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Reference group
Clerks of Thomas Becket (act. 1162–1170) were temporary or permanent members of the archbishop's household who provided him with literate and intellectual skills. The group took shape over time. According to William fitz Stephen, fifty-two clerks served Thomas Becket as royal chancellor, but their service was to his office not his person and their names are not generally recorded; of these, however, at least six transferred to the new archbishop's service when Becket was elected to Canterbury in 1162: Ernulf, Geoffrey Ridel, whose loyalty soon wavered, Gervase of Chichester, Henry of Houghton, Herbert of Bosham, and William himself. These, together with three or four from Archbishop Theobald's household—John of Salisbury, John of Tilbury, and perhaps Ralph of Sarre and Baldwin of Boulogne, archdeacon of Sudbury—formed the nucleus of Becket's familia, but many more were recruited. A list of ‘St Thomas's learned men’ (eruditi sancti Thome) that Herbert of Bosham compiled in 1186 contains twenty names apart from his own: Lombard of Piacenza, John of Salisbury, Robert Foliot, Reginald fitz Jocelin, Gerard Pucelle, Hugh de Nonant, Gilbert de Glanville, Ralph of Sarre, Jordan of Melbourne, Matthew of Chichester, Gervase of Chichester, John of Tilbury, Philip of Calne, Hervey of London (who died on a mission to the papal curia), Gunther of Winchester, Alexander Llewelyn, Ariald and Roland of Lombardy, Umberto Crivelli, and Edward Grim.

Thomas thus assembled a household of some distinction, designed to provide the legal, administrative, and theological expertise that the office of archbishop required. At least thirteen bore the title of master, suggesting that they had successfully completed a course of advanced study in law, arts, or theology, and the others were litterati: educated and rising clerics. At least seven (Gerard Pucelle, Gilbert de Glanville, Umberto Crivelli, Lombard of Piacenza, Philip of Calne, Ralph of Sarre, William fitz Stephen) had legal training, in Roman or canon law, or both, and the two Lombards, Ariald and Roland, were probably lawyers too, although Herbert stressed their proficiency in letters (praepotentes in litteris). Herbert was an Old Testament specialist, John of Salisbury a product of the Parisian schools, where he spent twelve years studying arts, theology, and probably some law.

Although Herbert was at pains to stress their later distinction (one future pope, one cardinal, one archbishop-elect, five bishops, three deans of cathedral chapters, and one archdeacon), there was a significant difference between them. With one exception, clerks who remained loyal to Becket in exile found it impossible to return to the career ladder in England. Philip of Calne has not been traced; Alexander Llewelyn seems to have entered the service of William of the White Hands, successively archbishop of Sens and Rheims, whom he may have served as chancellor of Rheims before returning to Wales as archdeacon of Bangor; Gunther of Winchester disappeared from the record; Herbert of Bosham, who had memorably refused to deny his allegiance to his archbishop at Angers in 1166, dragged out a long exile in dependence, spending the last ten years of his life as a guest of the Cistercians of Ourscamp. John of Salisbury and Ralph of Sarre fared better, but under French patronage. John received the episcopate of Chartres, Ralph the deanery of Rheims. The exception was Gilbert de Glanville, a kinsman of the justiciar Ranulf de Glanville; but although he obtained an archdeaconry in Lisieux before 1179, he had to wait until 1185 before he obtained the relatively poor bishopric of Rochester, through the favour of Archbishop Baldwin.

In contrast, of those who made their peace with Henry II before Becket's murder, all but John of Tilbury, who may have died early, had satisfactory, if not spectacular ecclesiastical careers in England. At the top of the list stands Reginald fitz Jocelin. Not only was he the son of the royalist Jocelin de Bohun, bishop of Salisbury, but he had entered Henry's service in 1167 and thereafter played a prominent part in the diplomatic onslaught on Becket. It was as a royal clerk that he was rewarded with the see of Bath and Wells, which he held until his election to Canterbury, though he died before the translation could be completed. Robert Foliot, a relative of Bishop Gilbert Foliot of London, owed his election to Hereford in 1173 to a combination of royal favour and his kinsman's influence. Gerard Pucelle and Hugh de Nonant, though they had to wait for some twelve years, obtained promotion to Coventry in 1183 and 1185 respectively. The three Chichester men (Matthew and Gervase, and Jordan of Melbourne) remained in their local milieu, where Jordan and Matthew became deans of the cathedral, though Gervase had to be content with a canonry, perhaps because he wrote and preached in praise of the new martyr. In contrast Henry II's learned men captured three bishoprics in 1173–5: Richard of Ilchester secured Winchester, in an example of direct royal intervention that enabled the king's son, Henry the Young King, spectacularly to challenge all the elections of 1173–4, on the ground that they had not been canonical; Geoffrey Ridel was rewarded with Ely; and John of Oxford received Norwich.

