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LAW IN MOTION: THE COMPLAINTS AGAINST ARCHBISHOP GEOFFREY OF YORK, 1 194-1202

Some of the protagonists described above also played roles in the first case, involving Henry II’s ‘formidable bastard’, Geoffrey of York, Archbishop of York 1189— 1212.34 Gerald of Wales would write a biography of Geoffrey. Hubert Walter would be Geoffrey’s sometime opponent, and metropolitan rival. Hugh of Avalon would be called on by Celestine III to judge Geoffrey. The story of Geoffrey’s struggle with the canons of York Minster has been told before, but, as elsewhere, my focus is on the political thinking in the legal-administrative process.35 In order to draw out their interest it is worth describing the inquiries in some detail.

Geoffrey provoked strong feelings.36 Gervase of Canterbury described him as an ‘illiterate youth, stammering and stuttering [. . .] known to all as someone who plotted about everything proudly and impiously’.37 It seems quite likely that Geoffrey’s reluctance to be ordained a priest was a function of his hope that he might yet be king.38 His father had memorably said he was the only one of his sons who was not a bastard.39 Not all of Geoffrey’s chapter felt like that and it would be Geoffrey’s relationship with his chapter that lay at the heart of the inquisitions. In 1193 canon Henry Marshal, younger brother of William Marshal, was promoted to Bishop of Exeter. He had had a very poor relationship with Geoffrey, but replacing him fostered still worse bad blood between archbishop and chapter.40 Geoffrey’s rejection of the chapter’s candidate for dean—the Italian canonist Simon of Apulia—prompted quando addressed to the Bishop of Vercelli and the Abbot of Tiglieto (X 5.1.17; 3 Comp. 5.1.4; Reg. Inn. III, viii. #201 (200); Potthast #2672). See also Ut famae tuae, 10 December 1203 (X 5.39.35; 3 Comp. 5.21.8; Reg. Inn. III, vi. #181 (183); Potthast #2038).

  • 34 Decima L. Douie’s phrase: Archbishop Geoffrey Plantagenet and the Chapter of York, Borthwick Institute of Historical Research 18 (York, 1960), 3.
  • 35 Marie Lovatts work is essential for a study of Geoffrey: York, 1189—1212, EEA 27 (Oxford, 2004), introduction, esp. xlii—l; Lovatt, ‘Geoffrey (1151?—1212), Archbishop of York’, ODNB.
  • 36 Gerald of Wales, De vita Gafridi archiepiscopi Eboracensis, in Giraldi Cambrensis Opera, iv., ed. Brewer, e.g. 374—83, 387—96; Gesta regis Henrici secundi Benedicti abbatis [Roger of Howden], ed. William Stubbs, RS, 2 vols. (London, 1867), ii. 91, 100.
  • 37 The Historical Works of Gervase of Canterbury, ed. William Stubbs, RS, 2 vols. (1879—80), i. 520.
  • 38 John Gillingham, Richard I (New Haven, Conn., 1999), 109—10.
  • 39 Gerald of Wales, Vita Gafridi in Giraldi Cambrensis Opera, iv. 368; Douie, Archbishop Geoffrey Plantagenet, 4—8.
  • York, 1189—1212, EEA 27, xxxvii—xviii, xliv.

them to appeal to King Richard and Celestine III.[1] The disruption of services by some canons led in January 1194 to Geoffrey removing the offending officers. A group of York canons, with Robert, Abbot of St Mary’s York, Roger of Selby, and eleven Premonstratensian canons ‘at once proceeded to the diffamation [ad diffama- tionem] and accusation [accusationem]’ of Geoffrey arguing that he was a

violent despoiler of his own and other clerics’ goods, a wicked extortioner, that he broke down church doors with force, distributed and kept ecclesiastical benefices simoniacally, would not concede appeals, despised the privileges of the Roman Church [. . .] they claimed he was a man who despised the office [officium] of every bishop, a man given up to hawking and hunting and other military concerns. And for these, and other reasons, they sought to depose [deponere] him.[2]

