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Friday, January 16, 2015

16 January 1127 A.D. Richard de Beaumis (I) Dies—53rd Bishop of London; Elected 24 May, 1108; Consecrated 26 July 1108; Died in Office

16 January 1127 A.D. Richard de Beaumis (I) Dies—53rd Bishop of London; Elected 24 May, 1108; Consecrated 26 July 1108; Died in Office

Richard de Beaumis (died 1127)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard de Beaumis
24 May 1108
Term ended
14 June 1108
26 July 1108
Personal details
probably 16 January 1127

Richard de Belmeis (or de Beaumais) (died 1127) was a medieval cleric, administrator and judge, probably of Shropshire origins, who became Bishop of London in 1108.



Richard's toponymic byname is given in modern accounts as de Belmeis. Occasionally the form de Beaumais is encountered. This is based on the modern spelling of the village from which they perhaps originated: Beaumais-sur-Dive, which is east ofFalaise, in the Calvados region of Normandy.[1] The attribution is now regarded as not fully proven.[2] It is made up of two very common French toponym elements, meaning “attractive estate”: there is a village called Aubermesnil-Beaumais elsewhere in Normandy.

Whatever the form of his name, Richard is easily confused with his namesake and nephew, Richard de Belmeis II, who was also a 12th-century Bishop of London. Tout believed that Richard I was surnamed Rufus,[3] which seems to be based on a further confusion. There certainly was a Richard Ruffus, but the name is now generally reserved for an Archdeacon of Essex a brother of Richard Belmeis II and thus another nephew of Richard Belmeis I.[4] A further, later, Richard Ruffus may have been a son of the archdeacon.[5] The family tree below attempts to clarify the relationships, which are still not beyond doubt.

Background and early life

Richard's background seems to lie in the lower reaches of the Norman landowning class. He is thought to be the Richard whom the Domesday enquiry found holding the very small manor of Meadowley, due west of Bridgnorth in Shropshire.[2][6]This he held as a tenant of Helgot, who held it of Roger Montgomery, the great territorial magnate who dominated the Welsh Marches. Meadowley was 6 ploughlands in extent and was populated by just five families: 3 slaves and 2 bordars.[7] However, there were evidently signs of revival in Richard's hands. In Edward the Confessor's time it had been worth 30 shillings, but it had sunk to only 2 shillings by the time Richard acquired it, since when it had risen again to 11 shillings. Richard also held three hides hides worth of land as a tenant of Helgot at Preen, to the north-west of Meadowley. Here he let a hide to Godebold, a priest who was a crony of Earl Roger.[8] Godebold at this time was much wealthier than Richard and held a large number of properties that had been intended as prebends of the collegiate church of St Alkmund in Shrewsbury.

Richard seems to have become steward of Earl Roger and appears as a witness in charters, both genuine and spurious, granted by Roger and his son, Hugh to Shrewsbury Abbey,[9] and in one is described as dapifer for Shropshire.[2] Richard also seems to have been employed in Sussex, where the Montgomery earls had substantial holdings.

Viceroy of Shropshire

Richard seems to have avoided entanglement in the revolt of Robert of Bellême, 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury and consequently emerged in Henry I's favour. Probably in autumn 1102, Henry ordered Richard, Robert of Falaise and all the barons of Sussex to secure for Ralph de Luffa, the Bishop of Chichester, lands near the town of Chichester.[10] It seems, therefore, that Richard was not in Shropshire at that time, but in Sussex. He was sent to Shrewsbury late in 1102, after Henry had dealt with Robert of Bellême's Welsh allies,[9] imprisoning Iorwerth ap Bleddyn, a powerful Welsh leader who had played a prominent but equivocal part in events. Henry continued to treat Shropshire as a marcher lordship but was determined not to install another earl who might threaten the monarchy.[11] At Christmas, Henry ordered Richard to help secure some land for the Abbey of Saint-Remi, which had a daughter house at Lapley Priory in Staffordshire and estates in Shropshire.[10] This indicates that he was fully in charge of Shropshire by the end of the year.

Henry allowed Richard to take effective control of the county as a royal agent. He was described by Ordericus Vitalis as thevicecomes or “viscount” of Shropshire,[12] a term sometimes translated as Viceroy.[3][13] It is possible that he was addressed on occasion as the Sheriff of Shropshire. He had a reputation as an expert on legal matters.[10][14] Hence he served as thejusticiar for the king at Shrewsbury, where his brief also included oversight of Welsh affairs.[15] He was given substantial holdings in the county to support him in appropriate style. The priest Godebold had been succeeded by a son, Robert, and it seems likely that he had supported the rebels, as his estates were turned over to Richard.[16] Other estates he acquired wereTong and Donington, both of which had been retained as demesne by the Montgomery earls themselves.[13]

Bishop of London

Election and consecration

He was elected to the see of London and invested with its temporalities on 24 May 1108.[17] The date is known from Eadmer, the contemporary historian and biographer of Anselm, who places Richard's election at Pentecost:[18] 24 May in that year, according to the Julian Calendar, in which Easter was on 5 April. It appears that he had so far been ordained only as adeacon. Ordination as a priest was required before he could proceed to ordination as a bishop. Eadmer makes clear that he was priested with many others by Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, at his manor of Mortlake. Anselm had only recently returned from a long exile after he and the king came to a resolution of their Investiture Controversy, and it seems that there was a backlog of ordinations. Eadmer does not give a date as such but says that Anselm carried out these ordinations during jejunio quarti mensis - the “fast of the fourth months,” i.e. the Ember Days, which were the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following Pentecost. Eyton reasoned that the ordination would therefore have been on 27, 29 or 30 May. However, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicani gives the probable date as 14 June 1108,[1] nevertheless citing Eadmer as evidence.

