Dennis Christopher, The career of Geoffrey de Montbray, bishop of Coutances (1048-1093)

Dennis Christopher, The career of Geoffrey de Montbray, bishop of Coutances (1048-1093) and unus de primatibus Anglorum (‘one of the chief men of the English’), Thèse de doctorat soutenue en 2012, (dir. W. Aird, Cardiff University)

Résumé/abstract :

Geoffrey de Montbray was one of the most important men in Normandy and England during the second half of the eleventh century. As bishop of Coutances, Geoffrey made a significant contribution to the restoration of ecclesiastical life in western Normandy. In post-Conquest England, where Geoffrey became a great landholder, he played a pivotal role in the consolidation of the Conqueror’s victory. Geoffrey’s role in the conquest and settlement of England, and in particular his association with warfare, has overshadowed his achievements as a diocesan bishop. In modern historiography he has been presented as an example of an old-fashioned type of bishop that was gradually being superseded in Normandy by more reform-minded prelates. This thesis will assess the validity of this interpretation by providing a detailed examination of his career. But it will also consider his activities as a diocesan bishop and his participation in the settlement of England in the context of the development of his personal relationship with the Conqueror. In particular, it will examine the significance of charismatic elements of lordship and the importance of acquiring ‘closeness’ to a ruler as a means of self-advancement. By approaching Geoffrey’s career from his perspective, the intention of this thesis is to gain a better understanding of the mindset of an eleventh-century Norman bishop. This thesis uses a range of sources that includes charters and narrative sources, architectural evidence, the evidence of Domesday Book, and manuscript sources.

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