Geoffrey de Montbray


Geoffrey de Montbray

Geoffrey de Montbray (died 1093), bishop of Coutances (Constantiensis), a right-hand man of William the Conqueror, was a type of the great feudal prelate, warrior and administrator at need.

Ordericus Vitalis says he knew more about marshalling mailed knights than edifying psalm-singing clerks. Obtaining as a young man, in 1048, the see of Coutances, by his brother's influence (see Mowbray), he raised from his fellow nobles and from their Sicilian spoils funds for completing his cathedral, which was consecrated in 1056. With bishop Odo, a warrior like himself, he was on the battle-field of Hastings, exhorting the Normans to victory; and at William's coronation it was he who called on them to acclaim their duke as king.

His reward in England was a mighty fief scattered over 12 counties. He accompanied William on his visit to Normandy (1067), but, returning, led a royal force to the relief of Montacute in September 1069. In 1075 he again took the field against the Revolt of the Earls, leading with Bishop Odo a vast host against Ralph de Guader, the rebel Earl of Norfolk, whose stronghold at Norwich they besieged and captured.

Meanwhile the Conqueror had invested him with important judicial functions. In 1072 he had presided over the great Kentish suit between the primate and Bishop Odo, and about the same time over those between the abbot of Ely and his despoilers, and between the Bishop of Worcester and the abbot of Ely, and there is some reason to think that he acted as a Domesday commissioner (1086), and was placed about the same time in charge of Northumberland. He also signed the Accord of Winchester.

The bishop, who attended the Conqueror's funeral, joined in the great rising against William Rufus next year (1088), making Bristol, with which (as Domesday shows) he was closely connected and where he had built a strong castle, his base of operations. He burned Bath and ravaged Somerset, but had submitted to the king before the end of the year. He appears to have been at Dover with William in January 1090, but, withdrawing to Normandy, died at Coutances three years later. In his fidelity to Duke Robert he seems to have there held out for him against his brother Henry, when the latter obtained the Cotentin.

References

*Edward Augustus Freeman, "Norman Conquest and William Rufus"
*J. H. Round, "Feudal England"

For original authorities:
*Orderic Vitalis
*William of Poitiers
*Florence of Worcester
*"Anglo-Saxon Chronicle"
*William of Malmesbury's "Gesta pontificum"
*Lanfranc's works, ed. Giles
*Domesday Book

*1911


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