Bishops and deans: London and the province of Canterbury in the twelfth century


  • This article began long ago as a paper delivered at the A.G.M. of the Canterbury and York Society, then chaired by David Smith. With a different emphasis, it resurfaced in a talk to the Medieval History Seminar at All Souls College, Oxford, under the chairmanship of Chris Wickham and Mark Whittow. The author is grateful for the comments of members of both these audiences. He has gained much from discussions with John Whitehead of Oriel College, Oxford, and Nicholas Karn of the University of Southampton, who also offered generous encouragement. Geoff Nicholls of St. Peter's College, Oxford, helpfully discussed witness lists with him. However, the author's principal debt is to Christopher Brooke of Caius College, Cambridge. It will be evident that this article is merely a gloss on Professor Brooke's work on the council of London and, with Dom Adrian Morey, on Gilbert Foliot. To have had his typically generous comments on the author's writing, and the benefit of his careful scrutiny of it, has been invaluable.


The bishop of London had gained precedence over his fellow bishops by, at the latest, 1075. Drawing on chronicle and documentary sources, this article considers the wider role of the bishops of London within the province of Canterbury in a period extending roughly from the archiepiscopate of Lanfranc, when many of the foundations for subsequent developments were laid, to that of Baldwin of Forde, when disputes regarding London's position reached a new highpoint. In particular, the article focuses on the question of how far successive bishops of London transformed an apparent precedence of honour into a position of real authority.