The consequence of the complaint was a papal letter of 8 June 1194 (‘Mediator Dei et’) ordering the Bishop of Lincoln, Hugh of Avalon, the Archdeacon of Northampton, and the Prior of Pontefract to conduct an inquisition.[3] The chronicler Roger of Howden, our source and well-appraised because of his Yorkshire prebend, describes another simultaneous, secular inquiry. At the same time as they complained to the Pope, the York canons also complained to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Hubert Walter, and then Richard’s Justiciar. Walter, ‘with the King’s authority, on which he acted’, sent seven senior barons, including Roger Bigod, William of Warenne, and William of Stuteville to

hear the dispute between the Archbishop of York and his canons, and resolve it as the law would determine. When the [barons] came and heard the canons’ appeal and the responses of the Archbishop and his men, they ordered the Archbishop’s men who had been accused of robbery to be seized and imprisoned. And although the Archbishop guaranteed their actions, the Archbishop could not however pledge them.[4]

Finding, as Celestine would, that Geoffrey was reluctant to appear before the judges, they disseized him of all but one manor at Ripon.[5] By the end of summer 1194 then, there were two enquiries into Geoffrey of York. One was ecclesiastical. The other, although initiated by a justiciar who was also the Archbishop of Canterbury, was secular, and shortly behind it followed a general judicial tour (eyre) of England by the justices.

On 15 January 1195 the papal judges arrived in York, attempting to cite Geoffrey, found he was en route to Rome, heard the complaints anyway, and totalled over 1,000 marks worth of damages against him.[6] Discussing the canonical inquiry, Howden talked about ‘accusation’; the canons’ desire for punishment speaks to this too. ‘Mediator Dei et’ itself is somewhat more equivocal, since it appears to blend parts of an accusatorial procedure with aspects stressing inquiry on the basis of public rumour and the need to avoid damage to the body ecclesiastic. It begins with language Innocent III would have been proud of, stressing Christ’s particular reservation to Rome of disciplinary and corrective powers in relation to excessus through plenitude of power.[7] (The problematic parallel letter of 8 June, ‘Quanto venerabilis frater’ speaks of the need for bishops to minister to, not lord it over, subjects.) Celestine seems careful not to describe what has happened as an accusa- tio. Committing the case to Hugh of Avalon and the others, Celestine spoke of the ‘report’ (insinuatio) he had received from the chapter, which ‘appears to show by manifest testimony’ the charges laid against Geoffrey.[8] Further, having recapitulated in great detail the charges against Geoffrey, Celestine laid out his commission to the two Hughs:

so, if [Geoffrey] lives like this, and his conduct has been like this for a long time, it should be feared that he is a stone of horror and a rock of scandal [scandalipetra] to the flock entrusted to him, rather than an example of enlightenment, or a comfort or guardian against spiritual worthlessness. Therefore, because what has been set out demands the attention [sollicitudinem] of an enquiry, we have been led to commit the inquisition of these things to your discretion, in which we have complete confidence.[9]

The prelate-judges were to go to York and call the Church together and ‘inquire more carefully whether he treated the Church and Province of York so damagingly and perniciously [tam inutiliter et perniciose]’.50 However Celestine does seem to allow for the procedure to indeed become accusatorial, since he envisages two alternatives. In one, legitimi accusatores will appear. In the other,

if there are inadequate accusers [accusatores defecerint]?1 and the public outcry [fama pub- lica] is against him, you will proclaim, on our authority, with the obstacle of appeal removed, his purgation by three bishops, and the same number of abbots. In the event that he fails in this, you will have him present himself in person to the Pope, suspended from archiepiscopal office and administration, so that he may be here instructed more fully through the Lord Founder how he and his peers should minister in the house of God.[10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]

That is, Celestine sketches how the investigation could become accusatorial (always formally clear), but should that fail he also allows how it can proceed further on the basis of fama publica.5 Even if the York canons intended an accusatorial process from the outset (and Howden might not be technically right about that), Celestine seems to have reframed the process. At the same time Celestine set limits, since Geoffrey could purge himself. The purgative penalty at this point might be compared to that within the different proceedings per notorium (where open notoriety was the trigger for proceedings).54 Here purgation was required if unprovable allegations against clerics risked popular scandal.

