William Longchamp

William Longchamp

Infobox bishopbiog
name =William Longchamp

caption = Ely Cathedral
religion =Catholic
See =Diocese of Ely
Title = Bishop of Ely
Period = 1189–1197
Predecessor = Geoffrey Ridel
Successor =Eustace
ordination =
bishops =
post =
date of birth =
place of birth =
date of death =January 1197
place of death =Poitiers
Infobox Officeholder
honorific-prefix =
name =William Longchamp
honorific-suffix =

imagesize =

caption =
order =
office = Chief Justiciar of England
term_start =December 1189
term_end =1191
vicepresident =
viceprimeminister =
deputy =
lieutenant =
monarch =Richard
predecessor = Hugh de Puiset (co-chief Justiciar until June 1190)
successor = Walter de Coutances
constituency = South of the Humber River (March-June 1190)
majority =
order2 =
office2 =Chancellor of England
term_start2 =1189
term_end2 =1197
vicepresident2 =
viceprimeminister2 =
deputy2 =
lieutenant2 =
monarch2 = Richard
predecessor2 = Geoffrey
successor2 = Eustace
constituency2 =
majority2 =
order3 =
office3 =chancellor of the Duchy of Aquitaine
term_start3 =
term_end3 =
vicepresident3 =
viceprimeminister3 =
deputy3 =
lieutenant3 =
monarch3 = Richard, Duke of Aquitaine
predecessor3 =
successor3 =
constituency3 =
majority3 =

birth_date =
birth_place =
death_date =
death_place =
nationality =Norman
party =
spouse =
relations =Brothers: Osbert, Stephen, Henry, Robert; sisters: Melisend, Richeut
children =
residence =
alma_mater =
occupation =Bishop
profession =clergy
religion =

website =
footnotes =

William Longchamp (sometimes William de Longchamp or William de Longchamps) (died 1197), was a medieval chancellor of England, Chief Jusiticar and bishop of Ely. He was born in Normandy, and some of the later difficulties he had governing England for King Richard I of England may have been due to his differing views of government from the English. His family was humble, and he owed his advancement to royal favour. When Richard took the throne in 1189, Longchamp paid 3000 pounds for the office of Chancellor, and was soon named to the see, or bishopric, of Ely. He was also named papal legate by the pope.

While Richard was on the Third Crusade, Longchamp governed England, but his rule was contested by Richard's brother, John of England. Longchamp also had disputes with Richard and John's illegitimate brother Geoffrey, Archbishop of York. Eventually the conflicts led to Longchamp being driven from power and England, and he went to Germany to help secure the release of Richard from the German Emperor's custody. Although he retained the office of Chancellor after Richard's return from captivity, Longchamp never regained power in England, although he retained Richard's trust and was employed by the king until the bishop's death in 1197.

Early life

William was born in Normandy,Spear "The Norman Empire and the Secular Clergy" "Journal of British Studies" p. 6] near Argenton. His father was Hugh de Longchamp, who held land in England also. Hugh Nonant, who was an opponent of Longchamp's, declared that the elder Longchamp was the son of a peasant, but this is unlikely.Turner "Longchamp, William de (d. 1197)" "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography"] The medieval writer William of Newburgh claimed that Longchamp was "an obscure foreigner of unproven ability and loyalty".quoted in Gillingham "Richard I" p. 121] His family was originally of humble background, but had risen through service to King Henry II of England.Barlow "Feudal Kingdom of England" p. 352-353] He had a sister, Richeut, who married the castellan of Dover Castle. Among his brothers was Osbert, who remained a layman and owed much of his advancement to his brother. Other brothers were Stephen, who served King Richard I of England on crusade; Henry, another layman who became a sheriff along with Osbert; and Robert who became a monk. Another sister, Melisend, came to England with him, but otherwise is unknown.

