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William de Longchamp

William de Longchamp

Lord chancellor of england; bishop of ely; chief justiciar of england

William de Longchamp[a] (died 1197) was a medieval Lord Chancellor, Chief Justiciar, and Bishop of Ely in England. Born to a humble family in Normandy, he owed his advancement to royal favour. Although contemporary writers accused Longchamp's father of being the son of a peasant, he held land as a knight. Longchamp first served Henry II's illegitimate son Geoffrey, but quickly transferred to the service of Richard I, Henry's heir. When Richard became king in 1189, Longchamp paid £3,000 for the office of Chancellor, and was soon named to the see, or bishopric, of Ely and appointed legate by the pope.

Longchamp governed England while Richard was on the Third Crusade, but his authority was challenged by Richard's brother, John, who eventually succeeded in driving Longchamp from power and from England. Longchamp's relations with the other leading English nobles were also strained, which contributed to the demands for his exile. Soon after Longchamp's departure from England, Richard was captured on his journey back to England from the crusade and held for ransom by Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. Longchamp travelled to Germany to help negotiate Richard's release. Although Longchamp regained the office of Chancellor after Richard's return to England, he lost much of his former power. He aroused a great deal of hostility among his contemporaries during his career, but he retained Richard's trust and was employed by the king until the bishop's death in 1197. Longchamp wrote a treatise on the law, which remained well known throughout the later Middle Ages.


January 1, 1101
William de Longchamp was born in Argenton-Notre-Dame.


Further Resources


William Longchamp: Upward mobility and character assassination in twelfth-century England (Thesis).

Balfour, David Bruce

1 January 1996

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