The English Church in the Fourteenth Century: Based on the Birkbeck Lectures, 1948

By W. A. Pantin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH

IN order to get a view of the social structure of the Church, and its relation to contemporary society, it will be necessary to examine the different kinds of offices and benefices, and to inquire how men were appointed to them, and what sort of men these were.


THE BISHOPS1

The method of appointment of bishops in England, since King John's charter of 1214, had in theory been that of free and canonical election by the cathedral chapters; but, in fact, by the fourteenth century the appointments were being made more and more by royal and papal intervention, as we shall see when we come to consider papal provisions. I shall only remark here that while papal provision became the general method formally, the king generally got the bishops he wanted, at any rate after the reign of Edward II, and that the provision of aliens to English bishoprics was virtually unknown in this period. The only exceptions would seem to be the provision of Rigaud de Asserio (Assier) to the see of Winchester in 1320, and Lewis Beaumont (at the king's request) to Durham in 1317.

The various types of bishops may be roughly classified according to their previous careers and qualifications, as civil servants, scholars, religious, diocesan administrators, papal officials and aristocrats. It must always be remembered, however, that the same man may belong to more than one category.

____________________
1
For lists of bishops see Handbook of British Chronology, ed. F. M. Powicke ( Royal Historical Society, 1939), 132-94, and W. Stubbs, Registrum Sacrum Anglicanum, 2nd ed. ( Oxford, 1897). For careers of bishops, see DNB; K. Edwards, "The political importance of the English bishops during the reign of Edward II", in EHR, LIX ( 1944), 311-45; Waldo E. L. Smith , Episcopal appointments and patronage in the reign of Edward II ( Chicago, 1938).

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