Baldock, Robert de (DNB00)

BALDOCK, ROBERT de (d. 1327), lord chancellor, first appears in the records as obtaining a grant of the royal rights over a manor in Surrey in 1287. As he held a stall in St. Paul's whilst his namesake [see Baldock, Ralph de] was yet bishop of London, it may be inferred that they were related. Admitted to the prebend of Holywell in 1312, he obtained the archdeaconry of Middlesex two years later. But his attention was fixed on the court rather than on the church, which was looked upon by many clever adventurers at this time as a mere stepping-stone to ministerial greatness. Most of them, reading the signs of the times, were opposed to the government of Edward II. Baldock, on the contrary, was blinded to future dangers by the prospect of immediate aggrandisement. Soon after he became archdeacon he was permanently employed about the court, and grew wealthy by the gift of pluralities. Yet he never succeeded in obtaining a bishopric. In 1322, that of Winchester falling vacant, Edward II bade his agent at the papal court demand it for Baldock, but the agent secured the papal nomination for himself, and three years later, in the case of Norwich, the king's candidate was again thwarted by the pope's favourite, William de Ayreminne [q. v.]. Ministerial offices were more at the king's disposal, and in 1320 he made Baldock his privy seal; in 1323 he was one of the negotiators of a thirteen years' truce with Scotland; and soon after his return from the north he obtained the lord chancellorship. Together with the De Spencers he now exercised the greatest power and incurred the fiercest hate. Their position was critical. The queen sought to use the popular feeling to get rid of a husband who neglected her, and of ministers whom she could not control. The French king seized this moment of weakness to demand the personal homage of Edward for his foreign possessions. The ministers dared not let Edward go, yet dared not anger Charles, and, failing to bribe the French envoys to conceal the object of their mission, they hit upon the fatal policy of letting the queen and her son cross over and satisfy the French king. Having gathered a force abroad, she return in 1326 to find the people ready to assist her in overthrowing the government. She proclaimed the De Spencers and Baldock enemies of the realm. As they fled westward with the king, the Londoners wrecked their houses. At Bristol the elder De Spencer was taken and beheaded, the hiding-place of the other fugitives in Wales was revealed by a sufficient bribe, Edward was forced to abdicate, and the younger De Spencer shared his father's fate. The death of Baldock was equally desired by the victorious party, but his orders protected him from a legal execution. He was handed over to Bishop Orlton of Hereford [see Adam of Orlton], a ministerial churchman more able and more unscrupulous than himself. In February 1327 he was confined in this bishop's house in London, and the mob was allowed, or even incited, to break in and drag the prisoner with violence and cruelty to Newgate, where he shortly afterwards died of his ill-treatment.

[Chronicles of Adam of Murimuth, Trokelowe, and Walsingham, Rolls Series; Rot. Claus. et Pat. temp. Ed. II; Newcourt's Repertorium, p. 78; Foss's Judges of England, ii. 222-5.]

H. A. T.