Hilary of Chichester

views updated


Canon lawyer, bishop, supporter of King henry ii against Thomas becket; d. Chichester, July 13, 1169. Probably not of high social origin, he appears first in the 1130s as Master Hilary, clerk of henry of blois, Bishop of Winchester, a powerful political figure during Stephen's reign. He was an advocate of some distinction at the papal court and became bishop of chichester in 1147 through the influence of Pope Eugene III. That he was an able canonist is suggested by the frequency with which Abp. theobald of canterbury sought his legal assistance or advice, and by the fact that he was often appointed a papal judge-delegate in england. As bishop he was remarkable for his record of service to the king;e.g., he acted once as itinerant justice and twice as sheriff of Sussex for Henry II. When he was papal judge-delegate, he would, on occasion, yield to the king as against the pope in a matter of principle. During Henry's controversy with Thomas Becket (116364), he emerged as a sharp-tongued opponent of his archbishop. In his diocese Hilary was active in recovering the alienated possessions of his see, favored the regular clergy, and founded the treasurership and chancellorship in his cathedral. In character he has been described as "an extremely quickwitted, efficient, self-confident, voluble, somewhat shallow man. His talents were great but he used them as an opportunist" (Knowles).

Bibliography: j. h. round, "Hilary, Bishop of Chichester," Athenaeum (Jan.June 1897) 115116. d. knowles, The Episcopal Colleagues of Archbishop Thomas Becket (Cambridge, Eng. 1951). h. mayr-harting, "H., Bishop of Chichester, 11471169, and Henry II," English Historical Review 78 (1963) 209224; The Bishops of Chichester, 10751207 (Chichester 1963).

[h. mayr-harting]