The English Historical Review/Volume 37/The Death of Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester

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The Death of Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester

IN the Register of Bishop John de Pontissara, as printed by the Canterbury and York Society,[1] is a dated charter of Henry II. which was unknown to Eyton. By it the king, at the request of Bishop Henry, confirms to the monks of St. Swithun certain manors which the bishop had recently restored to them; it was issued from the bishop's palace at Winchester and is dated 6 August 1171, in the seventeenth year of the reign of the king. It is likely enough that the original grant was undated, and that when the monks entered it in their cartulary, they added the date. But it is evidently correct; for Ralf de Diceto[2] states that the king landed on 6 August, and in passing visited the bishop of Winchester, who was in extremis and died 8 August.

The editor of the register, the late Canon Deedes, has a difficulty about the date of the bishop's death. In the same register[3] is printed a charter of the bishop which is dated 6 January Anno Incarnacionis Domini MCLXXI, which the editor takes to be 6 January 1172; but as the bishop adds that it was in the forty-second year of his episcopacy, and he was consecrated on 17 November 1129, the year must be 1171. It is evident that the monks of St. Swithun, like other Benedictines, began their year at Christmas or on 1 January, not on 25 March. Although the bishop was alive when King Henry reached Winchester on 6 August, yet he was no longer in occupation of the see. This appears from the Pipe Roll for Michaelmas 1172. At Michaelmas 1171 the king received nothing from the episcopal revenues, although the see was certainly in his hands; but at Michaelmas 1172 he received £1,555 1s. 6d. for the year ending at that date, and £379 2s. 8d. for the previous year. Now the latter sum is 89/365 of the former. It is clear, therefore, that the king had held the see from 3 July 1171. The assumption is that the bishop, like one of his predecessors, entered religion in his last illness and so ceased to be bishop. If at Michaelmas 1171 it was uncertain how much the king's share was, so that it was necessary to make an estimate based upon the next year's revenue, it seems that there were no satisfactory episcopal accounts at that time, and the series of Winchester Pipe Rolls, which is practically complete from 1209, cannot have been begun as early as 1171. It is not unlikely that the system of Winchester accounts, which has strong traces of the royal exchequer, was commenced during this vacancy, when the king's clerks received the revenues.

H. E. Salter.

  1. p. 628.
  2. Rolls Series, i. 347.
  3. p. 624.