It is tricky to be sure of what is going on here partly because one wishes to make sense of it through later guidelines which were not yet stable, and partly because what is going on procedurally (the modus) appears to evolve en route. Still, the initiation of proceedings into Geoffrey’s conduct illustrates the pooling of several deep streams in canonical practice: the question of accusation, delegated inquisitions, canonical purgation, clerical delict as excessus, action by fama publica, and a very ‘inquisitorial’- looking result. At different points the case seems capable of developing in different ways but the central elements of Qualiter et quando are visible: inquiring ex officio at the demand of reliable infamia in order to avoid scandalum to the church—a more serious technical term than fama publica?5 Celestine’s later recapitulation (23 December 1195) of his initial reasons for ordering the inquisition gives a clearer picture. In this letter Celestine stresses that the 1194 inquisition was into whether there was a fama about Geoffrey, not whether he had actually done these things. Those rumours had circulated not once but often. They came not only from those at the church of York, but ‘from other prelates in the kingdom of England, and also those placed in the province of York’. That is, implicitly, they came from those lacking York Minster’s active interest in the case.

This retelling seems at variance with what we ostensibly know about the case’s origins. Howden says that it originated with those who had a definite ‘interest’. In contrast to Howden’s suggestion that York Minster’s aim was deposition, Celestine says in 1195 that the canons’ motive was ‘to deter [deterrere] [Geoffrey] from his excesses [excessibus] and to recall him to the due pursuit of his pastoral office’.[16] It was corrective and implicitly therefore not malicious. (Deposition by contrast was the aim of accusation.)[17] In 1194 Celestine is not clear that the inquisition is only into whether there are nasty stories in circulation, implying actually that it was also into their substantive truth.[18] [19] In 1195 he is clearer that it was just an inquisitionem famae.59 The ambiguity between these two letters shows us the papacy and perhaps the canons at York trying to get their modus straight.

Geoffrey anyway prevaricated and missed the 1 June 1195 deadline for appearing at Rome, and the revised one of 18 November.[20] Probably petitioned to suspend Geoffrey in relation to the papal letters’ original delegated powers, Hugh declined to suspend Geoffrey ‘preferring to be suspended myself than suspend him’.[21] (One compares Hugh’s later self-criticism to Hubert Walter.) On 23 December 1195, Celestine enforced the suspension himself. In 1196 Geoffrey did eventually appear before the Curia in Rome and ‘repeatedly claimed all the charges were false’. His opponents, ‘having been asked whether they could prove their claims, after a pause had been asked for and granted, [. . .] replied that they did not want to bear the burden of proof [onusprobationis]’. So the Archbishop showed himself to be sufficiently immune to the allegations.[22] Celestine restored Geoffrey, declaring that ‘everything that his adversaries had rumoured about him was false and fictitious’ [falsa et ficti- tia].63 There was, however, another inquisition into Geoffrey yet to come.

At the end of May or start of June 1202, a weary Innocent III wrote to Bishop Eustace of Ely, Roger Dean of Lincoln, and the Archdeacon of Bedford that ‘the variety of quarrels and the frequency of the complaints regularly put forward before us against our venerable brother Geoffrey of York are exceptionally tiring to hear’.[23] This time the chapter seems to have tried a slightly different legal tack, one that they could do because they had (evidently) rebuked Geoffrey so often in the interim. So the three judges-delegate were to carry out another investigation, formally per denunciationem. Geoffrey, although ‘he has often been reprimanded and corrected, so that he could improve his behaviour for the better, neither accepts the warnings, as he ought, nor the corrections’. This was even though he had been ‘carefully admonished’, ‘like a father by sons’, by the Dean and Chapter of York, neighbouring bishops, and other religious men, ‘so that he should have ceased from unduly harassing them, and borne himself towards them and his other subjects like a kind shepherd’. Geoffrey ‘should have corrected his own excesses’. Precisely ‘because of this his effect on those people is so much worse, like someone who constantly glories in molesting such people’. The Pope did not wish that ‘these and other things which have often been denounced [denuntiata] before us should go on out of neglect any more’ and so ordered Eustace and his companions to go and investigate. They were

to go to the church of York, having summoned abbots, priors, and other, proper persons of whatever order, and, with the Archbishop present, if he wishes, and—if he can— defending himself, under penalty of excommunication, and without appeal, you may charge these people as necessary that they should bring forward the testimony of the truth—on which the same Archbishop has already received an admonition from the said dean and chapter— and you will receive the witnesses which they shall produce to prove those things in which they say the Archbishop himself has committed excesses in [excessisse]; inquiring [inquirentes] through them and also the common report [famam communem] whether the Archbishop himself is competent [utilis] and able [sufficient] to the exalted role of episcopal governance [regimen]. . .[24]

