William of Sainte-Mère-Eglise (DNB00)

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WILLIAM of Sainte-Mère-Eglise (d. 1224), bishop of London, was a Norman (Diceto, ii. 166) who was probably born at the little town of Sainte-Mère-Eglise in the Cotentin. The latinised form of the name is ‘Sanctæ Mariæ Ecclesia,’ so that he is described by Madox and other earlier writers as ‘William of St. Mary's Church.’ William's mother was apparently still alive in 1195, when she and her son were recorded as holding a pension for their lives out of the manor of Sainte-Mère-Eglise (Stapleton, Rot. Scacc. Norm. vol. i. p. clxxvi). Sainte-Mère-Eglise was a royal manor, and many who took their name from it were in the royal service. In Henry II's reign William appears from 1183 onwards as ‘clericus cameræ,’ and seems to have been an active and trusted servant of the king (Eyton, Itinerary of Henry II, pp. 253, 277, 284, 285 n., 288 n., 293, 295 n., 296). In February 1187 Henry went abroad. William, with St. Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, followed, with the king's harness and horses, sailing from Southampton (ib. p. 277). Save for his return to England in the spring of 1188, when he visited Clarendon (ib. pp. 285, 288), he, like Hugh, probably remained abroad till Henry's death, as in 1188 he witnessed a charter at Alençon (ib. p. 284), and in July 1189 he witnessed a royal letter at Azai (ib. p. 296; Gerv. Cant. i. 450).

