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Foliot, Gilbert

Foliot, Gilbert (c.1108–87). A learned, austere, and ambitious prelate who became Becket's most outspoken opponent among English churchmen. He protested when Becket was made archbishop of Canterbury at the king's command and then opposed the archbishop at every turn. When Becket quarrelled with the king he became one of the king's principal advisers in church matters. He acted as administrator of the Canterbury estates while Becket was in exile and, not surprisingly, was several times excommunicated by the archbishop. Despite his own highly successful career—prior of Cluny, abbot of Gloucester (1139–48), bishop of Hereford (1148–63), and finally bishop of London (1163–87)—Becket's friends believed that Gilbert had wanted Canterbury for himself. Although many of his letters survive, including some fiercely attacking the archbishop, his character and motives remain enigmatic.

John Gillingham

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