The judges were also to investigate any allegations of Geoffrey against the chapter, and then to send a report of everything to Innocent, setting a time for them all to appear at the Curia before him. The trail runs cold here, however. Innocent’s letters include a string of further complaints about Geoffrey (often about his evasiveness in instituting postulated clerics to benefices), but how this investigation died, or was abandoned, is not known.[25] By April 1204, Archbishop and chapter were back at it, with Innocent audibly weary, once more, at their disputes, and Eustace, once more, in charge of their resolution.67 Geoffrey lived to continue wrangling with his half-brother the King, until his death in Norman exile in 1212.68

  • [1] Howden, Chronica, ii. 229—30. On Simon as a canonist, S. Kuttner and E. Rathbone,Anglo-Norman Canonists of the Twelfth Century’, Traditio 7 (1949—51), 279—358 at 305—8; repr.with corrections in Kuttner’s Gratian and the Schools of Law 1140—1234 (London, 1983), #VIII.
  • [2] Howden, Chronica, iii. 230. Howden gives two accounts of these proceedings. The first (230—1)is under 1194, the second fuller account is given at the point when the commissioners arrived in York(15 January 1195) and includes Celestines 8 June 1194 letter of commission (Jaffe # 27882). On thecomplex chronology see Lovatt, York, 1189—1212, EEA 27, xlv—xlviii.
  • [3] ‘Mediator Dei et’, in Howden, Chronica, iii. 279—81. Texts and chronology here are inconsistent. There is a second letter of 8 June 1194 (‘Quanto venerabilis frater’) also to Bishop of Lincoln andHugh ofAvalon together with the Archdeacon of Northampton and Prior of Pontefract, also instructing them to discipline Geoffrey at York, but distinct, and lacking the inquisitorial stress of ‘MediatorDei et’. See James Raine (ed.), The Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops, RS, 3 vols.(London, 1879—94), iii. #76 at 99—101. ‘Quanto venerabilis frater’ is given by these judges-delegatein their undated account of their investigation, which began, according to Howden, on 15 January1195 (Chronica, iii. 278). Perhaps the concurrent letters of 8 June reflect the Curia’s indecision abouthow to proceed. On the chronology see further York, 1189—1212, EEA 27, xlvii n. 100. On 31 May1194 Celestine had ordered a different trio of judges (but ones also from Lincoln and Northampton)to evaluate damages alleged by Geoffrey, eventually assessed at 1,000 marks (Howden in Chronica, iii.285—6). This is less than, but of a comparable order with, the damages assessed by Hugh of Lincoln in 1195.
  • [4] Howden, Chronica, iii. 261—2.
  • [5] Historical Works of Gervase of Canterbury, i. 528, says Geoffrey’s estates were confiscated inAugust at Richard’s command for a debt of over 1,000 marks.
  • [6] 46 Historians of the Church of York and its Archbishops, iii. 101—4.
  • [7] 47 On excessus see Bruno Lemesle, ‘Corriger les exces. L’extension des infractions, des delits et descrimes, et les transformations de la procedure inquisitoire dans les lettres pontificates (milieu du XIIesiecle-fin du pontificat d’Innocent III)’, Revue historique 313 (2011), 747—79.
  • [8] 48 Howden, Chronica, iii. 279—81, 8 June 1194. Under ‘simony’, X 5.3.28 (2 Comp. 5.2.10; Jaffe#17634), a letter of Celestine’s, ‘Dilectus filius noster’, is likewise addressed and concerns the prepositusR who, in one manuscript tradition, offered ‘our venerable brother G. Archbishop of York’ money ifhe would cease from troubling him, but who, having received the money did not cease from troublingR. Friedberg preferred an alternative reading of ‘archdeacon’ for ‘archbishop’. Stubbs had earlier connected this letter with the case analysed here (Howden, Chronica, iii. 279 n. 1) but gives an incorrect reference to it. A reading of ‘archbishop’ seems consonant with the material described here. ForAvalon’s acta, Lincoln, 1186—1206, ed. David M. Smith, EEA 4 (Oxford, 1986), #214A—C.
