Monday, 15 August 2016

Geoffrey Plantagenet – the King’s Bastard III

Richard I
 Archbishop of York

Geoffrey and Richard were not only political enemies, they had been rivals too for most of Richard’s adult life. Richard was jealous of Geoffrey’s reputation for military prowess gained in the 1174 uprising. When the pair met at Henry’s funeral Richard asked Geoffrey to resign his chancellorship. In Geoffrey’s place Richard appointed William Longchamp Chancellor and Bishop of Ely. Longchamp had served Richard in the administration of Aquitaine.

Richard nominated Geoffrey as Archbishop of York; on 10th August 1189 a majority of the canons of York Minster elected Geoffrey as Archbishop. Being Archbishop of York brought Geoffrey back into conflict with the 70 year old Hugh de Puiset, who still begrudged Geoffrey getting one over on him in 1174.

As Archbishop, Geoffrey now had responsibility for the oversight of Puiset’s diocese in Durham. It also brought Geoffrey into conflict with Henry Marshall[i], Dean of York newly appointed by Richard. Richard also appointed another man calculated to counter Geoffrey’s influence, Roger of London, as Abbot of Selby Abbey.

Along with Burchard de Puiset[ii], the Treasurer of York Minster, Puiset and Walter headed a dissenting faction within the York Chapter, who complained that the pope had not confirmed Geoffrey’s election to the see. They tried to secure an annulment of the election. Regardless Richard agreed on 16th September to confirm his half-brother’s election to the archbishopric.

John on a stag hunt
Geoffrey's ordination as a priest took place at Southwell on 23 September 1189, in a ceremony performed by John the Bishop of Whithorn. Richard made his confirmation on condition that Geoffrey was ordinated a priest, thus removing any fear that Geoffrey might make a push for the throne itself.

To pay off his brother Prince John was made Count of Mortain and was married to an heiress, Isabelle of Gloucester[iii]. John was also given lands to the value of £4,000 per annum[iv] including the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. Richard’s nobles were concerned that

‘At no time since the conquest has a subject been allowed to exercise control over so vast a territory.’[v]

The lands given to John were an insignificant part of the whole; he was not given custodianship of the castles in these lands. Richard hoped that John would be contained by their mother and the men he proposed to put in place to rule the country while he was away.

Preparing for the Crusade

Richard sent Geoffrey north to escort the King of the Scots down to Canterbury. William was to swear fealty to Richard before the latter departed on crusade. En route north, on a side trip to York Geoffrey became embroiled in a dispute with the canons opposing him. Geoffrey failed to appoint officials of their party to vacant offices in the cathedral. They protested to Richard who ordered Geoffrey’s estates seized.

By the time Geoffrey returned to court with William, his enemies, including the dowager queen, were already in residence whispering in Richard’s ear. All kinds of ridiculous rumours were abroad; Geoffrey had trampled on Richard’s portrait and had placed a gold cover on his head and remarking to the effect that it was a head well deserving of a crown.

Richard had no intention of removing his half-brother from his new post, but required a bribe from Geoffrey of £2,000[vi] for the return of his lands. The money went to help fund Richard’s crusade. According to Roger of Howden

‘[Richard] put up for sale everything he had, offices, lordships, earldoms,, sherrifdoms, castles, towns, lands, the lot.’[vii]

Richard would only have himself to blame if the country was mismanaged in his absence.

Finding the King’s Ransom

York Minster
Geoffrey returned to York to raise the money Richard demanded. He stumbled into a wasp’s nest. On 5th January 1190, on the eve of Epiphany, Geoffrey proposed to attend Vespers in state. His supporting canons escorted Geoffrey in solemn procession through the Minster only to find the service had already started. Whether this was mismanagement on Geoffrey’s part or a deliberate slight by the opposition is unknown.

Geoffrey’s temper, inherited from his father, was aroused and he ordered the singers to be silent and began to sing the service himself. The Treasurer immediately counter-ordered the extinguishing of all candles in the Minster[viii]. Geoffrey had to finish the service in the dark.

Once the service was over Geoffrey ordered that divine service was no longer to be sung in the Minster until an apology was forthcoming. He promised to be reconciled to the opposition once the apology was made. The Treasurer and his supporters refused to apologise and tried to raise the townspeople against the Archbishop.

