Monday, 29 August 2016

Geoffrey Plantagenet – the King’s Bastard V

Nottingham Castle (Victorian reconstruction)
The King Departs

On 30th March 1194 Richard presided at a meeting of the Great Council at Nottingham Castle; Geoffrey was present along with his stepmother, Hugh de Puiset, William Longchamp and Hugh of Lincoln. The great matter before the council was what to do with Prince John who was in cahoots with Philip of France. Longchamps was given back his old job as Chancellor while Richard paid a ransom for the return of Walter de Coutances

On 12th May 1194 Richard and Eleanor set sail for Barfleur with one hundred ships;

‘Laden with men, horses and arms.’[i]

Richard intended to win back his lands in Normandy, seized by Philip while Richard was in custody. Neither Richard nor his mother were to return to England. Instead he was to be embroiled fighting Philip and draining money from England in times of economic difficulty. Before Richard left England he appointed Walter as Justiciar.

In the summer, very possibly as a result of Geoffrey’s attempts to claim seniority of York over Canterbury, Walter began an investigation into Geoffrey's actions. Walter’s commission reported back that very little of Geoffrey’s time was wasted on clerical affairs, instead he spent his time hawking or hunting.

Geoffrey’s quarrels with his cathedral clergy had worsened to the point that, in one instance a member of the cathedral chapter threw the chrism on a dungheap in protest. The canons also objected to Geoffrey giving a large part of York's treasury toward Richard's ransom and they objected to some of his appointments in the church of York.

This led to Geoffrey's estates being confiscated once again. The canons Geoffrey had excommunicated were reinstated and Geoffrey was ordered not to issue sentences against canons without the consent of the whole body of canons.

At the end of 1194 Geoffrey left England to appeal directly to the king who by then was in Maine. Richard over-ruled Walter, restored Geoffrey's estates, and pardoned him in return for a payment of 1,000 marks and the promise of 1,000 more to follow.

A Disputatious Cleric

In January 1195 Geoffrey was ordered to appear in Rome to answer charges of simony, extortion, and neglect of his duties lodged against Geoffrey by Puiset’s supporters. The ringleaders had been excommunicated by Geoffrey who had also locked the canons out of the Minster. Geoffrey was threatened with suspension from office if he did not appear by 1st June.

Geoffrey complained to the king, who was sympathetic until Geoffrey started rebuking Richard for his immoral life. Richard flew into a rage and confiscated Geoffrey’s estates once again. This loss of his estates left Geoffrey vulnerable when Walter held a legatine council at York in June 1195.

Geoffrey had managed to secure a postponement of his case at Rome until 1st November, but was still unable to attend, which led Pope Celestine to order that Geoffrey's suspension should be actioned by Hugh of Lincoln. Hugh protested, and as a result Celestine himself suspended Geoffrey on 23rd December 1195, finally forcing Geoffrey to answer the charges against him. He travelled to Rome in 1196, where his accusers were unable to substantiate their claims and he was restored to office by the pope.

News of Import

Innocent III
Geoffrey quarreled with Richard in 1196 in Normandy while en route home to England. Richard forbade him from administering York, and Geoffrey returned to Rome until 1198. An attempt at reconciliation with Richard came to nothing, after Geoffrey refused to approve the king's appointments in the diocese of York without some guarantees that they would be approved by the papacy.

Eventually the new Pope Innocent III ordered on 28 April 1199 that Geoffrey was to be restored to his lands as soon as he had paid his debts to the king. Innocent further stipulated that any royal appointments in York would require papal approval.

Geoffrey’s canons were mixed in their response to the return of their archbishop. One, Simon Murdac announced that he would be happy to see Geoffrey return to his archdiocese. But Murdac was immediately excommunicated by the Dean, Simon of Apulia.

Before the pope could make any new rulings on the dissension between Geoffrey and his canons, the news arrived; Richard was dead. Richard died on 7th April 1199, after a wound from a stray quarrel turned gangrenous. The lucky shot came from one of the defenders of the chateau of Châlus- Chabrol, that Richard was besieging,. It was now the turn of Henry II’s youngest son to reign over the empire he had wrought.

John defies the Pope
Stephen Langton
In July 1205 Hubert Walter died and John tried to replace him with one of his own supporters[ii] who was rejected by the cathedral chapter. The stalemate continued until the end of 1206 when Innocent III nominated Stephen Langton. John refused Langton entry to the country[iii]. John threw out the monks of Canterbury and seized the cathedral revenues.

John and Geoffrey had enjoyed a relatively benign relationship when they were both younger and when he came to the throne John was prepared to be conciliatory to Geoffrey. He had enough on his plate with Arthur of Brittany also claiming his throne[iv]. Caught between John and Philip Arthur ended up flip-flopping to pay homage to Philip.

