with precious stones, and certain vestments: they are traceable in the inventories as late as 1295. A copy of his Epistles was bequeathed to the same church by Ralph Baldock, bishop of London, who died in 1313.
It will be well in conclusion, to give a brief review of Peter's career, as the result of the investigation which has been here attempted. Born at Blois about the year 1135, he was educated at Chartres and then passed to the university of Paris. Presently he went to Bologna for the study of law, but soon returned to Paris to devote himself to theology. He presently attached himself to Archbishop Rotrou, soon after the translation of that prelate to Rouen in 1165. At his instance he joined the band of Frenchmen whom Stephen, son of the count of Perche, took to the Sicilian court in response to the appeal of Margaret the queen- mother. Here he remained for a year, probably from the early summer of 1167 to the early summer of 1168, acting as instructor of the young king, William II, and as official sealer in the royal chancery. More than one bishopric was offered to him with a view, as he believed, of removing him from the court. When at length the jealousy of the Norman Sicilians against the Frenchmen drove Stephen to retire to Palestine, Peter returned to France by way of Genoa. He now renewed his connexion with his friend Reginald archdeacon of Salisbury, the future bishop of Bath, who had recently incurred the displeasure of the exiled archbishop. After the murder of Becket at the end of 1170, we hear no more of Peter until he reappears in the service of Archbishop Rotrou in 1173 and the following year. He probably came to England in the year 1175, when K. Henry returned with the young king, his son, to whom he had now become reconciled. He obtained the office of chancellor of Richard the new archbishop of Canterbury; and he went to the Roman court in the autumn of 1177 to plead the archbishop's cause against the abbot -elect of St Augustine's. The position of the pope, Alexander III, had been at last secured by the peace of Venice, 1 August 1177, and in the following March he returned in triumph to Rome. Peter left Rome in July 1178, but he was there again at the time of the Lateran Council in March 1179.
Since his return from Sicily Peter had been constantly hoping for some substantial preferment in his native land. But in this he was disappointed: he failed to obtain the provostship of Chartres, where for a time he was a canon; and a small prebend which he held at Rouen would seem only to have landed him in debt. In the early part of 1182 he was appointed to the archdeaconry of Bath, which had just been vacated by the promotion of John Cumin to the archbishopric of Dublin. His new office did not remove him from the service of Archbishop Richard: he was with him at Poitiers in the spring of 1183, and back with him at Canterbury in the following August: on 16 Feb. 1184 the archbishop died. Peter became secretary to Baldwin, the new archbishop, and early in 1187 he went to the papal court at Verona, together with William of St Faith the precentor of Wells, in the matter of the great controversy with the monks of Christ Church respecting the new collegiate church which the archbishop was building outside Canterbury. He returned from Italy towards the end of the year. Meanwhile tidings arrived of the loss of Jerusalem on 3 Oct. 1187. The new Crusade had now become urgent, and Peter's pen was employed on its behalf. Early in 1189 we find him with the king and the archbishop at Le Mans. On 6 July K. Henry died: the archbishop hastened back to England, crowned K. Richard on 3 Sept., and on 6 March 1190 departed for the Crusade, never to return.
Peter had thus lost at once his royal and his episcopal patron. He tells us, however, that he left England with the new king (11 Dec. 1190); and it would seem that it was about this time that he was appointed to the deanery of Wolverhampton, which was a royal peculiar. In the following year he had a long illness, lasting apparently from March to October. On his recovery be went to the queen- mother in Normandy, and returned with her to England in February 1192. When she went to Germany in 1194 he seems to have joined himself to the new primate, Hubert Walter. About this time, if not earlier, he obtained a small prebend at Salisbury, and perhaps rather later a prebend at Ripon. Peter's tenure of the deanery of Wolverhampton brought him much sorrow. The scandalous conduct of the canons, whom he vainly endeavoured to reform, led him at last, about the year 1204, to resign his office in order that the church might be given over to a new foundation of Cistercian monks: the project, however, fell to the ground on the death of Hubert Walter, 13 July 1205.
Soon after this Peter became archdeacon of London. He must have been wellnigh seventy years of age, and he suffered much from recurrent fevers. The poverty of his archdeaconry and the invasion of its rights by the new precentor of St Paul's embittered his old age, which must have been further saddened by the troubles of the Interdict. His property, which had been confiscated, was indeed given back to him immediately; but he died before peace had been restored to the Church. The exact date of his death is perhaps not quite certain: but, if it was not on 29 June 1211, it must have been in the early part of 1212.