Longchamp entered public life at the close of Henry II's reign as official to the king's illegitimate son Geoffrey. He soon left Geoffrey for another of Henry's sons, Richard, duke of Aquitaine; who made him chancellor of the Duchy of Aquitaine.Poole "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" p. 351 footnote 3] He served in Henry II's chancery before he started serving Richard.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 121-122] He first distinguished himself at Paris, as Richard's envoy, when in 1189 he countered Henry's envoy, William Marshall, to Philip Augustus. Longchamp was already one of Richard's trusted advisors at this point.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 98]

Chancellor and Justiciar

On Richard's accession in 1189 Longchamp became chancellor of the kingdom.Fryde "Handbook of British Chronology" p. 84] Longchamp paid 3000 pounds for the office of chancellor, and the increase in the price of having chancery documents sealed may have been expected to help Longchamp recoup the cost of office. At the council held at Pipewell on 15 September 1189, the king raised Longchamp to the see of Ely. Richard named three other bishops at the same time: Godfrey de Lucy to Winchester, Richard FitzNigel to London, and Hubert Walter to Salisbury.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 109] Richard of Devizes, the medieval chronicler, wrote that the four new bishops were "men of no little virtue and fame".quoted in Gillingham "Richard I" p. 109] He was consecrated on 31 December 1189Fryde "Handbook of British Chronology" p. 244] and enthroned at Ely on 6 January 1190. [http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=33863 British History Online Bishops of Ely] accessed on 25 October 2007]

When Richard left England in December 1189, he put the tower of London in Longchamp's hands and chose him to share with Hugh de Puiset, the bishop of Durham, the office of chief justiciar. The two bishops did not get along, and in March 1190 Richard gave authority north of the Humber River to Hugh, and authority south of that river to Longchamp. By June, Longchamp had eased Hugh out of power and office. In June 1190 he received a commission as a papal legate from Pope Clement III. Supposedly this cost Richard 1500 marks to secure this for Longchamp from the papacy.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 130]

While in office, the bishop granted to the citizens of London the right to elect their own sheriffs. They also acquired the right to collect and remit their monetary levy of 300 pounds direct to the Exchequer.Poole "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" p. 70] Longchamp's visitations to his diocese were accompanied with a large train of retainers and animals, and they became notorious throughout the country as a sign of his extravagance.Poole "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" p. 223] Under he legatine authority, the bishop held church councils at Gloucester and Westminster in 1190. He also acted to restore authority in York, which had suffered a breakdown in order with the massacre of Jews in March 1190. Also in 1190, he sent an army against Rhys ap Gruffydd, a Welsh prince who was attempting to throw off the control of the marcher lords that surrounded Wales.

Disputes with John

Longchamp's relations with the English people were made more difficult because the bishop was a native of Normandy, and often insensitive to the differing customs in England. Throughout 1190, Longchamp's relations with Richard's younger brother John had been difficult. This led to Longchamp besieging Lincoln Castle because the castellan would not surrender the castle and allow himself to be replaced by Longchamp's nominee. The castellan, Gerard de Camville, had also sworn homage to John and stated he would no longer recognize the chancellor's authority. In response, John took the two castles of Tickhill and Northampton.Huscroft "Ruling England" p. 144] News of the disagreements reached Richard, who sent Walter de Coutances, Archbishop of Rouen back to England in late spring of 1191 with orders to try and negotiate a peace between John and Longchamp.Barlow "Feudal Kingdom of England" p. 373-376] Eventually, Walter reached a compromise between the two where Gerard was confirmed as castellan and John relinquished the castles. Longchamp also agreed to work to ensure John's succession to the throne if Richard died.

Longchamp's legatine commission had expired in the spring of 1191 with the death of Pope Clement III, which removed one of Longchamp's power bases. By the middle of summer in 1191, Clement's successor Celestine III had renewed the legation. But in September 1191 Henry II's son Geoffrey, now Archbishop of York, was arrested by Longchamp's subordinates when he landed at Dover. The leader of the subordinates was the castellan of Dover Castle, Longchamp's brother-in-law. Their orders had been to arrest the archbishop of York, but Geoffrey had warning of their plans, and fled to sanctuary in St. Martin's Priory. Longchamp's men laid siege to the Priory, and after four days forcibly removed Geoffrey from the priory. The violence of the attack against Geoffrey reminded the public of Thomas Becket's martyrdom, and public opinion turned against the bishop.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 227-229] An intense propaganda campaign led by partisans of John, then ensued. A leader of the campaign against Longchamp was Hugh Nonant, Bishop of Coventry, who along with other magnates convened a trial on 5 October 1191 at Lodden Bridge near London. Longchamp did not attend the trial, which declared Longchamp deposed. The bishops excommunicated him, and after trying to hold the Tower of London, Longchamp was forced to surrender due to lack of support from the citizens of London. The council then declared his offices forfeit, and ordered the surrender of the castles in his custody. The main charge against Longchamp appears to have been his autocratic behavior.