In an attempt to sort the problems emanating from York, John summonsed Simon of Apulia to attend his court at Westminster. Simon was persuaded to accept Geoffrey as his archbishop. In return Geoffrey recognised Simon as Dean of the chapter. On their return to York, when the Archdeaconry of Cleveland[v] fell vacant, the two men fell out again.

Geoffrey nominated one of his followers, but Simon nominated Hugh Murdac. Infuriated and his Angevin temper soaring, Geoffrey excommunicated the hapless Murdac. Both sides appealed to John who summonsed his brother to accompany him to France. Stupidly Geoffrey ignored the summons.

Arthur pays homage to Philip
Around the same time Geoffrey fell out with John over taxation issues and refused to allow his clergy to pay John’s latest tax raising whiz. The church’s lands were seized and Geoffrey and his clergy knelt before John to plead with him for a reversal of the seizures. Gervase of Canterbury recorded;

‘The king, in truth, threw himself at the archbishop’s [Geoffrey] feet and laughing and jeering said “Look my lord archbishop, even as you do so do I.”’[vi]

In the summer of 1207 Geoffrey fled abroad, followed by a number of the senior bishops. John seized his brother’s estates. Innocent III put the country under an interdict forbidding the clergy to take services[vii]. He also threatened to excommunicate John.

Under Interdict
King John
On 17th March 1208 John’s officers commenced their task of seizing church properties. By September the king was taking hostages from nobles whose loyalty was suspect. Roger of Wendover wrote;

‘King John….was afraid that, after the interdict, our lord pope would excommunicate him or absolve the nobles of England from allegiance to him. He therefore sent an armed force to all men of rank….and demanded hostages of them.’[viii]

On 27th May 1208 Innocent ordered an interdict on York should John fail to restore Geoffrey’s property. In August he wrote to both John and Geoffrey deploring their quarrel. Because of Geoffrey’s stance Geoffrey of Coldingham, a chronicler, claimed that the church in England church considered Geoffrey a martyr.

Otto IV greets Innocent III
Innocent excommunicated John in November 1209. John retaliated by taking over £100,000 worth of money from the clergy over the next two years. John’s treasury appropriated the revenues of the empty benefices and managed to raise enough money[ix] to fund ill-advised adventures abroad.
As well as raising the country’s military state of readiness, John set up a series of alliances to help defend his continental possessions. He allied with his nephew Otto IV the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles I, the Count of Flanders and a number of northern European Dukes.

Geoffrey’s final years were spent in exile; Geoffrey died on 12th December 1212[x], at the monastery[xi] at Notre Dame du Parc near Rouen. He was buried there. Geoffrey was a disappointed man whose arrogance had cost him dear.

Philip Augustus – Jim Bradbury, Longman 1998

King John – Stephen Church, MacMillan 2013

Early Medieval England – MT Clanchy, The Folio Society 1997

Richard the Lionheart – John Gillingham, George Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1989

The Royal Bastards of Medieval England – Chris Given- Wilson and Alice Curteis, Barnes & Noble Books 1995

The Plantagenets – Dan Jones, William Collins 2012

Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011

King John – WL Warren, Yale University Press 1997

Eleanor of Aquitaine – Alison Weir, Jonathan Cape 1999

The Plantagenets – Derek Wilson, Quercus Editions Ltd 2014

[i] Philip Augustus - Bradbury
[ii] The monks nominated Reginald, the Sub-Prior, who was set aside by John. They then nominated John de Gray, Bishop of Norwich, who was set aside by the pope.
[iii] It was not until six years later that Langton was allowed into the country
[iv] As the only child of one of John’s older brothers. In 1202, in conjunction with Philip, Arthur waged war on Normandy
[v] One of the riches benefices in the York Archdiocese
[vi] King John - Warren
[vii] No-one could get christened, married or buried in consecrated ground.
[viii] King John - Church
[ix] Over £100,000; Comparisons of wealth are not calculated for before the year 1270, if these monies had been extracted then not in 1211-12, then In 2014 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £85,460,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £1,508,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £3,572,000,000.00, economic power value of that income or wealth is £29,120,000,000.00
[x] The month before Geoffrey died John had agreed to accept Langton as his archbishop of Canterbury.
[xi] The monastery was of the Grandmontine order; Henry II had encouraged the order to set up the monastery there and tend to the leper house which he had set up on the site of his old hunting lodge

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Geoffrey Plantagenet – the King’s Bastard IV

Dover Castle
An Ignominious Return Home

Geoffrey too decided to come home. With Prince John siding with his enemies and Geoffrey likely to do the same, Longchamp viewed the king’s half-brother as a threat to his own position. In September 1191 Geoffrey arrived back in England, landing in Dover on 14th in contravention of his oath. Prince John warned his half-brother of the danger of arrest.