What followed made clear that Richard was essentially a royal nominee, not really known, much less congenial, to the Anselm and the supporters of Gregorian Reform. Eadmer says that the king went to embark for Normandy and waited until he received a blessing from Anselm, who then became very ill and was confined to his quarters.[19] The king then sent William Giffard, the Bishop of Winchester and William Warelwast, the Bishop of Exeter, who had taken opposite sides in the investiture dispute, to urging Anselm to look after his son and the kingdom and to make sure that Richard was soon ordained bishop at Chichester. The reason he gave was that Richard was a man of great ability for whom he had important business in the far west of the country. Anselm did expedite Richard's consecration as a bishop, which took place on 26 July 1108.[1] However, he demurred at using Chichester Cathedral, preferring instead to use his own chapel at Pagham, assisted by the bishops of Winchester, Chichester and Exeter, together with Roger of Salisbury, the Bishop of Salisbury.[20]

The Primacy dispute

One of Richard's concerns was to promote the interests of the Archdiocese of Canterbury, of which his own see formed a part. In 1109, during a vacancy at both Canterbury and York, he refused to take part in the long-delayed consecration of theThomas, archbishop-elect of York, until a profession of subordination to Canterbury had been obtained.[2]

Episcopal business

Richard took part in settling numerous ecclesiastical and secular matters of his day, including the establishment of the Diocese of Ely, the consecration of St Albans Abbey and the disposal of the Beauchamp inheritance.[2]

Welsh affairs

Richard's best-documented interventions in Wales date from the period immediately after his elevation to the episcopate in 1108.[2] Richard's meddling in the complex dynastic politics of Wales was not always successful and Lloyd comments that “Bishop Richard was cynically indifferent to the crimes of Welshmen against each other.”[21] The imprisonment of Iorwerth had left a partial power vacuum in Powys, which his brother Cadwgan ap Bleddyn was unable to fill.[22] Initially these were precipitated by Owain ap Cadwgan's abduction of Nest ferch Rhys in 1109, which had profound repercussions across Wales, as she was both the wife of Gerald de Windsor, the most powerful Norman baron in South Wales and the daughter of Rhys ap Tewdwr, the last Welsh ruler of Deheubarth.[23] The widespread sense of outrage created a coalition of Welsh leaders against Owain and Cadygan. Richard was able to use this groundswell to send his forces and their allies across Central Wales, driving Owain and Cadwgan back into Ceredigion, then further into exile in Ireland. Richard partitioned the fugitives' land among his allies and in 1110 Iorwerth was released from seven years' captivity to create a new centre of power and authority.

However, Richard ordered one of his allies, Madog ap Rhiryd, to surrender some English criminals whom he was sheltering,[24] alienating him from the new order. When Owain returned from exile, Madog immediately defected to his side and accompanied him in pillaging along the border. This led to hostilities with Iorwerth, who kept his bargain with Richard and the king, driving the outlaws from his realms.[25] However, Owain continued his depredations from further west and Madog returned to corner and kill Iorwerth, driving him at spear-point into his blazing home. Richard dealt with each disaster by restoring relations with the perpetrators. Initially he reinstated Cadwgan in power, accepting Owain's return. When Madog murdered Cadwgan, Richard responded by granting substantial lands to him.[21] Owain seems to have sidestepped the local conflict by making contact with the king personally.[26] Succeeding his father in Powys, he was able in 1113 to blind Madog in revenge for his father's murder and to survive a full-scale royal invasion in the following year.[21] Eyton comments on Richard's part in these events: “The grossest treachery seems to have pervaded this part of his policy.”[26]


He died in 1127, with his death being commemorated on 16 January, so he probably died on that date. On his deathbed, he confessed that he had lied about his tenure of a manor, previously testifying that he held it in fee, when in reality he had it under a lease.[27]


His nephew Richard de Beaumis II was later Bishop of London[1] and another nephew was archdeacon of Essex in the diocese of London.[4] He had two sons, Walter and William. Walter was a canon of London, holding the prebend of Newington,[28] and William was Archdeacon of London.[29]

Family tree

The Belmeis family: an ecclesiastical dynasty[show]


1.     ^ Jump up to:a b c d British History Online Bishops of London accessed on 28 October 2007

4.     ^ Jump up to:a b c "Archdeacons of Essex", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London, ed. Diana E Greenway (London, 1968), pp. 12-14 (accessed 16 December 2014)

5.     ^ Jump up to:a b "Prebendaries of Twiford", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London, ed. Diana E Greenway (London, 1968), pp. 80-82, (accessed 16 December 2014)

14.  Jump up^ Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 157

15.  Jump up^ Crouch Reign of King Stephen p. 55

17.  Jump up^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 258

27.  Jump up^ Crouch "Troubled Deathbeds" Albion p. 34

28.  ^ Jump up to:a b "Prebendaries of Newington", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London, ed. Diana E Greenway (London, 1968), pp. 65-67, accessed 16 December 2014)

29.  ^ Jump up to:a b "Archdeacons of London", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London, ed. Diana E Greenway (London, 1968), pp. 8-12, (accessed 16 December 2014)

32.  ^ Jump up to:a b "Deans of St Paul's", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London, ed. Diana E Greenway (London, 1968), pp. 4-8, (accessed 16 December 2014).

33.  Jump up^ "Prebendaries of Pancratius", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London, ed. Diana E Greenway (London, 1968), pp. 69-70, (accessed 16 December 2014)

34.  Jump up^ "Prebendaries of Holbourn", in Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London, ed. Diana E Greenway (London, 1968), pp. 53-55, (accessed 16 December 2014)


Further reading

Preceded by
Bishop of London
Succeeded by
Gilbert Universalis

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