The impression left on the reader's mind by a study of his letters, and of his life as reconstructed from his letters, is that Peter of Blois was an honest man. His honesty kept him poor, while it made him useful. If he be thought to have neglected his duties as archdeacon of Bath, it must be remembered that an archdeaconry was at that time a very usual source of income for a clerk in the king's service, that the office was chiefly of a judicial character and its functions could be discharged by a deputy, and that in Peter's case attendance not only upon the king, but also upon three archbishops in succession, was a plea of absence sufficient to satisfy his own conscience and to place him beyond reproach in the eyes of his contemporaries. It was not strictly a spiritual charge, it was not a cure of souls, and archdeacons were commonly not in priest's orders. Peter himself long resisted the pressure put upon him by more than one of his archiepiscopal patrons, as well as by a bishop of London, when they urged him to enter the priesthood, from which he shrank through a dread of its overwhelming responsibility. When at last he was ordained priest and had become the dean of Wolverhampton, his conscientiousness showed itself in a remarkable way. He laboured for some years to bring his canons to a life which should no longer be an open scandal to the church, and when his best efforts were in vain he resigned his deanery into the archbishop's hands, in the hope that the recalcitrant canons might be dispossessed in favour of Cistercian monks.
It may be hoped that this attempt to reconstruct the framework of Peter's career will do something to restore confidence in his general accuracy as a historical witness. The late Mr. W. G. Searle of Queens' College, Cambridge, devoted much time and labour to the collation of the MSS of his letters and to the investigation of the statements which they record. His materials, preserved in the University Library, will prove of great value to a future editor. But he was obsessed by the idea that nearly all the letters were the free composition of an anonymous writer, whom he called 'the epistolary Peter' in contrast to 'the historical Peter' whose story he did much to reconstitute from charters and other sources. When in 1912 he learned that I had been working at the subject in connexion with the list of the Somerset archdeacons of the twelfth century, and had come to a conclusion opposite to his own, he most generously put all his notes and collations at my disposal; and since his death the Syndics of the University Library have kindly permitted me to have the use of them. Unfortunately Mr. Searle's theory, though his reasons for it were never stated with any fullness, has deterred modern historians from employing Peter's statements as evidence for the events of his time: indeed the index to the latest biography of K. Henry II does not even contain his name. It is true that some of the letters in the MSS are plainly not Peter's at all; but for the rest it is clear that one hand is at work, and I cannot think that the hand was not contemporary, or indeed not Peter's own. There are a few inconsistencies which are not easily to be explained away: but the text of the letters is in a deplorable condition, and it may be possible to show that more than one edition of the collection was put out by the writer himself. It is one man—a vain, ignorantly learned, hopelessly inaccurate man, it may be—but a very real man who speaks to us throughout; and on the whole the 'epistolary' Peter fits in wonderfully well with the 'historical' Peter, when the story has been rescued from the mistakes with which it has come to be disfigured.
- Christiana the nun, to whom Peter writes Ep. 36, is generally regarded as his sister: but 'carissima soror' in the salutation and 'dilectissima soror' at the end of the letter need not imply such relationship.
- The phrase may be merely a rhetorical way of saying that he received minor orders and the diaconate at Chartres: cf. Guibert de Nogent, De vita sua, i. 14 'cui omnia benedictionum sacramenta praeter sacerdotium contulisset'. In Ep. 49 he seems to speak of Chartres as 'domus nativitatis': but this again is rhetorical, and may refer more generally to France.
- He enumerates Trogus Pompeius, Josephus, Suetonius, Hegesippus, Q. Curtius, Tacitus, and Livy. But he has evidently taken over this list from John of Salisbury, Policr. viii. 18: some of these authors he can hardly have known except by name.
- Ep. 48. This must have occurred before April 1162, when Alexander took refuge in France. Peter in his metaphorical manner says that he left his garment behind him and was let down over the wall in a basket!
- See Villari, Mediaeval Italy (transl., p. 221).
- Rotrou was son of Henry of Neubourg, earl of Warwick, who had married a daughter of Geoffrey count of Perche. Q. Margaret was the grand-daughter of another of Geoffrey's daughters.
- Epp. 72, 131: there is a slight discrepancy between the two letters.
- The name of the abbey is given in the MSS, both in Ep. 90 and in Ep. 93, as Malinensis, Malhinensis, or Malunensis. Busaeus conjectured Maniacensis, and was followed by Goussainville: but this has no manuscript evidence. Maniacensis is accepted by Chalandon, Histoire de la domination normande en Italie el en Sicile (1907), ii. 321, who unfortunately supposed that Malinensis was the conjectural emendation. He argues that Mattina in Calabria is out of the question, because according to Janauschek (Origines Cistercienses, 1877, i. 179) that abbey was only founded in 1180. But Janauschek says that it was founded by Robert Guiscard in 1066 for Benedictines, and was transferred to the Cistercians in 1180.
