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 www.measuringworth.com
[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 www.measuringworth.com
[xv] Without consulting the bishops


  1. A period of stiff-necked priests ...

  2. Interesting but I probably should have read Parts 1-3 first!