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OSBERN or OSBERT (d. 1103), bishop of Exeter and chancellor, was son of Osbern the seneschal, who was guardian of Normandy for the future Conqueror. He was thus brother of William Fitzosbern, the earl of Hereford [q. v.], and a kinsman of Edward the Confessor (Will. Malm. Gesta Pontificum, p. 201). He came to England during the reign of Edward, and was one of the king's chaplains, and held land at Stratton, Cornwall, at the time of Edward's death (Domesday, iv. 216). As a royal chaplain he was present at the dedication of Westminster Abbey on 28 Dec. 1065, and after the conquest witnessed a charter to St. Martin's, London, in 1068, as ‘Osbernus Capellanus’ (Mon. Angl. vi. 1325). A little later he seems to have become the king's chancellor, but the only authority for Osbern in this capacity is a charter to St. Augustine, Canterbury, which is attested by ‘signum Osberti Cancellarii.’ This Osbert is no doubt the future bishop, whose name appears both as Osbern and Osbert (cf. Domesday, iv. 8, 61; Mon. Angl. iv. 16, 17). Osbern probably resigned the chancellorship on his nomination to the bishopric of Exeter. He was consecrated at St. Paul's, London, on 28 March 1072, by Lanfranc. As bishop of Exeter he was present at the councils held at Windsor in 1072 and London in 1075 (Wilkins, Concilia, i. 325, 364). He had some dispute with the monks of St. Nicholas, Exeter, but was afterwards reconciled to them, and became one of their benefactors (ib. i. 378; Oliver, Monasticon, p. 113). William of Malmesbury says that Osbern followed the English in choice of food and in other respects, and preferred English to Norman customs. ‘After the manner of ancient prelates, he was content with old buildings,’ so that the earliest work at Exeter dates from the time of his successor. He was liberal in mind and chaste in deed. Osbern was blind for some years before his death; William of Warelwast, who eventually succeeded him, endeavoured to have him deprived of his bishopric on this score; but Osbern died before the scheme could take effect in the latter part of 1103.

[William of Malmesbury's Gesta Pontificum, (Rolls Ser.), pp. 201–2; Freeman's Norman Conquest, iv. 378; Oliver's Bishops of Exeter, pp. 11–14, and Monasticon; Foss's Judges of England, i. 43; Dugdale's Mon. Angl. i. 144, iii. 141, iv. 16, 17, vi. 1325.]

C. L. K.