Geoffrey of York

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Chancellor of England, archbishop of York; b. England, 1152 or 1153; d. Grandmont, near Rouen, France, Dec. 18, 1212. An illegitimate son of King henry ii, he was acknowledged by the king and reared with Eleanor of Aquitaine's children. Geoffrey's mother is unknown. His life was the stereotypical life of a royal bastard. Forced early into an ecclesiastical vocation, he received the diaconate and lucrative preferments. In April 1173 he was elected bishop of Lincoln. Supported by papal dispensations, he delayed ordination and consecration while he aided Henry against his unfaithful sons and insurgent barons. In 1182, still unconsecrated, Geoffrey resigned his bishopric, and in 1183 he became chancellor of England. In Henry's last struggle with King philip ii augustus of france, (118789), Geoffrey proved himself the only faithful son. As a reward he was named archbishop of york. His half-brother, King richard i, honored the nomination, and Geoffrey was ordained (Sept. 23, 1189) and consecrated at Tours (Aug. 18, 1191). Geoffrey's undesired return to England (September 1191) and his subsequent arrest made him a potential Becket and precipitated the downfall of William de Longchamp. But Geoffrey, even though a man of abstinence and purity, was too temperamental and tactless to be a leader. His episcopacy was marked by continuous royal and ecclesiastical arguments and litigations. In 1207 he withstood King john of England's demands for clerical taxes and was forced to flee England. He died in exile.

Bibliography: giraldus cambrensis, "De vita Galfridi archiepiscopi Eboracensis," Opera, ed. j. s. brewer, 8 v. (Rerum Brittannicarum medii aevi scriptores [Rolls series] 21; London 186191) 4:355431. w. stubbs, Historical Introductions to the Rolls Series, ed. a. hassall (London 1902) 173309. k. norgate, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900, 7:10181024. a. l. poole, From Domesday Book to Magna Carta (2d ed. Oxford History of England 3; 1955). c. r. cheney, From Becket to Langton (Manchester, Eng. 1956).

[e. j. smyth]