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Hubert Walter

Archbishop of Canterbury; d. July 13, 1205

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Hubert Walter, Archbishop of Canterbury (1193-1205); d. July 13, 1205; son of Hervey (Herveus) Walter and Matilda de Valoines, whose sister married the celebrated Ranulf de Glanville. The family, which was of Norman descent, held lands in Lancashire and Norfolk. Hubert’s elder brother, Theobald Fitz-Walter, accompanied Henry II and John to Ireland, and became ancestor of the Butlers of Ormonde. We first hear of the archbishop as a chaplain in the house-hold of Ranulf de Glanville, and a contemporary writer speaks of him as sharing with his master in the government of England. In 1184 and 1185 he appears as baron of the exchequer, and in 1186 his name was one of the five submitted to Henry II by the Chapter of York for the vacant archbishopric. The king rejected all five. In 1189 Hubert was acting as chancellor in Maine and was that year chosen by Richard I as Bishop of Salisbury. He was consecrated on October 22 by Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury. Accompanying Richard on the Third Crusade, he was made, on Baldwin‘s death, chief chaplain to the whole crusading host. He was, moreover, one of the chief military commanders of the English contingent and acted as intermediary between Richard and Saladin. His firmness in putting down disorder and licentiousness in the crusading army, the care he took of the sick and wounded, and his succor of the poorer pilgrims, won him the esteem of the other leaders. He represented the English army when the first pilgrims were admitted to the Holy Sepulchre, and it was to him that Saladin spoke his famous eulogy of Richard. Through his prompt help, an attack of the Saracens on the French while marching on Jerusalem was repulsed, and it was he who prevented the crusade from failing utterly, by concluding a long truce with Saladin during Richard‘s illness. By his efforts, Salad in was induced to allow pilgrim-ages to the Holy Places, and when the Crusade was ended, it was under his leadership that the army was conducted in safety as far as Sicily. He visited his king in prison at Durrenstein and returned to England in 1193, in time to suppress Prince John’s attempt on the crown. By imposing a heavy tax, he succeeded in raising a ransom for the king.

The primatial see had been vacant since Baldwin‘s death in 1190. Richard ordered the bishops to procure the election of Hubert Walter. The monks of Canterbury, threatened in their freedom of election, chose the king’s nominee, before the bishops had had time to confer with them. Hubert was enthroned in his cathedral and received the pallium on November 7, 1193. By the end of the year he had been made justiciar. He performed the king’s second coronation at Winchester in April, 1194, and when Richard left England for good the same year, Hubert became virtual ruler in his stead. Incessant demands from the king for money provoked an insurrection, which the justiciar put down with a firm hand, even violating sanctuary to punish its leader, William Fitz Osbert. In 1197 he negotiated, in Normandy, an alliance with Flanders, and a truce between Richard and Philip of France. Returning to England, he convened a council at Oxford in November, before which he put Richard‘s demand for three hundred knights for service abroad, or money sufficient to hire as many mercenaries; each of the barons and bishops was to contribute his share. St. Hugh of Lincoln and Herbert of Salisbury refused, on the ground that their churches were not bound to raise knights or money for foreign service. The archbishop dismissed the council in great indignation. Scarcely had Innocent III become pope when he requested Richard to allow Hubert to lay aside his secular offices. This the archbishop promptly did, and joined the king in Normandy, staying with him till his death in 1199. King John immediately sent him to England to help to keep the peace till his own arrival. On May 27 he officiated at the coronation at Westminster and is said to have laid stress in his speech on the old English theory of election to the crown. Next day he set the pope’s prohibition at naught, and reassumed the chancellorship, yet acting, no doubt, as he thought right, knowing himself to be the one man who could keep the king in check.

He crowned John and his queen, Isabel, at Westminster on October 8, and was present at the Scotch king’s homage at Lincoln in November. In December he went to France on a fruitless diplomatic mission, and in the spring of 1203 went on another mission, which also proved a failure, through no fault of his A quarrel between him and John about this time caused him to be deprived of office, to which he was soon, however, restored. In May, 1205, the king brought together a great fleet and army to cross to the Continent, with hope of regaining something of the prestige and power which the loss of his Norman and French possessions had occasioned. Hubert Walter and William Marshal, seeing the futility of the project, prevailed upon him to abandon it. This was the archbishop’s last public political act. On July 10, while journeying from Canterbury to Boxley to restore peace between the monks of Rochester and their bishop, he was attacked with fever and a carbuncle. He died three days later at his manor of Teynham.

Hubert was accused, even in his own day, of forgetting, in his capacity as statesman, his duties as archbishop. The accusation was no doubt just, and the first to make it was his saintly colleague, Hugh of Lincoln. For the first five years of his episcopate he and his chapter, the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, were at bitter strife with one another. One of the principal causes of dispute between the two parties was the attempt made by Hubert to maintain at Lambeth a college of secular canons which had been founded and endowed by Archbishop Bald-win out of the enormous superfluous wealth of the primatial see. The college had been founded as a center of learning—a rare thing in those days—and its church was to have no privileges prejudicial to Canterbury; but the prior and convent appealed, and finally carried the day. Hubert was ordered by papal Brief to pull down his college. He was a zealous guardian of the temporalities of his see, and recovered the manors of Saitwood and of Hythe, and the castles of Rochester and Tunbridge, lost under Henry II. The ancient privilege of coining money at Canterbury was restored to him and his successors by Richard I, and he was a great benefactor to his cathedral. Invested with legatine powers in 1195, he made a visitation of the Province of York and ordered important measures of reform. Similar measures were made for the Province of Canterbury in a synod convened by him at London. His struggle with Giraldus Cambrensis and vindication of the primacy of Canterbury over the Welsh churches is regarded by Get-vase of Canterbury as his chief merit.


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