Peter never actually states that his brother's abbey was in Sicily, though he congratulates him on getting away from Sicily alive. No doubt William was in touch with the Sicilian court: he had been defrauded, apparently in 1168, of the bishopric of Catana by John de Agello who perished in the earthquake at that place on 4 Feb. 1169.
- That Peter did visit the Roman court about this time may seem to be confirmed by Ep. 48, in which he recalls the kindness shown him by the cardinal William of Pavia on his return from his 'exile'.
- Ep. 30, of which there are two variant texts, pointing to some re-editing.
- See Ep. 73, where a protest is entered against the argument contained in the phrase 'bis in id ipsum'.
- Hist. S. Aug. Cant. (Rolls Ser.). p, 421.
- See below, p. 129.
- Ps. lxvii. 34 (Vulg.).
- Migne, P. L. 207, col. 342 n.
- In this letter the title 'archdeacon of London' is undoubtedly a later insertion.
- There are two variant texts, which seem to indicate re-editing.
- John of Salisbury had died on 25 Oct. 1180: Petrus Cellensis seems to have succeeded in 1181, and then Rainald de Monçon in 1182.
- Ep. 52. One brief sentence may be quoted: 'Universa patiebantur spiritum vertiginis, spiritum abominationis et nauseae'.
- Gerard was consecrated to Coventry, 25 Sept. 1183, but died 13 Jan. 1184.
- Wells, Liber Albus ( = Reg. i), ff. 21, 22 b. The grant cannot be earlier than 12 Oct. 1175, as it is attested by Adam bishop of St Asaph; nor later than the end of May 1176, when Richard de Camville left England for Sicily, whence he did not return. As there are seven episcopal witnesses, it may have been made at the council held under the legate Hugh on 14 March, or, with yet more likelihood at the king's council at Westminster on 25 May, when the legate was present and when Richard de Camville was appointed as one of the envoys to conduct the princess Joan to the Sicilian court. The Wells chartulary also contains (f. 22) a confirmation of the grant by 'Hugo Petri Leonis, cardinal deacon of St Angelo and papal legate'.
- These are (1) a charter of Abp. Richard to the abbey of St Bertin at St Omer, dated in 1179-82 by Dr. Round, Doc. in France, p. 488; (2) a charter of William de St John, attested by the same archbishop, and dated by Dr. Round in 1174–5 (but on the ground that about the latter year Peter became archdeacon of Bath: Ancient Charters, pp. 71 f.); (3) a charter of Abp. Richard in regard to land at Harrow (Westminster 'Domesday', f. 52 b).
- Round, Doc. in France, p. 162.
- Wells, Reg. i, ff. 21, 21 b. Several of the witnesses are known to have been sitting in the curia regis at Westminster on 29 April and 1 May 1182: one of these, John bishop of Norwich, crossed the straits during the summer (Eyton, Itinerary, pp. 247 f.).
- It is interesting to note, as confirmatory of this date, that John Cumin, who had been archdeacon of Bath, was consecrated archbishop of Dublin by the new pope, Lucius III, on 21 March 1182 (elected 6 Sept. 1181).
- It is quite possible that he remained abroad from Mids. 1182 till his return with the archbishop, who was in Normandy from 13 Nov. 1182 until 11 August 1183.
- Gervase, i. 306, 328.
- Ibid. 310-25.
- Epp. Cantuar. (Chron. of Rich. I, Rolls Ser. ii), p. 146 'quorundam scholarium argutiis archiepiscopi simplicitate abutentium'.
- Gervase, i. 354.
- One of these was William of St Faith, precentor of Wells (Epp. Cantuar. f p. 107).
- Epp. Cantuar., p. 75.
- Ibid., p. 54.
- This letter, or a fragment of it, is preserved in the Gesta Henrici II (Rolls Ser., ii. 15), though it does not occur in the MSS of Peter's Epistles. It is printed by Giles as Ep. 224.
- The short pontificate of Gregory VIII has been carefully investigated by G. Kleemann in Ienaer historische Arbeiten, fasc. 4 (1912).
- Gesta Henrici II, ii. 23.
- Petr. Blesens. Opp. (Giles), iii. 261.
- De Hierosolymitana peregrinatione acceleranda.