Longchamp ordered Geoffrey’s arrest. Geoffrey had a horse waiting for him on the beach when he landed and managed to evade the men sent to arrest him. One of the castellan[i]  of Dover’s men caught Geoffrey’s bridle, but the 40 year old church man was still agile enough to kick his pursuer off and managed to make it to the priory of St Martin which was immediately surrounded.

The priory was besieged for four days after which the castellan’s men entered the abbey and dragged Geoffrey from the altar. Geoffrey was hauled through the streets of Dover, his head banging on the ground. Gerald of Wales[ii] wrote;

‘The castellan’s men grabbed him by the feet and arms, carried the struggling archbishop from the altar and handled him so roughly that his head hit the pavement of the church heavily….he was brought through the muddy streets of the town to the castle where he was delivered to the constable[iii].’[iv]

This act, so reminiscent of the treatment meted out to Thomas Beckett by Henry II, turned the clergy against Longchamp.

In retaliation Prince John and Walter de Coutances summonsed Longchamp to appear before a council to be held at Reading. Longchamp hightailed it off to London where he shut himself up in the Tower. After a three day siege he surrendered on 10th October, leaving the country under guard at the end of the month. The council named Prince John as supreme governor of the realm while de Coutances took the post of Justiciar.

Clerical Quarrels

Once things had settled down in the south Geoffrey returned to York; this time he was formally consecrated archbishop and had papal approval to boot. Geoffrey was formally enthroned as archbishop on 2nd November 1191; his enemy Hugh de Puiset failed to attend in his role as Bishop of Durham.

Geoffrey summonsed Puiset to explain his absence at a provincial synod in late September 1191, at which the bishop was charged with various irregularities. Puiset appealed to Rome and refused to attend the synod, and was excommunicated in December by Geoffrey.

An attempt in March 1192 by Eleanor and Hubert Walter to settle the issue came to nothing when Geoffrey insisted on a pledge of obedience from Puiset, who in turn demanded an admission from Geoffrey that the excommunication had been unjust.

Geoffrey turned up before the queen at the head of a solemn procession of clerics, his arch-episcopal cross carried before him. Geoffrey refused to be reconciled with Puiset until he made a solemn promise of obedience. Further appeals to Rome led to an eventual settlement in October 1192, when the bishop finally acknowledged Geoffrey's authority over Durham.
Godstow Abbey
Seeing the possibilities in this situation, Puiset’s supporters among the canons refused to cooperate with Geoffrey’s officials and got excommunicated for their pains. They closed the Minster, refused to allow the bells to be rung, locked up the archbishop’s stall in the choir and blocked up the door by which Geoffrey entered the Minster from his palace.

In another run in with Geoffrey, Alice, the Prioress of Clementhorpe Priory[v] refused to agree to Geoffrey’s plans for the reorganisation of her convent, subordinating it to Godstow Abbey[vi]. She, in her turn, was excommunicated.

Richard’s Ransom

Richard's capture
ichard’s bosom pal Philip reached home in early 1192; he claimed that on crusade Richard had been insolent, full of pride and treachery. Philip went so far as to hint that Richard had had Philip poisoned. Philip and Richard’s friendship was never destined to last; Richard was determined to keep his French holdings, which Philip coveted. By March 1192 the news of Philip’s treachery had reached Richard along with details of the deteriorating conditions at home.

Richard did not leave Outremer until the summer; en route home, shortly before Christmas 1192 Richard was captured[vii] near Vienna by Leopold V, Duke of Austria. Leopold accused Richard of arranging the murder of his cousin Conrad of Montferrat while on crusade[viii]. Richard was held at Dürnstein Castle.

Leopold (2nd L) and Henry IV (C)
Leopold’s liege lord, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI, had Richard brought to his court at Regensburg at the beginning of January. The bargaining for Richard’s ransom began, starting at 100,000 marks[ix]. Henry VI wrote to Philip;

‘Inasmuch as he [Richard] is now in our power and has always done his utmost to annoy and disturb you, we thought it right to notify Your Highness, for we know that these tidings will bring you most abundant joy.’[x]

By mid-January Prince John was on his way to Paris, where he did homage to Philip for Normandy and all Richard’s other lands. He promised to marry Alys and hand over Gisors and the Vexin to Philip.

John’s Rebellion

Tickhill Castle gatehouse
John then hurried home to stir up a rebellion against his brother. John looked first to William the Lion who refused to join in the fun. He did however find an ally in Baldwin, Duke of Hainault[xi]. John used Welsh and Flemish mercenaries to garrison Tickhill Castle Wallingford and Windsor castles, claiming that Richard was dead and that, therefore, John was king. Philip meanwhile attacked Normandy; the great castle of Gisors was surrendered without a fight.

