Warelwast, William de (DNB00)

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WARELWAST, WILLIAM de (d. 1137), bishop of Exeter, a Norman by birth, and said, though on what authority is not known, to have been a nephew of William the Conqueror (Oliver), appears to have derived his name from a little place now called Veraval, not far from Yvetot (Rule). He was chaplain, or clerk, of the chapel or chancery of William Rufus, and in the spring of 1095 was sent by the king with Gerard, afterwards archbishop of York, on an embassy to Urban II, and returned in company with the cardinal-bishop of Albano in May [see under Gerard]. When Anselm was about to leave England in October 1097 the king sent William to him at Dover, and William remained with him, eating at his table, until the wind was favourable for crossing; and then, as the archbishop's luggage was being taken to the ship, searched it all, in obedience to the king's command, in the presence of a crowd of people. Late in 1098 Rufus, in consequence of the pope's demand that the temporalities should be restored to Anselm, again sent William to Urban; he addressed the pope in plain terms, and, being answered with a threat that unless the king obeyed before the council to be held in the third week after Easter he would be excommunicated, replied to the pope that before leaving he would do some business with him in private. He distributed money among the pope's advisers and obtained a respite for the king. His name is appended to the letter of Henry I recalling Anselm in 1100. According to William of Malmesbury (Gesta Pontificum, p. 111), he was elected to the see of Exeter in 1103; but this is almost certainly a mistake (his predecessor, Osbern, lived until after 5 Aug. 1103, ib. p. 202; William is not styled bishop-elect by Eadmer at this time nor in the letters of the pope and Anselm; and Eadmer, in recording his consecration in 1107, seems to imply that he was then lately elected; he may, however, have been promised the see by the king on, or even before, Osbern's death). In the autumn he was again sent to Rome to uphold the king's claim to investiture. Paschal II having received him in Anselm's presence, he spoke boldly to the pope, declaring that his ‘lord the king of the English would sooner part with his kingdom than lose the right to investiture.’ The pope replied in the same spirit, but William obtained for his master some concessions not affecting the main question. On the pretext of a vow of pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Nicholas of Bari, he remained in Rome after Anselm's departure and tried to obtain some further concessions. Failing in this, he left with a letter from the pope to the king, and overtook Anselm at Piacenza. He travelled with Anselm for some days, and, on leaving him to go back to England, gave him a message from the king signifying that his return depended on his acquiescence in the king's claim. About Michaelmas 1105 he was sent to Anselm, then at Reims, to inform him that he was about to go to Rome to represent the king. He went to the pope about Christmas, and a satisfactory settlement was arranged. While with the pope he successfully pleaded the cause of Anselm's friend William, archbishop of Rouen, who had incurred suspension by some irregularities. His mission took a long time, for Paschal was at Benevento in the spring of 1106. He carried back letters, in one of which the pope commended his conduct, to Anselm at Bec, and from Bec went with Anselm to Rouen, where he read the pope's letters before a synod, and then returned to England.

Matters having thus been settled between Henry and Anselm, the king at once sent William back to the archbishop to invite him to return. He found Anselm ill, which much grieved him, for he had at that time the liberty of the church at heart, and did all in his power to promote the archbishop's restoration. In 1107 Henry, at the pope's request, sent William to the council that Paschal was about to hold at Troyes. On 11 Aug. he was consecrated to the see of Exeter by Anselm at Canterbury. In 1108, when about to sail for Normandy, Henry sent him to Anselm to desire that he would at once consecrate Richard de Belmeis (d. 1128) [q. v.] to the see of London, and William assisted in the consecration. At the court held at Whitsuntide 1109 he joined in the decision of the bishops present to uphold the demand of Anselm, then lately dead, that Thomas (d. 1114) [q. v.], archbishop-elect of York, should make profession to Canterbury. In February 1113 he was with the king in Normandy (Orderic, p. 709). He was employed as an envoy between the king and Calixtus II in 1119, and assured the king that he might safely allow Thurstan [q. v.], archbishop-elect of York, to attend the pope's council, as he knew that the pope would not consecrate him. He attended the council of Reims in October, and was much annoyed at finding that just before his arrival the pope had consecrated Thurstan (Historians of York, ii. 161, 166). In the spring of 1120 Henry sent him to Calixtus, who was then at Valence on the Canterbury and York dispute; he is said to have then been blind, though his blindness can scarcely have been total; vigorous, crafty, and well versed in the ways of the curia, he distributed bribes, but failed of the purpose of his mission (ib. pp. 177–8). He was present at the council held at Northampton on 8 Sept. 1131 [see under Matilda, 1102–1167] (Sarum Charters, p. 7, Rolls Ser.)

William died, after having assumed the habit of an Augustinian canon, at Plympton priory, Devonshire, on 27 Sept. 1137, and was buried there on 1 Oct. He had been blind for a long time before his death, and some believed that his blindness was a judgment on him, for it was said that he had declared that if his blind predecessor Osbern would not resign his see, he ought to be deprived (Gesta Pontificum, p. 111 n.); the story suggests that the see had been promised to him by the king before Osbern's death. He began the rebuilding of the cathedral of Exeter in the Norman style, the two present transeptal towers being his work (Freeman, Exeter, p. 50). From grants made him by Rufus he endowed the canons with the manor of Brampton, founded the priory of Plympton, and refounded the priory of Launceston in Cornwall, and also refounded Bodmin priory in that county—all three for Augustinian canons. Though by obeying the commands of Rufus he became a partaker in the king's persecution of Anselm, he was by no means a bad man. It may be that Anselm's influence did him good, or perhaps when he served Henry, a better master, the better side of his character came out; he became one of Anselm's friends, a faithful servant of the church, and a munificent prelate. While he had no learning (Historians of York, ii. 177), he had plenty of ability, and was an excellent ambassador, bold, crafty, ready, and eloquent. Robert of Warelwast, dean of Salisbury and bishop of Exeter 1155–60, was his nephew.

[Eadmer's Hist. Nov. and Vita S. Anselmi; Hugh the Chantor ap. Hist. of York, Will. of Malmesbury's Gesta Pontiff. (all Rolls Ser.); Freeman's Will. Rufus; Rigg's St. Anselm; Rule's St. Anselm; Oliver's Lives of the Bishops of Exeter and Monasticon Dio. Exon.]

W. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.275
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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361 ii 6 Warelwast, William de: for 1197 read 1097