  • [9] Howden, Chronica, iii. 280—1; for the rock see 1 Peter 2: 8, an interesting citation given thatchapter’s wider stress on self-subjugation to instituted authorities.
  • [10] Howden, Chronica, iii. 281.
  • [11] The Latin seems to allow they might be inadequate both in numbers and in quality.
  • [12] Howden, Chronica, iii. 281, my stress. On canonical purgation see R. H. Helmholz, The lusCommune in England: Four Studies (Oxford, 2001), ch. 2.
  • [13] Cf. X 5.3.31 (Licet Heli summus) where Innocent III in 1199 allowed for a process initiated bydenunciation to proceed even if the denunciation was formally quashed.
  • [14] 54 Tua nos duxit, 11 May 1199 (X 3.2.8). Friedbergs attribution of this decretal Exonensi episcopo(who would have been Richard Marshal, Geoffrey’s former dean), is incorrect. See Reg. Inn. HI, ii.#62 (65). See also Brundage, Medieval Canon Law, 144—7; Kery, Lnquisitio—denunciatio—exceptio ,261-6.
  • [15] See Richard Helmholz, ‘Scandalum in the Medieval Canon Law and in the English EcclesiasticalCourts’, ZRG Kan. Abt. 127 (2010), 258-74, at 260, and 266 n. 33 noting how scandalum and famapublica came together in inquisitorial practice.
  • [16] Howden, Chronica, iii. 314 (to the judges), cf. the similar phrase to Geoffrey in the letter thesame day (310).
  • [17] 57 See the slightly later 1203 Super his de (X 5.1.16) and the 1211 Inquisitionis negotium quam (X5.1.21; PL 216, cols. 715—17, ep. #191 for Innocent’s 15th year). The idea that inquisitions could notentail punishment was now modified, especially in relation to serious crimes (e.g. simony, homicide).See further, Kery, ‘Inquisitio—denunciatio—exceptio 255.
  • [18] 58 Howden, Chronica, iii. 281, ‘diligentius inquiratis, utrum Eboracensem ecclesiam et provinciamtam inutiliter et perniciose tractaverit’.
  • [19] 59 See the two 23 December 1195 letters in Howden, Chronica, iii. 310 (non statim formavimus judicium contra eum, sed inquisitionem famae [. . .] duximus committendam), 312—13 (auditis excessibus[. . .] destitimus laborare), 314 (inquisitio famae; ‘inquireretis veritatem’ is also used, but of the truth ofthe jama). Cf. Lemesle, ‘Corriger les exces’, 772; Massimo Vallerani, Medieval Public Justice, trans. SarahRubin Blanshei, Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Canon Law 9 (Washington, 2012), 101—3.
  • [20] 6° Howden, Chronica, iii.. 231, 282.
  • [21] 61 Howden, Chronica, iii. 306; York, 1189—1212, EEA 27, xlviii n. 107.
  • [22] Howden, Chronica, iv. 7. 63 Howden, Chronica, iv. 7.
  • [23] ‘Querelarum diversitas et’, Reg. Inn. III, v. #57 (59), (= Potthast #1686; Innocent III EnglishCalendar, #414). Geoffrey had most recently been rebuked in 1201 regarding Master Honorius andhis archdeaconry at Richmond (Innocent III English Calendar, ##283, 303—5) and a 1202 investigation into Guisborough Priory had been ordered (#392). Cf. Hirtes analysis of ‘Querelarum diversitaset’ as denunciatory procedure, PapstInnozenz III, 91—3, 96, 98—9, 103—4, 182.
  • [24] This and previous quotes Reg. Inn. III, v. #57 (59) (‘Querelarum diversitas et’).
  • [25] This is quite common. See Thery, ‘«Exces» et «affaires d’enquete»’, i. 520. There are lettersinvolving Geoffrey from Innocent regarding institutions at Durham on 13 December 1202 and 5January 1203 (Innocent III English Calendar, ##499 and see 591, 759). Geoffrey’s movements fromlate 1201 to February 1204 are difficult to pin down. See York, 1189—1212, EEA 27, App. II. Thecomplaint to Innocent about the former legate John of Salerno, written for Geoffrey by Peter of Blois(York, 1189—1212, EEA 27 #29), is datable to early 1203-March 1204, and implies Geoffrey was atRipon at Christmas in either of those years. It betrays no presumption of an ongoing investigation.In May 1203 Geoffrey was asked to guarantee Bernard, former Archbishop of Ragusa as the titular
 
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