Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Curson, Robert

CURSON, DE COURÇON, DE CORCEONE, or DE CURCHUN, ROBERT (d. 1218), cardinal, born at Kedleston in Derbyshire, was a member of a noble family. He is said to have studied at Oxford, and certainly did so at Paris, where he became a scholar of some eminence, and from Paris went to Rome (Du Boulay). He returned to France, and was employed there by Innocent III. He was a canon of Noyon in 1204 (Ep. Innocent III, vi. 399) and of Paris in 1211 (ib. xiv. 563). The next year he was made cardinal-priest of S. Stefano in Monte Celio, was employed by the pope in the case of Philip Augustus and his wife Ingeborg, and appears to have received the queen's confession as to the relations that existed between her and her husband (ib. xv. 688). In 1213 he was appointed legate a latere in France, with the special charge of preaching a crusade for the deliverance of Jerusalem. He at once held a council at Paris for the reformation of abuses (Raynaldus, xx. 331), in which many canons were published (Labbe, xxii. 818–43, where this council is wrongly dated 1212; comp. Martene, Collectio Ampliss. vol. vii. col. 102). Usurers were especially denounced; these usurers, who were called ‘Causins,’ carried on a vast business in France, and the king wrote to the pope complaining of the legate's attack on them. Innocent replied that, though it certainly was not exactly what he sent the legate to do, the suppression of usury was needful in order that money might be forthcoming for the crusade (D'Achary, iii. 577). Robert's action in this matter was remembered in England when the oppressions of the Causins became intolerable here, and Bishop Grosseteste spoke of him as one of ‘the fathers and doctors’ who had protested against their practices (Paris, v. 404, an. 1253). He and the preachers whom he enlisted in the cause of the crusade preached rather for the people than for the nobility; they said what pleased the lower classes, and spoke with great bitterness of the clergy. Their sermons attracted large crowds, and they gave the cross to ‘little children, old men, and women, to the halt, the blind, the deaf, and the lepers,’ so that the rich held back from offering themselves (Will. of Armorica, Recueil, xvii. 108). While Robert angered the clergy by his denunciations of them, he was by no means stainless himself. At Limoges, for example, in August 1214, he deposed the abbot of S. Martial as incapable, and gave his office to another, who offered him ‘half the treasure’ of the abbey for himself, and a pension of twenty livres to be paid to the canons of S. Stefano (Bernard of Limoges, Recueil, xvii. 233, 799). He succeeded in gaining nearly all who were engaged in preaching for the Albigensian crusade as preachers for the crusade in the East, and this greatly annoyed Simon of Montfort and his party (Peter of Vaux-Cernay, Recueil, xix. 82). Moreover, he offended the French as a nation, for after the battle of Bouvines, when John was still in Poitou, he acted as his ambassador, and joined the Earl of Chester in arranging a truce for five years between him and the French king, when Philip, it was said, might easily have destroyed his enemy, and though he pretended that he made peace in order to remove any hindrance to the crusade, it was generally held that he acted as ‘one Englishman for another’ (Alberic Trium-Fontium, Recueil, xviii. 783; Peter of Vaux-Cernay). He also incurred a rebuke from Innocent for interfering in the affairs of the convent of Grammont, and taking the part of the lay brethren against the prior and clergy (Recueil, xix. 593).

The renewed energy with which the Albigensian war was conducted after the victory of Muret, and the interest that the pope took in its progress, caused Robert to suspend his labours on behalf of the Holy Land, to preach the crusade against the heretics of Toulouse, and to take the cross himself. His zeal in the cause became notorious, and he is said to have invented new names for the heretics, calling them ‘Almericani’ and ‘Godini,’ after two of their principal teachers (Chron. Mailros, p. 183). He marched with the army of Guy of Montfort, and Marcillac in Le Rouergue surrendered to him as the papal representative. There seven persons who were brought before him for trial confessed their heretical opinions, and the crusaders burnt them ‘with exceeding joy;’ he was evidently no merciful judge in such cases (Peter of Vaux-Cernay, comp. Paris, iv. 270). He summoned and was present at, though another cardinal actually presided over, the council held at Montpellier, 8 Jan. 1215, in which all the states of the Count of Toulouse were handed over to Simon of Montfort. About this time he arranged a settlement of the dispute between the chancellor and the university of Paris, and made some regulations as to the government of the university (Du Boulay). In this year he held a council of the Gallican church at Bourges. Here, however, his offences against the clergy caused a revolt against his authority, and he was accused of wantonly annoying the bishops and infringing on the rights of chapters. The bishops appealed against him, his council came to nought, and Innocent, having heard the appeal in a council at Rome, sent him a sharp reproof (Robert of Auxerre, Recueil, xviii. 283; Coggeshale, p. 170). He continued to exercise the office of legate, and in 1216 the people of Cahors were in some trouble for shutting their gates against him. In 1218 the Count of Nevers, who was then at Genoa with a large body of crusaders bound for the siege of Damietta, wrote to Honorius III asking that a legate might accompany them. Honorius sent them Robert, not as legate, for he had already appointed Pelayo, bishop of Albano, as his representative, but that he might preach to them. He sailed with Pelayo and other crusaders in August, arrived at Damietta, and died there (Gesta Dei, p. 1134). The works attributed to him are ‘Summa Theologiæ,’ ‘De Salvatione Origenis,’ ‘Lecturæ Solennes’ (Bale), ‘De Septem septenis’ (Pits), and ‘Distinctiones’ (Tanner). His name appears under many forms besides those at the head of this article.

[The letters of Innocent III and Honorius III will be found in Bouquet's Recueil des Historiens, t. xix.; Guillelmus Armoricus de Gestis Philippi in t. xvii., Chron. Bernardi, mon. S. Martialis Lemovicencis, Chronologia Roberti Altissiodorensis, and Chron. Alberici, mon. Trium-Fontium in t. xviii., Petri, Vallium Sarnaii mon., Hist. Albigensium, in t. xix. of the same collection; Raynaldi Ann. Eccles. xx. 331; Labbe's Conciliorum S. Collectio, xxii. 818–43; D'Achery's Spicilegium, iii. 577; Du Boulay's Historia Universitatis Paris., iii. 81; Fell's Chron. de Mailros, i. 183; Roger of Wendover, iv. 43, Eng. Hist. Soc.; Matthew Paris, iv. 270, v. 404, Rolls Ser.; Ralph of Coggeshale, p. 170, Rolls Ser.; Ann. de Dunstaplia, Ann. Monast. iii. 55, Rolls Ser.; Jacobi de Vitriaco, Hist. Orient, ap. Gesta Dei per Francos, p. 1134; Bernardi Thesaurar. De Acquisitione Terræ Sanctæ, Muratori, vii. col. 829; Bale's Scriptt. Brit. Cat. cent. iii. 79; Pits, De Scriptoribus, p. 292; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. p. 213.]

W. H.