William rose into prominence in Richard I's reign. On 16 Sept. 1189 Richard, at the council of Pipewell, gave him the prebend of Hubert Walter in the church of York, and made him dean of St. Martin's, London (Rog. Hov. Chronica, iii. 16; Benedict of Peterborough, ii. 86). Geoffrey, elect of York, objected to the former promotion (Rog. Hov. iii. 17), but to no purpose (Walter of Coventry, i. 378). Before 1193 William also received a prebend in Lincoln Cathedral. He gave great offence to Giraldus Cambrensis [q. v.], who wrote a long letter to St. Hugh of Lincoln, denouncing William for wronging him in the matter of his church of Chesterton, Oxfordshire (Gir. Cambr. Opera, i. 259, 268). Giraldus speaks of him as ‘curiæ sequela et familiaris regis’ (Opera, i. 261). He is also described by Richard himself as ‘protonotarius noster’ (Rog. Hov. iii. 209). Under Richard I he was employed both as justiciar and as a member of the exchequer. In 1194 he had a clerk for the business of the Jews (Rog. Hov. iii. 264, 266). He was closely attached to Walter [see Hubert], who himself had formerly been protonotarius. He reconciled Giraldus Cambrensis with Hubert (Opera, iii. 323). William accompanied Hubert on his visit to Richard during his captivity in Germany in 1193 (Rog. Hov. iii. 209). Preferment was heaped upon him. He was appointed keeper of the forfeited lands of Geoffrey, the king's brother, until 3 Nov. 1194, when Geoffrey's lands were restored (ib. p. 274). He also had charge of the abbey of Glastonbury, the honour of Wallingford, and other lands in the king's hands. He was made guardian, in return for five hundred marks, of Robert, son of Robert FitzHarding, and had license to marry him to one of his kinswomen. He is said by Foss to have been sheriff of Surrey from 5 to 7 Richard I (1193–1196), though his name does not appear in official lists (List of Sheriffs, P.R.O. p. 135). He was made rector of Harewood, Yorkshire (Rotuli Curiæ Regis, ii. 222), and canon of St. Paul's. On 16 Sept. 1198 ‘ex largitione regis Ricardi’ he was elected bishop of London. According to the account given by Ralph Diceto, dean of St. Paul's, he was, at Diceto's own request (Diceto, ii. 166), on 23 May 1199 consecrated bishop at Westminster in the chapel of St. Catharine by Hubert Walter, archbishop of Canterbury, thirteen bishops being present (ib.; Coggeshall, p. 89). William was present on the 27th at the coronation of John (Rog. Hov. iv. 89, 90). During this and the next few years various concessions were granted by John to William (Rotuli Cartarum, pp. 17, 51, 64, 91, 124, 136, 140). William was present on 19 Sept. 1200 at the council at Westminster (Diceto, ii. 169), and witnessed the homage done by William, king of Scots, to John, outside Lincoln, on 22 Nov. 1200 (Rog. Hov. iv. 141). In December 1201 William, with Hubert Walter, crossed to Normandy (Diceto, ii. 173), at the king's request, and on 25 March 1201 was present at John's third coronation with Isabella at Canterbury (Rog. Hov. iv. 160). On 24 Aug. 1203, Hubert Walter being ill, William consecrated at Westminster William of Blois, elect of Lincoln, despite the protest of Gilbert, bishop of Rochester, who disputed his right to consecrate (Rog. Wend. iii. 139; Gir. Cambr. iii. 304). However, in 1206 he also consecrated Jocelyn bishop of Bath at Reading (Rog. Wend. iii. 188). In December 1204 William received formal confirmation of his position as first in dignity among the bishops of the province (Cal. of Papal Registers, Papal Letters, i. 19). A diplomatic mission to King Otto, John's nephew, was entrusted to William in 1204 (Coggeshall, p. 147), but seems to have had little result. On the outbreak of the quarrel between John and Innocent III, after the death of Hubert Walter on 12 July 1205, and upon John's refusal to accept Stephen Langton as archbishop, the pope issued a mandate on 27 Aug. 1207 to the bishops of London, Ely, and Worcester to exhort the king to receive the archbishop, and, should he refuse, to place the kingdom under an interdict (Cal. of Papal Registers, i. 29). The three bishops formally pronounced the interdict on 23 March 1208. The king at once confiscated all church property, and banished them for five years. They left the country secretly for France (Rog. Wend.. iii. 222). The chronicler complains that while all the evils of the interdict fell on England, the archbishop and the three bishops sojourned abroad, ‘omnimodis viventes in deliciis: cum lupum viderunt venientem, dimiserunt oves et fugerunt’ (ib.) Though banished, William was so constantly employed as bearer of the papal overtures that he was frequently passing to and fro between England and the continent under safe-conduct from John. The history, therefore, of William between 1208 and 1213 is the history of these negotiations. Innocent instructed William that should John fulfil an agreement with him, the interdict was to be relaxed (Epp. Inn. III. bk. xi. No. 91). Between 14 July and 8 Sept. 1208, and again for three weeks after 8 Sept., William had safe-conduct to remain in England (Rot. Lit. Pat. i. 85); but after keeping William and his fellow-bishops waiting for two months, John in the end would not see them (Ann. Wav. p. 261). Henry, duke of Saxony, and Otto of Germany attempted to effect a reconciliation (ib.). Finally, on 12 Jan. 1209 Innocent wrote to John threatening excommunication within three months. The three bishops were ordered to see to the execution of the sentence (Epp. Inn. iii. ii. 1530; Rog. Wend. p. 228). But, though the king remained obstinate, the three bishops fled without announcing the excommunication (ib.) On 2 Oct. the archbishop, with the bishops of London and Ely, came to Dover under safe-conduct. The king went to Chilham; the archbishop and bishops recrossed, as all negotiations broke down (Gerv. Cant. ii. 103, 105; Ann. Wav. pp. 263, 264; Coggeshall, p. 164). William went with the bishop of Ely and Langton to Rome (Rog. Wend. iii. 241). William and the bishop of Ely returned with Pandulf [q. v.] from Rome to France in January 1213, together with Langton, and published the sentence of deposition in a council of French bishops. Philip Augustus prepared to carry out the papal orders (Rog. Wend. iii. 242). In February 1213 the pope issued a mandate to William and his companions to suspend from their offices and benefices all ecclesiastics who had in any way assisted the king since his excommunication (Cal. of Papal Registers, i. 37). The king, frightened at last, submitted to Pandulf and Durand on 15 May. Among the conditions of submission was restitution to William and the other exiled bishops (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. ii. 543; Ann. Burton, i. 219, 220; Ann. Wav. p. 263). On 16 July William, with Langton and the other bishops, landed at Dover. On 20 July they absolved the king at Winchester (Rog. Wend. iii. 260). William received 750l. from John for his losses, and to make amends for the loss of his house of Bishop's Stortford, which the king had demolished in 1211, John gave him and his successors the manor of Stoke, near Guildford in Surrey (Newcourt, Repert. Eccl. i. 12). On 29 June 1214, John having at last fulfilled the conditions, the interdict was removed (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. ii. 575). On 4 March 1215 John, together with many magnates of England, took the cross at the hands of William of London (Walter od Coventry, ii. 219). On 1 Nov. 1214 William was one of those counsellors of the king who advised him to grant freedom of election to churches (Stubbs, Select Charters, p. 288), and on 15 June 1215 to grant Magna Carta (ib. p. 296). Under Henry III William continued to be entrusted with delicate diplomatic business. On 16 Jan. 1217 he was commissioned to enforce the provisions of the agreement made between Queen Berengaria and John as to her dower (Cal. Papal Registers, i. 43). On 2 June he assisted in the dedication ceremonies of Worcester Cathedral (Ann. Worcester, iv. 409). In 1217 he was among those who counselled the issue of Henry III's second charter and the charter of the forests (Select Charters, pp. 345–8), and on 5 Oct. 1220 the king appointed him, with Ralph Pincerne, to receive all lands surrendered by Llewelyn of Wales (Fœdera, i. 109).