The later careers of two significant members of Becket's household whom Herbert of Bosham did not name are shrouded in obscurity. Ernulf had been keeper of the royal seal when Becket was chancellor and was his chancellor as archbishop until he took refuge with Archbishop Rotrou of Rouen soon after the exile began. He seems to have been disappointed of the hoped-for benefice, however, and his attempt to reattach himself to Becket's service failed. William fitz Stephen's fate would have been equally obscure, had he not written one of the best lives of the martyr, which not only celebrates London as their natal city, but describes his own function in the household. He rejoined the king's service for a time; returned to his old allegiance in 1170 and so witnessed the murder in the cathedral, and then disappeared again. On the basis of the manuscript history of his life of St Thomas, however, it is possible to argue that he became a canon regular at Holy Trinity, Aldgate. This would explain the possession by the Augustinian abbey of Lesnes (or Westwood) in Kent of the earliest surviving copy of William's work, for Lesnes, founded in 1178, was colonized by canons from Aldgate.

The very existence of Ariald and Roland of Lombardy would have been unknown, were it not for Herbert's notice of their literary skills; but their two Italian colleagues had spectacular careers. Lombard of Piacenza had been recruited in 1163, perhaps to take the place formerly occupied by Vacarius, the writer on the civil law, who served Archbishop Roger of York from about 1161. Lombard remained in Becket's familia until 1167–8, when he joined the papal curia, and there made rapid progress. Appointed cardinal-deacon of the Roman church in 1170, he became cardinal-priest of San Cyriaco, and also archbishop of Benevento, a year later. Umberto Crivelli of Milan did even better. He had been a doctor of canon law at Bologna in the 1150s, when he taught Peter of Blois, Baldwin of Forde, and perhaps Becket himself, with whom he shared the experience of exile in France. After his return to Milan he received an archdeaconry in the city and was an unsuccessful candidate for the archbishopric in 1176. Lucius III appointed him cardinal-priest of San Lorenzo in Damaso in 1182, and he was successively bishop-elect of Vercelli, archbishop of Milan, and finally pope, with the title of Urban III (r. 1185–7).

Of twelve further clerics who appeared fleetingly in Becket's service only three—Baldwin of Boulogne, archdeacon of Sudbury, Simon, archdeacon of Sens, and Silvester, treasurer of Lisieux—have been traced. Baldwin returned to Norfolk, Simon to Sens, and Silvester to his office in Lisieux. In contrast, three of the four chaplains who attended Thomas's meeting with papal legates between Gisors and Trie in 1167 have been tentatively identified as John Planeta [see also John the Chanter], a pupil of Abelard; John of Salisbury's half-brother, Richard Peccator; and Henry of Houghton. John Planeta found a place in Archbishop Richard's household; Richard Peccator became an Augustinian canon at Merton; and Henry of Houghton makes a brief appearance in Benedict of Peterborough's collection of Becket's miracles, defending Becket's sanctity and reporting three miracles. The fourth, Alan, has not been identified, but there is a remote possibility that he was Alan of Tewkesbury, successively canon of Benevento, monk and prior of Canterbury, abbot of Tewkesbury, and a notable collector of Becket's correspondence. To these should be attached Robert, a canon of Merton, who was appointed chaplain and confessor to the new archbishop in 1162, and remained with him to the end. His appointment to such an intimate spiritual responsibility was no doubt a testament to Becket's regard for the priory of Merton, where he obtained his own earliest education.

A. J. Duggan


OMT, 7 vols., Rolls Series, 67 (1875–85), iii, 523–32 (catalogus eruditorum) · C. R. Cheney and B. E. A. Jones, eds., English episcopal acta, 2: Canterbury, 1162–1190 (1991) · B. Smalley, The Becket conflict and the schools (1973) · F. Barlow, Thomas Becket (1986) · F. Barlow, Thomas Becket and his clerks (1987) · A. J. Duggan, Thomas Becket (2004) · A. J. Duggan, ‘The price of loyalty: the fate of Thomas Becket's learned household’, Thomas Becket: friends, networks, texts, and cult, ed. A. J. Duggan (2007), no. III · A. J. Duggan, ‘Thomas Becket's Italian network’, Pope, church and city: essays in honour of Brenda M. Bolton, ed. F. Andrews, C. Egger, and C. M. Rousseau (2004), 177–201