Turgot (DNB00)

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TURGOT (d. 1115), bishop of St. Andrews, was born in Lincolnshire, and belonged to a Saxon family of good position. The name occurs in Domesday Book among the landowners of that county. After the Norman conquest he was detained as a hostage in the castle of Lincoln, but, having made his escape, he took ship at Grimsby for Norway, where he found favour with the king and became prosperous. Returning home some years afterwards, he was shipwrecked on the English coast and lost all his property. He then resolved to become a monk, and in 1074 Walcher [q. v.], bishop of Durham, placed him under the care of Aldwin, who was then at Jarrow. It is said that, owing to dissension among the monks at Jarrow, Aldwin, taking Turgot and others with him, left for Melrose, where they got into trouble with Malcolm Canmore on the subject of the oath of allegiance. By the advice of Bishop Walcher they returned to Wearmouth, and there Turgot received the monastic habit. In 1083 William of St. Carilef [see Carilef], bishop of Durham, the successor of Walcher, transferred the monks of Jarrow and Wearmouth to Durham, and made them the chapter of his cathedral. On the death of Aldwin in 1087, Turgot was made prior. He held the post for nearly twenty years, and greatly improved the buildings and privileges of the monastery.

Assuming that he was the author of the beautiful ‘Life of St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland’ [see Margaret, Saint, (d. 1093)], with which his name is associated, he became at this time, if not before, her confidential friend, spiritual adviser, and occasional confessor. When he took farewell of her about six months before her death, which occurred on 16 Nov. 1093, she committed her children to his care. On 11 Aug. of that year the foundation-stones of the new cathedral of Durham were laid by Bishop William and Turgot, and, according to some accounts, King Malcolm III [q. v.] of Scotland was present and took part in the ceremony. At or about this time Turgot was appointed archdeacon of Durham as well as prior, and was charged to preach throughout the diocese in imitation of St. Cuthbert and St. Boisil. In 1104, when the remains of St. Cuthbert were transferred to the new cathedral, Turgot assisted, and among the notables present was Alexander, heir to the Scottish throne.

On the death of Edgar on 8 Jan. 1107, Alexander succeeded, and having resolved to appoint a bishop to the see of St. Andrews, which had been vacant since the death of Fothad, the last Celtic bishop, in 1093, with the approbation of clergy and people he made choice of Turgot. This raised the question of the supremacy of the archbishop of York over the Scottish church, which at the council of Windsor held in 1072 had been allowed to belong to the northern metropolitan and his successors. As the archbishop of York was not yet consecrated, Ranulph, bishop of Durham, his suffragan, wrote to Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, for leave to consecrate Turgot with the assistance of two Scottish bishops, or one from Scotland and another from the Norse diocese of Orkney. Anselm refused on the ground that the archbishop of York could not confer jurisdiction which he did not yet possess. The Scottish clergy on their part contended that he had no right to interfere at all. At length it was agreed that Turgot should be consecrated by the archbishop of York, the rights of the several churches being reserved for further consideration, and his consecration took place on 1 Aug. 1109 [see Thomas, (d. 1114)]. Turgot founded and endowed the parish church of St. Andrews, and dedicated it to the Holy Trinity. In an old manuscript it is stated that in his days ‘the whole rights of the Culdees over the whole kingdom of Scotland passed to the bishopric of St. Andrews;’ but the change was not effected without much resistance on the part of the Celtic clergy. There were differences also between Turgot and the king. Alexander, like his mother and brothers, wished to assimilate the Scottish church to that of England, but at the same time he upheld its independence, and it is supposed that Turgot favoured submission to the jurisdiction of York. ‘Finding that he could not worthily exercise his episcopal office,’ he proposed to go to Rome to consult the pope; but his health broke down under the anxieties that preyed upon him, and he obtained leave to revisit his cell at Durham. There, after an illness of several months, during which Thurstan [q. v.], archbishop of York, came to see him, he died on 31 Aug. 1115, and was buried in the the chapter-house of Durham Cathedral.

The authorship of the ‘Life of St. Margaret’ is attributed to him by Fordun and other early writers. The only complete manuscript copy of the life in this country is one of the latter part of the twelfth century in the British Museum, Cottonian, Tiberius D. iii. There is also an abridgment of the beginning of the fourteenth century, Cottonian MS. Tiberius E. i. The author in the dedication describes himself only as ‘T. servus servorum S. Cuthberti.’ It was written by command of St. Margaret's daughter, Matilda [q. v.], wife of Henry I, and dedicated to her, and during the reign of her brother Edgar, therefore between 1100 and 1106. In 1093 Queen Margaret said to the author, ‘You will live after me for a considerable time,’ and he refers to his ‘grey hairs’ when he wrote the ‘Life’ eight or ten years afterwards. He lived at a distance from the queen, and must have been a very prominent man. The occasional visits of the writer to the Scottish court are not incompatible with Turgot's duties at Durham, where he was prior four years before Margaret's death. The Bollandist version of the ‘Life’ under 10 June is printed from a foreign manuscript, which gives Theodoricus instead of T., and Papebroch, the editor, attributes it to an unknown monk of Durham of that name. But this seems to have been either another name for Turgot or the error of the transcriber. The ‘Life’ has been translated into English by Forbes Leith, S.J., (3rd edit. Edinburgh, 1896). Turgot was long erroneously credited with the authorship of Symeon's ‘History of the Church of Durham.’ Other works have been attributed to him for the existence of which there is not sufficient evidence.

[Fordun; Sym. Dunelm. (Surtees Soc.), 1868; Pinkerton's Scottish Saints; Acta Sanctorum, 10 June; Skene's Hist.; Bellesheim's Hist. of Catholic Church in Scotland; Hailes's Annals; Low's Durham in Diocesan Hist.]

G. W. S.