PETER of BLOIS, 1070-1117 AD
on Henry I

From Ingulf's Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland with the Continuation of Peter of Blois


William was succeeded on the throne by his brother Henry, a young man of extreme beauty, and, from his acquaintance with literature, much more astute than his two brothers, and better fitted, for reigning: his brother Robert being at this time in the Holy Land most valiantly fighting in the army of the Christians against the Turks and Saracens. He was crowned by Thomas, the archbishop of York, because, at this period, Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury was in exile Receiving royal homage and the oaths of fealty from. all, he immediately gave liberty to the Holy Church, and forbade depraved customs and injurious exactions to prevail; besides which, he threw the said Ranulph, who was the author of them, into prison, and, dispatching a messenger, recalled the most holy archbishop Anselm from exile.

Led astray and seduced by the bad counsels of the said most wicked Ranulph, king William, on the day of his death, held in his own hands the archbishopric of Canterbury, besides four other bishoprics, and eleven abbeys, all of which he let out to farm. He was the first of all the kings who placed the receipts on account of rent of all the vacant churches in his treasury y; whereas his father invariably, and with the greatest piety, in the same manner as all the other kings of England, his predecessors, had been in the habit of repaying all rents and profits of that nature, in the case of vacant churches, to the prelates who were the first to succeed, and had to the very last farthing accounted, through faithful servants, for the whole thereof. But as for him, after keeping all these dignities for a long time in his own hands for no good reason whatever, and frequently making grants of them to farmers and usurious Jews, under colour of employing long deliberation in the choice of a proper pastor, he repeatedly put them up to auction among the most ambitious and most wealthy of the clergy; and at last, on finding a well-filled purse as the result, asserting that all sanctity lay in that, he openly declared that that was the only deserving prelate. In this state of things, it was a matter greatly to be commended that, being confined to his bed and almost despairing of his life, on the decease of Lanfranc, the venerable archbishop Canterbury, a man of most holy life, as well as skilled in all branches of literature, he appointed the venerable Anselm, abbot of Bec, in Normandy, to the archbishopric of Canterbury, in a devout manner, and without any imputation of simony.

The before-named Ranulph, however, made his escape by certain iniquitous means from prison, and repaired to Normandy, and in every way encouraged the duke thereof, Robert, the king's brother, who on hearing of the death of his brother William had immediately returned from the Holy Land, to invade England. Accordingly, after the duke had levied a large army, and had come to the sea-shore, while the king, on the other hand, had strengthened the southern coasts of his kingdom with troops innumerable (being determined, once for all, to conquer and reign, or else to lose the kingdom and perish), archbishop Anselm and other men of character, who were promoters of peace, acting as mediators between them, brought about an arrangement upon the following terms; that the king should pay each year a compensation of three thousand pounds of silver, and that lasting peace should thenceforth be established between them. However, in after years, the duke, ill-advisedly, forgave this annual payment; and besides, he acted unwisely towards the natives [of Normandy], and those subject to him; upon which the king repaired to Normandy, and taking his brother prisoner in a pitched battle, kept him in prison to the day of his death, and united the whole of Normandy to his own kingdom.

The king, having gained this victory, and being instructed by the repeated exhortations of the holy archbishop Anselm, remitted for ever his right of investiture of churches by ring and pastoral staff, a question which had for a long time harassed the Holy Church; while he retained in his own hand and excepted solely his royal privileges. This I think is enough as to the kings.

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Reproduced by kind permission of The Medieval Source Book


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