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Geoffrey Plantagenet

Bishop-Elect of Lincoln
Bishop of St. Maurice's, Tours
Archbishop of York
Born: 1151
Died: 18th December 1212

Geoffrey Plantagenet was an illegitimate son of King Henry II. It is said that his mother was Rosamond Clifford, the "Fair Rosamond" of literary fame. Geoffrey, whose "tumultuous nature" is insisted upon by Fuller, inherited a full measure of the stormy Plantagenet character.

When still a child he was made Archdeacon of Lincoln and, when about fourteen, his father procured his election to the Bishopric of that see. The Pope refused to consecrate him for three years; but the Bishop elect, who was not even in priest's orders, received all the temporalities until 1181, when the Pope, Alexander III, insisted that he should either receive ordination or give up Lincoln altogether. He chose the latter, receiving in exchange from the King, many rents and offices in England and Normandy.

Alone of Henry's sons, Geoffrey was faithful to his father and was with him at his death in the Castle of Chinon (France), in 1189. On his return to England, Geoffrey was met in London by a body of the York ecclesiastics, informing him that he had been elected to that see, which had been so long vacant. At first, he declined positively, telling them that he was fonder of clogs and hawks than of books and priests. They answered that his tastes need not be altogether abandoned when he came into the north as Archbishop. Geoffrey, at last, consented to accept their nomination which was, shortly afterwards, confirmed by King Richard I. Geoffrey was then ordained priest; but it was not until the 18th August 1191 that he was consecrated Bishop in the Church of St. Maurice at Tours by the Archbishop of that see.

There had already been dissension between Geoffrey and his half-brother, King Richard. Before leaving for the Holy Land, the latter is said to have extorted a promise from both his brothers, John and Geoffrey, that they would not return to England for three years after his departure without his special permission. However this may be, Geoffrey returned at once after his consecration and, at Dover, was seized by order of the Bishop of Ely, the Grand Justiciar of the Kingdom in Richard's absence. For some days, he was imprisoned in the Castle; but the Bishop of Ely was, at length, compelled to let the Archbishop go without swearing the allegiance on which he had insisted. Geoffrey at once proceeded to York.

The canons of York seem to have discovered, at once, that their choice had been an imprudent one. Throughout Geoffrey's episcopate, he was in constant dissension either with them or with his brothers, Richard and John. The Pope, Celestine, at the instance of the canons, issued a commission of inquiry in 1195, at the head of which was the Bishop of Lincoln. The result was the suspension of Archbishop Geoffrey by the Pope; but that suspension was reversed and a sentence given altogether in Geoffrey's favour upon his personal appeal to Rome. Sometimes in great favour with King John, and sometimes deprived of all his temporalities except the manor of Ripon, Geoffrey continued to hold the see of York until 1207, when John extorted from his subjects the tax of a thirteenth, and Geoffrey set his face stoutly against it. He excommunicated all those who should attempt to collect it in his province; and then was compelled to provide for his own safety by flight. He never returned to England and died, it is said, in 1212 at Grosmont in Normandy. After Geoffrey's flight the temporalities of the archbishopric remained in the King's hands for nine years.

Edited from Richard John King's "Handbook to the Cathedrals of England: Northern Division" (1903). logo
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