On 25 Jan. 1221 William resigned in St. Paul's his bishopric to the legate Pandulf on account of old age (Walter of Coventry, ii. 248). The Waverley annalist praises him as a man of no little authority and great humility, who endured much during the interdict to preserve the liberties of the church (Ann. Wav. ii. 294). He retained to himself 100l. (Ann. Dunstaple, iii. 65), and ‘took upon himself the habit of a canon-regular of St. Osyth's,’ an Austin priory in Essex (Newcourt, Rep. Eccl. i. 12). On 6 May 1221 the pope confirmed to William the assignment of the manors of Clacton, Southminster, and Witham, with the consent of the dean and chapter of London, on a mandate to the cardinal-archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Winchester and Rochester, to receive his resignation, and to make a grant to him out of the goods of his former see (Cal. Papal Registers, i. 81). He died at St. Osyth's on 27 March 1224 (Ann. Wav. ii. 299; Newcourt, Rep. Eccl. i. 12). He founded a chantry of one priest in the church of St. Paul, to ‘pray for the souls of himself and his successors’ (ib.)

[Annals of Waverley, Burton, Dunstaple, in Annales Monastici; Memorials of Walter of Coventry, Roger of Hoveden, Benedict of Peterborough; Ralph Diceto's Opera Historica, vol. ii.; Coggeshall's Chron. Anglicanum; Flores Historiarum, vol. ii.; Chron. Johannis de Oxenedes; Gervase of Canterbury, vol. ii.; Matt. Paris's Chron. Majora, vols. ii. and v. (all above are in Rolls Ser.); Newcourt's Repertorium Ecclesiasticum Londinense, vol. i.; Roger of Wendover, vol. iii. (in Engl. Hist. Soc.); Liber de Antiquis Legibus (in Camden Soc.); Wharton's Anglia Sacra; Godwin, De Præsulibus Angliæ (17—), p. 179; Rymer's Fœdera, vol. i.; Rotuli Cartarum; Rotuli Litterarum Patentium; Epistolæ Innocentii III in Migne's Patrologia Latina; Cal. of Papal Registers, Papal Letters, pt. i.; Foss's Judges of England, i. 416–18; Stapleton's Rotuli Scaccarii Normanniæ; Wilkins's Concilia, i. 515–29.]

M. T.