The arrest of the bishops in 1139 and its consequences

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Abstract

In June 1139 Roger of Salisbury and his nephews were arrested by King Stephen. Since the time of William Stubbs, this "arrest of the bishops" has been regarded as a turning point of Stephen's reign or even the beginning of the "anarchy". It is said to have ruptured the alliance between the Church and the Crown which had lasted since the accession of Stephen. It is also supposed to have destroyed the sophisticated administrative machinery which had been developed under the direction of Roger of Salisbury. In spite of these arguments, however, closer scrutiny of various chronicles and charters makes it clear that the traditional view can no longer be upheld. The Church seems to have continued to support Stephen even after the arrest of the bishops and at least until the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, as virtually all the English and Welsh bishops attended the king's court between these two incidents. Likewise, in this period many local administrators were still attending the king's court and the king seems to have had enough officials to maintain the royal government relatively in order. In short, the effect of the arrest of the bishops was not so serious as has been supposed. It was, in fact, only after the capture of Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln that the royal government stopped functioning and the Church, though reluctantly, deserted the king for the first time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-114
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Medieval History
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1988 Jun
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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