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Walter of Coutances

Walter of Coutances (d. 1207). A trusted servant of the Plantagenet kings who governed England for two years while Richard I was on crusade. His diplomatic and administrative skills brought him the bishopric of Lincoln in 1183 and Rouen in 1184. He set out on crusade with Richard but news of tension in England between John and Longchamp persuaded the king to send him back from Sicily in spring 1191 with discretion to use confidential letters appointing him justiciar if and when he judged it necessary. When John tried to use the controversial arrest of Geoffrey archbishop of York to topple Longchamp in October, Walter produced Richard's letters—much to John's chagrin. Walter remained in charge until December 1193, setting up the machinery for the collection of England's share of King Richard's ransom. The fall of Normandy meant that in 1204, as archbishop of Rouen, he had to invest Philip Augustus as duke of Normandy—just as earlier he had invested Richard I and John.

Michael Hopkinson

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