- See above Appendix C (pp. 90 ff.) on 'The early career of John Cumin, archbishop of Dublin'. He was the intruded archdeacon of Bath whom the pope ordered to resign on pain of excommunication: he had come in by lay appointment in the vacancy of the see before Bp Beginald (1174). But he would seem to have retained his post till he became archbishop of Dublin, where he is famous as the founder of St Patrick's.
- That this letter was written not more than two years after Peter entered on Iris archdeaconry is rendered probable by its reference to the recent preferment of Azo of Potterne: for about 1184 Azo became archdeacon of Salisbury. Master Ernald of Bath is mentioned in the Evesham Chronicle (Rolls Ser., p. 150) as the bishop of Worcester's proctor at the Roman court in his contest with the monks in 1205.
- Pipe Rolls, 1167-8 and following years: see above, p. 96.
- Ep. 108, written after 5 June 1190, when W. de Longchamp was made legate. Peter complains of 'tyrannidem vicecomitis de Staffort'. Dr. Savage, the dean of Lichfield, writes (The Chapter in the Twelfth Century, p. 18): 'The bishop [Hugh de Nonant] also secured the shrievalty of three counties—Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Staffordshire—for a fine of 200 marks. These he worked by deputy sheriffs; among them his brother Robert de Nonant, who was undersheriff of Staffordshire in 1191-2': see the Pipe Rolls for the years 1190-2. Bp Hugh was called to account for his actions as sheriff, 31 March 1194 (see R. de Hovedean, iii. 241).
- Ep. 89: c. Oct. 1191.
- Litterae Cantuarienses (Rolls S.), iii. 379.
- Epp. 144-6; 64; 143.
- 'Peter chaplain to Q. Alianor' is mentioned in a charter (1189–99) of Walter archbishop of Rouen: the preceding charter shows that he was a canon of Rouen (Round, Doc. in France, p. 13). This would seem to be our Peter.
- For the canonry at Rouen see also p. 126, n. 3; p. 136.
- Ep. 105.
- Reg. of Craven, belonging to Univ. Coll. Oxford, and deposited in the Bodleian Library, clxx. I owe this reference to Mr. Searle's notes.
- See above, p. 125.
- That is, probably, Irishmen; though the term had begun to be used in its modern sense.
- Pref. to R. de Diceto, I, lxxix.
- Migne, P. L. 214 (i. 1170).
- Church, Early Hist. of the Ch. of Wells, p. 204. Canon Church suggests that Peter of Chichester, who was afterwards dean, may be intended: but there is no other reason for supposing that he was ever archdeacon of Bath.
- Le Neve was misled by a statement, which seems ultimately to depend upon Leland, that the first stone of St Mary Spital was laid in 1197 by Walter archdeacon of London in the time of Bishop William. But as William of St Mere l'Eglise was not consecrated until 1199, the date given is plainly wrong.
- Cf . Cal. of Papal Letters, April 1213.
- Gir. Cambr. (Rolls S.), iii. 31.
- Epp. Cantuar. ccclxix, p. 331.
- Bened. ii. 224.
- At this time the bishops of London and Ely were in exile abroad on account of the publication of the Interdict.
- See Newcourt, Repertorium (1708), p. 53; and Dr. Sparrow Simpson, Statutes of St Paul's, p. 24.
- We find Peter attesting the following charters as archdeacon of London: (1) Cal. of Doc. in France, p. 30; an Inspeximus by Dean Alard of an agreement between William bishop of London and the monks of St Ouen, which had been made in 1205: there is nothing to show how soon afterwards the Inspeximus was drawn up: the agreement itself was confirmed by K. 1 John, 30 May 1206. (2) Hist. MSS Commission, 9th report, app. I, 9 a (St Paul's charters): this is attested by ten out of the fourteen witnesses to the preceding document. (3) Ibid. 39 b. (4) 5th report, 481 b (Wadham Coll.). We also have (9th report, app. I, 30 a) an agreement made 'in the Lent after the death of Mag. Peter of Blois, archdeacon of London'.
- Bouquet-Brial, Recueil, xxiii. 364. The earlier form of this Necrology, drawn up under Odo Rigaud (1248-75) has the entry as above in the text. At 20 Mar. we find the entry 'Magister Guillermus de Blois'.
- Walter, his successor, is mentioned in a letter of Pope Innocent in April 1213 (Migne, P. L. 217: iii. 812).
- See Dr. Sparrow Simpson in Archaeologia, vol. 50, pp. 464 ff., for a full account of these bequests.
- Hist. MSS Commission, 9th report, app. I, 46 b.