Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 47.djvu/218

There was a problem when proofreading this page.


of Chichester, and he also had a brother named Hugh, a canon of Séez (Gallia Christiana, xi. 719). Having served some of the lower offices of the convent, Ralph was made prior, and in 1089 was elected the second abbot of the house at Séez which had been founded by Roger of Montgomery, afterwards earl of Shrewsbury [q. v.] Roger showed his satisfaction at the election by gifts to the house, for the new abbot was generally liked, being a man of cheerful temper as well as of high character. He ruled the convent diligently in the midst of civil commotions which, along perhaps with the disputes of his later life, may have caused him to be called ‘de Turbine’ (Brompton, cols. 1004, 1014). It is said of Ralph, ‘inter sævos belli turbines strenue rexit’ (Ord. Vit. p. 678). He was consecrated by Girard, bishop of Séez, and that year came to England, probably to see his intimate friend Gundulf [q. v.], bishop of Rochester (Monasticon, i. 175). When in 1094 Robert of Bellême [q. v.] took the castle of St. Cenery, he and his monks carried off the arm of St. Cenery and placed it in their church (Ord. Vit. p. 706). In 1098 he and his convent received from Arnulf, fourth son of Earl Roger, the founder, a grant of the church of St. Nicholas at Pembroke, with twenty carucates of land. He assisted at the dedication of the church of St. Evroul in 1099 (Ord. Vit. pp. 776–7), and is said to have been at Gloucester about the time of the dedication of St. Peter's in July (Gallia Christiana, u.s.) It is improbable that he was at Shrewsbury in 1102, as stated by William of Malmesbury (Gesta Regum, v. c. 396; cf. Freeman, William Rufus, ii. 430, n. 3). Robert of Bellême had greatly oppressed the churches of Séez, demanding from the abbot an oath of allegiance and homage, and Ralph was forced in 1100 by his violence to flee to England, where he was welcomed by the king. Nor did he venture to return to Normandy, but remained in England, staying at various monasteries, where he was heartily welcomed (Ord. Vit. pp. 678, 707; Gesta Pontificum, p. 127). In 1104 he visited Durham, where he superintended the translation and exhibition of the body of St. Cuthbert [q. v.] He was much with his friends Anselm, with whom he had been intimate for many years (cf. Anselm. Epp. iii. 23), and Gundulf, and when Gundulf fell sick in 1108 hastened to him. After the two friends had bidden each other farewell, and Ralph had reached the door of the room, the dying bishop called him back, and placed his episcopal ring on his finger. Ralph remonstrated, saying that he was a monk, though not then living as one, and that a ring did not beseem one of his order. Gundulf, however, bade him keep it, saying that he would need it. After Gundulf's death on 7 March, Anselm, with the approval of all, appointed Ralph to the see, and consecrated him at Canterbury on 9 Aug., so he then understood the meaning of Gundulf's gift (Eadmer, Vita Gundulphi, Opp. ii. 833–5). Anselm, with the approval of a council of bishops, sent Ralph, with the bishop of London, to meet Thomas (d. 1114) [q. v.], archbishop-elect of York, and persuade him to go to Canterbury for consecration, and make a profession of obedience to that see. Thomas met them at Southwell, but refused to comply with their request. On the death of Anselm on 21 April 1109, Ralph, as bishop of Rochester, became administrator of the diocese of Canterbury, and filled that post with diligence and care for the dignity of the church, consecrating churches on the estates of the see, in whatever diocese they were, on his own authority. He attended the council that Henry held at London at Whitsuntide, and joined the other bishops of the southern province in determining to resist at all cost any attempt to override the decision of the late archbishop with regard to the York pretensions; and, Thomas having yielded to the king's command, Ralph assisted at his consecration in St. Paul's on 17 July.

In April 1114 Ralph received a summons from the king to attend a council at Windsor, held to consult on the appointment of an archbishop of Canterbury, the see having been vacant since Anselm's death, and to bring with him the prior and some of the monks of Christ Church. On their way he and his party were told that Faricius [q. v.], abbot of Abingdon, was to be the new archbishop, and they were pleased at the prospect. At Windsor they found that Faricius had been summoned by the king, and that his election was regarded as certain. The bishops and some of the magnates, however, objected to the choice of a monk, while the monks and others declared that none but a monk ought to hold the office. Finally the bishops proposed Ralph; the proposal was evidently a compromise; though Ralph was a monk, he had been driven from his abbey, and had to some extent at least ceased to live the monastic life, and he was generally popular. The king, who had been in favour of Faricius, changed his mind, and Ralph was unanimously elected on 26 April, and was enthroned at Canterbury on 17 May 1114 (Eadmer, Historia Novella, ii. 489–90; cf. Historia de Abingdon, ii. 147–9). He deposed some officers who had been in power at Canterbury, and appointed others of his own