Longchamp then went to Dover to seek transport to the continent. While there, he attempted to leave England in disguise, but was unsuccessful. Various stories were told of his disguises, which varied from a monk's habit to women's clothes. Hugh Nonant wrote that Longchamp attempted to hide in prostitute's garb, which led to the bishop being assaulted by a fisherman who mistook him for a whore. Eventually, Longchamp managed to leave England on 29 October.

Exile and return

Longchamp journeyed to the court of the Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor, who was holding King Richard I captive at Trifels. The bishop arranged with the emperor for Richard to held at the imperial court, and also worked out a payment plan for the ransom, which totaled 100,000 marks. The emperor agreed to release Richard once 70,000 marks of the ransom had been paid and hostages for the payment of the rest had been received.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 239] When the emperor in January 1194 called a meeting of the imperial magnates to debate King Philip II of France's offer to pay the emperor to keep Richard captive, Longchamp attended along with Walter of Coutances and Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard's mother. After further diplomatic wrangling, Richard was freed on 4 February 1194.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 247-248]

The bishop returned to England with Richard, and was soon embroiled in the renewal of his disagreement with Archbishop Geoffrey of York.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 272] Richard rewarded Longchamp with custody of Eye, as well as appointment as sheriff of Essex and Hertfordshire. Richard continued to use Longchamp in diplomacy, for it was the bishop who arranged a truce with King Philip in 1194.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 290] Longchamp was back at the emperor's court in 1195. The king also retained Longchamp as chancellor, but the main power in England became Hubert Walter.Barlow "Feudal Kingdom of England" p. 385-386] Longchamp did not return to England after he left with Richard in May 1194.Poole "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" p. 368-369]

Death and legacy

He died in January of 1197, at Poitiers while on a diplomatic mission to Rome for Richard.Gillingham "Richard I" p. 302 footnote 5] He was buried at the abbey of Le Pin. Longchamp was often described as short and ugly in his life, and the historian Austin Lane Poole says that Gerald of Wales described the bishop as more like an ape than a man. Some of the attacks against him included claims that he was homosexual. His brother Osbert was made sheriff of Yorkshire by his brother.Poole "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" p. 352-353] He promoted the careers of his brothers, with both Henry and Osbert becoming sheriffs in the 1190s. His clerical brother Robert also benefited, as he became prior of the Ely cathedral chapter and later abbot of St. Mary's in York.Knowles "Heads of Religious Houses" p. 46]

Longchamp wrote a work on law entitled "Practica legum et decretorum", which was a manual on the usage of both civil and canon law in Angevin possessions on the continent.Turner "Roman Law" "Journal of British Studies" p. 12] He was a cultured man, and well educated. Nigel Wireker, a medieval poet, dedicated a satirical poem on the habits of students which was named "Speculum Stultorum" to the bishop.Poole "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" p. 241] One of Longchamp's innovations as chancellor was the replacement of the first person singular previously used to refer to the king with a first person plural. However, it appears likely that Longchamp did not speak English, as during his attempted escape in late 1191, he was unable to answer the local people when they spoke to him in English.Bartlett "England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings" p. 488]

John Gillingham, the historian, wrote that Longchamp's "record of his life in politics and administration was a good one, spoiled only by his failure in 1191." However, Gerald of Wales disliked him, and called him that "monster with many heads".quoted in Barlow "Feudal Kingdom of England" p. 353] Much of the information on his career comes from people hostile to him, but he was supported by others, including Pope Clement III, who when he appointed Longchamp legate, wrote that he did so at the urging of the English bishops.Poole "Domesday Book to Magna Carta" p. 358] Some have seen in assembly that met to try Longchamp in 1191 a precursor to the gathering at Runnymede in 1215 that drew up Magna Carta.Powell "The House of Lords" p. 100]



* [http://british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=33863 British History Online Bishops of Ely] accessed on 25 October 2007

NAME= Longchamp, William
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Longchamp, William de; Longchamps, William de
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Lord Chancellor of England; Bishop of Ely; Chief Justiciar of England
DATE OF DEATH=January 1197

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