Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fitzneale, Richard

1150577Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19 — Fitzneale, Richard1889Edmund Venables

FITZNEALE or FITZNIGEL, RICHARD, otherwise Richard of Ely (d. 1198), bishop of London, was the son—legitimate, if he were born before his father was in holy orders—of Nigel, bishop of Ely, treasurer of the kingdom, the nephew of the mighty Roger, bishop of Salisbury, chancellor and justiciar of Henry I. He received his education in the monastery of Ely, where he acquired the reputation of ‘a very quick-witted and wise youth’ (Hist. Eliens.; Wharton, Anglia Sacra, i. 627), and laid the foundations of wide and accurate learning and literary power. He belonged to a family which for nearly a century and a half held a leading place in the royal household and in the legal and financial administration of the kingdom. The year of his birth is not recorded, but he must have been still young when in 1169 his father, the bishop of Ely, purchased for him for a hundred marks the treasurership which he had long filled himself. The flourishing condition of the treasury on Henry's death proved the excellence of his administration, more than a hundred thousand marks being found in the royal coffers, in spite of Henry's continued and costly wars. He had been appointed archdeacon of Ely by his father before 1169, became justice itinerant in 1179, and held the prebendal stall of Cantlers in St. Paul's Cathedral. In 1184 we find him dean of Lincoln, and in 1186 the chapter elected him bishop of that see, the election, however, being annulled by Henry II, who had resolved that one of the holiest and wisest men of his day, Hugh, prior of Witham, should fill the office, and compelled Fitzneale and his canons to elect the royal nominee (Benedict. Abbas, i. 345). On the death of Gilbert Foliot [q. v.], he was appointed to the see of London shortly before the king's death in 1189. The canons of St. Paul's were summoned to Normandy to elect the king's nominee, but political troubles and domestic sorrows allowed Henry no time or thought for ecclesiastical affairs. The election was postponed from day to day, and was still pending on the king's death. Immediately after his accession Richard I held a great council at Pipewell on 5 Sept. 1189, the first act of which was to fill the five sees then vacant confirming his father's nomination of Fitzneale to the see of London (Matt. Paris, ii. 351), to which he was consecrated in the chapel at Lambeth by Archbishop Baldwin on 31 Dec., at the same time with Richard's chancellor, William Longchamp, to the see of Ely. His episcopate was nearly commensurate with the reign of Richard, and his career was on the whole as peaceful as that of his sovereign was warlike. The new king showed his value for Fitzneale's services as treasurer by continuing him in his office, which he held undisturbed till his death. Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, accompanying Richard to the Holy Land the same year, the newly consecrated bishop of London was appointed to act as his commissary during the primate's absence (Annals of Dunstaple, iii. 25). In this capacity a correspondence took place between Baldwin and Fitzneale in 1190 relative to the suspension of Hugh, bishop of Lichfield, who had illegally assumed the shrievalty, and his absolution on submission (Matt. Paris, ii. 358; Diceto, ii. 77, 78). In the bitter conflict between Longchamp and Prince John Fitzneale took an influential part, chiefly as a peacemaker, an office for which he was specially qualified, not only by his benignity and the sweetness of his address, but by his practical common sense and large experience. At the personal meeting between John and the chancellor, demanded by the latter to settle the points in dispute, held at Winchester on 25 April 1191, Fitzneale was one of the three episcopal arbitrators, and was put in charge of the castle of Bristol, one of the strongholds nominally surrendered by John. He was present also at the second assembly held at Winchester, and took part in the new settlement then attempted (Hoveden, iii. 135, 136; Ric. Devizes, pp. 26, 32, 33). When Geoffrey Plantagenet, the natural son of Henry II, recently appointed by Richard to the see of York, on his landing at Dover on 14 Sept., had been violently dragged from the altar of St. Martin's priory by the men-at-arms of Richenda, the wife of the constable of Dover Castle, Longchamp's sister, and committed to prison, the protests of Fitzneale against so impious an act were only second in influence to those of the sainted Hugh of Lincoln in obtaining the release of the archbishop-elect, for which Fitzneale pledged his bishopric to the chancellor. On his arriving in London he afforded him a reception suitable to his dignity at St. Paul's, and entertained him magnificently at his palace (Diceto, ii. 97; Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. ii. 372; Hist. Angl. ii. 22).

