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Roger of Salisbury


Bishop, chief minister and regent of Henry I and Stephen; d. Salisbury, England, December 1139. This obscure Norman clerk attached himself to the Conqueror's son, Henry, and administered his finances so well that the prince made him one of his principal advisers. After his coronation in 1100, henry i appointed Roger chancellor of England, then bishop of salisbury in 1101. Although Roger strengthened the landed endowment and educational facilities of his diocese and founded a number of priories, his tight control of other monasteries and his domination of the Canterbury archiepiscopal elections in 1114 and 1123 caused contemporary monastic chroniclers to hold him in low esteem. Yet his undoubted executive abilities pleased Henry, who designated him justiciar of all England. As justiciar, "second only to the King," he administered the legal and financial apparatus of the government and encouraged such innovations as the system of itinerant justices, the Board of Exchequer, the Pipe Rolls, and an improved coinage. After 1120 he also acted as regent during Henry's visits to Normandy. Roger swore in 1126 to support the Empress Matilda as heir to England's crown, but in 1135 he helped Stephen of Blois seize the throne. At first, King stephen handsomely rewarded Roger, but finding himself badly in need of funds, he captured the aged prelate in June 1139 and confiscated his great castles and wealth. Roger, failing to obtain redress in a church council, returned to Sarum (Salisbury) shorn of his power and died there a broken man. He was one of the first of those ecclesiastical statesmen who, like Cardinals Wolsey and Richlieu, used their priestly position as a buttress for political power.

Bibliography: william of malmesbury, The Historia novella, tr. k. r. potter (New York 1955). c. l. kingsford, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 17:103106. e. j. kealey, Roger, Bishop of Salisbury and Chief Justiciar of All England (Doctoral diss. unpub. Johns Hopkins U.1962). Gesta Stephani: The Deeds of Stephen, ed. and tr. k. r. potter (New York 1955).

[e. j. kealey]

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