The citizens of York rioted in support of their Archbishop rather than for the dissidents. Geoffrey had to stop his new supporters from killing Burchard de Puiset. Geoffrey then decided to excommunicate de Puiset and a colleague and closed the Minster for all services.

A Land Grab

Tour Cathedral
The merchants of York took umbrage at Geoffrey’s actions and refused to give him a loan of £2,000 to pay off Richard. In addition Hugh de Puiset forbad Geoffrey’s tenants to make any payments to him. Geoffrey was forced to follow Richard to France and explain why he was unable to pay the bribe and his estates were again made forfeit.

What Richard really wanted was for Geoffrey to swear to leave the kingdom for three years[ix]. Prince John had already sworn a similar oath. In return for Geoffrey’s compliance Richard reduced the bribe to £500 now and £500 later along with the oath. In return Richard promised to intercede with the pope for his agreement to Geoffrey becoming Archbishop of York. The papal agreement to Geoffrey’s accession to the see should put an end to the dispute over the validity of his election.

Geoffrey departed for Tours where he was to stay for the next eighteen months. While in Tours Geoffrey was consecrated as Archbishop of York on 18 August 1191, by Bartholomew, the Archbishop of Tours, after the papacy agreed to allow the consecration.

Eleanor was able to persuade Richard to reverse his decision in respect of Prince John. Longchamp was appointed Papal legate and joint Justiciar of England. Geoffrey’s enemy Hugh de Puiset was made Justiciar for the north of the country. The two Justiciars did not get on; de Puiset was of the nobility, while Longchamp was a self-made man and French to boot. Within two months the two Justiciars had fallen out and it was Longchamp who was the victor.

When the King’s Away

Richard and Philip on crusade
Richard departed on crusade on 5th July 1190, meeting up with Philip of France. In Sicily, en route to Outremer, on 22nd September Richard indicated that the young Arthur of Brittany was his heir apparent. This news reached England in early November at the latest and, according to William of Newburgh, Prince John was able to bully Longchamp into making Prince John Richard’s heir presumptive.

While in Sicily Richard had heard news of the disturbances in his kingdom and sent Walter de Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen, to England with wide-reaching powers to settle the problems as he saw fit. With his arrogant mien Longchamp had upset many of the barons he had been left to rule. In the summer of 1190 he had Puiset arrested.

Berengeria of Navarre
By the summer of 1191 the unrest was such that he was accused of abusing his office. The most vocal of Longchamp’s critics, Hugh de Nonant, Bishop of Lichfield, protested;

‘Whatever property swam beneath our skies was no longer said to belong to the king, but to him [Longchamp], for their was neither that which is hunted for on land, fished for in water, or flying in the air, which was not compelled to be at the service of his table.’[x]

Early in 1191 John returned to England and on 12th May 1191 news arrived of Richard’s wedding in Cyprus to Berengaria of Navarre; his mother had bullied him into this marriage.


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] Younger brother of William Marshall
[ii] Hugh de Puiset’s brother
[iii] The Archbishop of Canterbury protested against the marriage on the grounds that the couple were second cousins and had no papal licence to marry
[iv] Comparisons of wealth are not calculated for before the year 1270, if the lands had been given then, not 1189 then the relative worth in 2014 would be; historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £3,418,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £60,310,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £142,900,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,165,000,000.00
[v] Richard the Lionheart - Gillingham
[vi] Comparisons of wealth are not calculated for before the year 1270, if the bribe had been paid in that year, not 1191 then the relative worth in 2014 £2000 would have been historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £1,709,000.00 labour earnings of that income or wealth is £30,150,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £71,440,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £582,500,000.00
[vii] Richard the Lionheart - Gillingham
[viii] The candles were the Treasurer’s responsibility and Geoffrey could not persuade any of the canons to relight them.
[ix] The estimate of the crusade’s duration
[x] King John – Church

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, the Bishop of Durham seems to be an appointment for the stroppy then as now. As for Berengaria, I was surprised that it was Richard's mother who was instrumental, having read all the stories in which it was love at first sight and Richard cut out the French king with her, engendering the trouble that later led to his imprisonment