Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Eborard

EBORARD or EVERARD (1083?–1150), the second bishop of Norwich, whose whole career is involved in a mist of uncertainty, is called Eborard by Bartholomew Cotton and the French writers; all other English chroniclers call him Everard. Till recently it was believed without misgiving that he was the son of Roger, lord of Bellême, by Adela, daughter of Everard de Puiset; but even this has been questioned recently, and an able writer in ‘Notes and Queries’ has brought forward a very embarrassing array of facts and discrepancies which throw grave doubts upon the theory of his parentage, heretofore universally accepted as true and satisfactory. Something is to be set down to the poverty of our documentary evidence for the history of the times in which the bishop lived, but this is hardly enough to account for the entire absence of his name in Matthew Paris's longer or shorter history, and for the different dates which have been given for his death, variously assigned to 1146, 1149, and 1150, though it is certain that the last is the correct one.

All that we certainly know of Eborard is that he was archdeacon of Salisbury in 1121, at which time Eadmer describes him as ‘quidam de regis capella.’ Herbert Losinga, the first bishop of Norwich, died on 22 July 1119. Henry II was in Normandy, and seemed to show no sign of intending to fill the vacant see, which yet greatly needed a bishop. It was not till two years had elapsed that the king was prevailed upon by Bishop Roger of Salisbury to appoint a successor, and Eborard was at last nominated and consecrated at Canterbury on 12 July 1121. In the following October we find him at Lambeth, assisting at the consecration of Gregory, bishop of Dublin. In 1127 he took part in the council of Westminster, and again in 1129 his name appears among those of other bishops at the second council held to consider the necessity of enforcing celibacy upon the clergy. On 4 May 1130 he was present at the dedication of Christ Church, Canterbury, but we lose sight of him after this for six years, until we meet with him again among the bishops who attested the great charter issued by Stephen in the first year of his reign (STUBBS, Select Charters, 1870, p. 115). It must have been shortly after this that he was present at the general gift of lands by William de Warenne to the priory of Coxford in Norfolk, as appears by a charter reciting the fact, a copy of which is in the possession of the present writer. From this time we lose all trace of him for several years. When King Stephen broke with the bishops in 1139, and pursued his insane policy of aggression, the Bishop of Norwich seems to have retired from all active interest in the politics of the time, and when the king held his court at Whitsuntide in 1140 he did not attend. It seems as if he had ceased to be de facto bishop of Norwich about this time, although Cotton says he retired, and Henry of Huntingdon puts it that he was deposed some time in 1145. It can hardly have been so late as this if it be true, as is asserted by the French writers, that he began to build the church of the great abbey of Fontenay in the Côte d'Or in 1139. That church was consecrated with much pomp and ceremony on 22 Oct. 1147, and at the consecration it is recorded that Eborard was present. Shortly after this he assumed the habit of a Cistercian monk, and he died at Fontenay on 12 Oct. 1150.

There are some incidents in the life of this bishop, as related by the chroniclers, which are involved in the same uncertainty as everything else in his career. (i.) William of Malmesbury tells us that Eborard was archdeacon of Salisbury under Bishop Osmund, who died in 1099, and that he was miraculously cured of a severe illness by the relics of St. Aldhelm. Were there two Eborards archdeacons of Salisbury in succession, or was this early Eborard the same who afterwards became bishop of Norwich? (ii.) Henry of Huntingdon asserts that Eborard was deposed from his see for his great cruelty. The charge is supported by no other authority, and seems incredible, at least inexplicable. (iii.) It is said in the ‘Norwich Annals,’ referred to by Blomefield, that Eborard divided the archdeaconry of Suffolk into two archdeaconries, and gave one to his nephew, Walkelin. But if Walkelin was his nephew he was certainly not archdeacon of Suffolk, but of Norfolk, and in any case the names and the succession of the archdeacons in the East-Anglian diocese during the first half at least of the twelfth century are involved in so much obscurity and confusion that all attempts to explain the difficulties that meet us are baffled. (iv.) From some indications, to which Blomefield has attached perhaps too much importance, it has been assumed that the bishop was married, and left sons behind him. Even this must now be left a matter of some doubt, and the question remains an open one, probably never to be settled with certainty either one way or the other.

[Bartholomew Cotton's Hist. Angl. pp. 67, 392; Malmesbury's Gesta Pontiff. p. 429; Henry of Huntingdon, De Contemptu Mundi, p. 316; Walter of Coventry's Memor. i. 141, 148, 149, 152; Roger de Hoveden, i. 185; Eadmer's Hist. Novorum, p. 293; John of Oxenedes, p. 93; Rad. de Diceto, pref. p. xxvii (all the above in the Rolls Series); Notes and Queries, 4th ser. x. 27; Norfolk Arch. v. 41 et seq.; Corbolin's L'Abbaye de Fontenaye, p. 25, Citeaux, 1882; Blomefield's Topographical History of the County of Norfolk, iii. 473.]

A. J.