Eleanor and the Justiciars joined forces to counter John’s rebellion. Geoffrey and Hugh du Puiset put aside their feud to quash the uprising. Geoffrey strengthened Doncaster's defences and went to the aid of Puiset, who was besieging Tickhill.

The haggling over Richard’s ransom took over a year; bidding from all parties was fierce. On 25th March 1193 Richard agreed to pay the 100,000 marks and supply Henry VI with the service of fifty galleys and 200 knights for a year. He was to provide Henry with hostages.

William Longchamp was involved in the diplomacy on Richard’s behalf and April 1193 he returned to England with exhortations from Richard and Henry VI that the English pay Richard’s ransom with all due expedition.

Eleanor and the Justiciars levied a 25% tax on income and the value of moveable property. They appropriated this year’s wool crop from Cistercian monasteries, along with gold and silver plate from the country’s churches. Similar measures were enacted in Richard’s continental possessions.

Finally, on 13th March the king returned home;

‘The news of the coming of the King, so long and so desperately awaited, flew faster than the north wind.’[xii]

John’s rebellion withered in the wind. But Richard’s long absence had cost him dear; lands had been lost to both Henry VI and Philip. That worse had not happened can be considered as a direct result of the administrative system set up by his father.

Further Disturbances in York

Pope Celestin III
Geoffrey’s uncompromising attitudes meant that men who’d served him for many years began to turn against him. In 1193 when the office of Dean of York became vacant Geoffrey faced difficulties with his appointee to the post. Geoffrey's first choice, Simon of Apulia, the chancellor of York who had served Geoffrey for many years, refused to give up the office when Geoffrey changed his mind and decided to award the post to his half-brother Peter[xiii].

Simon was supported by the cathedral chapter, who elected him to the office despite Geoffrey's opposition. Geoffrey appealed to Pope Celestine III while Simon travelled to see the king in Germany. Richard refused to allow the appeal and tried to summon Geoffrey to Germany to resolve the issue. Geoffrey was unable to leave York because of disturbances within the cathedral clergy, and Simon managed to secure papal confirmation as Dean of York.

In 1194 Geoffrey went into debt to the crown for the sum of 3000 marks[xiv] to buy the office of Sheriff of Yorkshire for himself. Later that year Geoffrey began a quarrel with Hubert Walter, who had been nominated archbishop by Richard[xv], over the question of which archbishop had primacy over England, which Canterbury claimed and York disputed. Walter's decision to have his episcopal cross carried before him in the diocese of York in March 1194 was symbolic of his claim to primacy over York and all of England.

Geoffrey responded by having his own cross carried before him in the diocese of Canterbury the following month. Richard did not reprimand Geoffrey for this act of provocation, and even went so far as to restore some of his confiscated estates.


Philip Augustus – Jim Bradbury, Longman 1998

King John – Stephen Church, MacMillan 2013

Early Medieval England – MT Clanchy, The Folio Society 1997

Richard the Lionheart – John Gillingham, George Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1989

The Royal Bastards of Medieval England – Chris Given- Wilson and Alice Curteis, Barnes & Noble Books 1995

The Plantagenets – Dan Jones, William Collins 2012

King John – WL Warren, Yale University Press 1997

Eleanor of Aquitaine – Alison Weir, Jonathan Cape 1999

The Plantagenets – Derek Wilson, Quercus Editions Ltd 2014


[i] The castellan was married to Longchamps’ sister
[ii] Geoffrey was Gerald’s patron
[iii] Those involved in this sacrilege were excommunicated by Hugh of Lincoln
[iv] King John - Church
[v] A convent in one of the parishes in York, closed down in 1536
[vi] In Oxfordshire
[vii] Several of his knights had already been taken by Meinhard of Görz
[viii] Leopold also claimed that Richard had personally offended him by casting down his standard from the walls of Acre
[ix] Comparisons of wealth are not calculated for before the year 1270, if this ransom had been demanded then, not in 1193, then the relative worth in 2014 would be historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £85,460,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £1,508,000,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £3,572,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £29,120,000,000.00
[x] Richard the Lionheart - Gillingham
[xi] Philips’ father-in-law.
[xii] Eleanor of Aquitaine - Weir
[xiii] A maternal relative
[xiv] The pound, the mark, the franc and a number of other European currencies were almost equivalent in value. Comparisons of wealth are not calculated for before the year 1270, if the office had been bought then, not 1194 then the relative worth in 2014 would be historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £2,564,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £45,230,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £107,200,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £873,700,000.00
[xv] Without consulting the bishops