When Longchamp was summoned by John to give an account of his conduct before him and the justiciars at London Bridge, between Reading and Windsor, on 5 Oct., Fitzneale gave the chancellor security for his safety, and on his non-appearance took a leading part in the discussion of the complaints against his administration, and joined in the solemn excommunication in Reading parish church of all concerned in Archbishop Geoffrey's seizure and imprisonment (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. p. 380; Diceto, ii. 98). On 8 Oct. he took the oath of fealty to King Richard in St. Paul's, together with the bishops and barons, ‘salvo ordine suo.’ He was present at the deposition of Longchamp from his secular authority on 10 Oct. (Hoveden, iii. 145, 193). Perhaps as a gracious act of courtesy, perhaps as a measure of policy, we find him at this period making a present to Prince John of a wonderful hawk which had caught a pike swimming in the water, and the fish itself (Matt. Paris, Chron. Maj. ii. 383; Diceto, ii. 102). We find him also at the same time giving the benediction to the Abbot of Westminster at the high altar of St. Paul's (Diceto, ii. 101), and in 1195 to John de Cella, on his appointment as abbot of St. Albans (Matt. Paris, ii. 411), and, not forgetful of the privileges of his order, posting down to Canterbury in company with one of the justiciars to protect the rights of himself and his brother bishops in the matter of the election to the vacant primatial see. He summoned the whole episcopal body to meet him in London to decide the matter, and on the monks of Canterbury anticipating their action by the election of Fitzjocelin of Bath, he, in the name of the bishops, despatched an appeal to the pope (DICETO, ii. 103). In December 1192 he appears in controversy with his former friend, Archbishop Geoffrey, who had ventured to carry his cross erect in his portion of the province of Canterbury. The archbishop was visited with excommunication, and the New Temple, in which he was lodged and where the offence took place, was suspended from divine service (Hoveden, iii. 187). In 1193 he was one of the treasurers of Richard's ransom (ib. p. 212), and the following year joined in the sentence of excommunication passed on John for open rebellion against his royal brother in the infirmary chapel at Westminster Abbey (ib. p. 237). He was also present at Richard's coronation at Winchester on 17 April 1194, which succeeded his return from his Austrian captivity (ib. p. 247), and in 1197, when Richard endeavoured to enforce the rendering of military service for his continental wars on the English bishops, a demand thwarted by the bold independence of Hugh of Lincoln, Fitzneale followed Archbishop Hubert, by whom the illegal measure was proposed, in declaring his readiness as a loyal subject to take his share of the burden (Gerv. Cant. i. 549; Mag. Vit. S. Hugonis, pp. 249, 250). Fitzneale died six months before, on 10 Sept. 1198. Few prelates of his day are spoken of in more eulogistic terms by the contemporary chroniclers, and a review of the events of his life shows that the eulogy was not undeserved. The Winchester annalist describes him as ‘vir venerandæ et piissimæ recordationis et plurimæ scientiæ,’ most benign and most merciful, whose words distilled sweetness; ‘vir exactissimæ liberalitatis et munificentiæ,’ whose bounty was so profuse that all others in comparison with him appeared covetous, admitting all without distinction to his table, except those who were repelled by their own evil deeds (Annal. Winton. i. 70). It is, however, on his literary ability that Fitzneale's fame most deservedly rests. To him, ‘the first man of letters who occupied the episcopal throne of London’ (Milman, Annals of St. Paul's), we are almost certainly indebted for the two most valuable authorities for the financial and political history of the kingdom. In his preface to the work Madox has proved by unanswerable arguments that the ‘Dialogus de Scaccario,’ termed by Bishop Stubbs ‘that famous and inestimable treatise,’ on the principles and administration of the English exchequer, begun in 1176, but describing the system of the year 1178, was written by Fitzneale. Bishop Stubbs advanced but afterwards withdrew a theory that in the ‘Acts of King Henry and King Richard,’ which have long passed under the name of Benedict (d. 1193) [q. v.], abbot of Peterborough, we have really, though altered from its inconvenient tripartite form, the chronicle of the events of Fitzneale's own lifetime, begun in the days of his youth, of which the writer of the ‘Dialogue’ declares himself the author, which was designated ‘Tricolumnus,’ from its original division into three columns, containing the affairs respectively of church and state, and miscellaneous matters and judgments of the courts of law (Stubbs, Introduction to Benedictus Abbas, i. lvii–lx, and to Diceto, ii. xxxi). Fitzneale, distinguished among his contemporaries in the pursuits of literature, employed his high position for its advancement in others, exhibiting a large and liberal patronage towards students and men of letters. The celebrated Peter of Blois [see Peter] was appointed by him to the archdeaconry of London, and he assigned to the support of the school of his cathedral of St. Paul's the tithes of the episcopal manors of Fulham and Hornsey. Ralph de Diceto [q. v.], the distinguished chronicler, was dean of St. Paul's during the whole of the episcopate, and there can hardly fail to have been much sympathy between two men of such congenial tastes brought into such close official relations.

[Matt. Paris, Chron. Majora, vol. ii.; Hist. Angl. vol. ii. ll. cc.; Hoveden, vol. iii. ll. cc.; Diceto, vol. ii. ll. cc.; Richard of Devizes, ll. cc.; Annales Monastici, ll. cc.; Stubbs's Introd. to Benedictus Abbas; Wright's Historia Literaria, ii. 286–90; Miss Norgate's England under the Angevin Kings, ii. 279, 296–301, 305–10, 349, 439; Dugdale's St. Paul's, pp. 217, 258; Milman's Annals of St. Paul's.]

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