Theobald of Bec
Theobald of Bec was a Norman archbishop of Canterbury from 1139 to 1161. He became a monk at the Abbey of Bec, rising to the position of abbot in 1137. King Stephen of England chose him to be Archbishop of Canterbury in 1138. Canterbury’s claim to primacy over the Welsh ecclesiastics was resolved during Theobald’s term of office.
About Theobald of Bec in brief
Theobald of Bec was a Norman archbishop of Canterbury from 1139 to 1161. His exact birth date is unknown. He became a monk at the Abbey of Bec, rising to the position of abbot in 1137. King Stephen of England chose him to be Archbishop of Canterbury in 1138. Canterbury’s claim to primacy over the Welsh ecclesiastics was resolved during Theobald’s term of office when Pope Eugene III decided in 1148 in Canterbury’s favour. He was the patron of his successor Thomas Becket, and a number of other future bishops and archbishops served as his clerks. He died in 1161 after a long illness, following which unsuccessful efforts were made to have him canonised as a saint. No documents from his tenure as abbot survive, nor is there any information on the administration of the monastery during his period of office, except that 47 monks were admitted to Bec while he was abbot. He is often overlooked in the historical record, mainly because of the fame of his predecessor, ThomasBecket. His relationship with King Stephen was turbulent. He defied the king, which resulted in the confiscation of his property and temporary exile. His relations with his cathedral clergy and the monastic houses in his archdiocese were also difficult. He succeeded in forcing peace on the king by refusing to consecrate Stephen’s son and heir, Eustace. After EustACE’s death in 1153, Stephen recognised his rival Henry of Anjou as his heir, and later theobald was named regent of the kingdom after Stephen’s death.
He may have been a distant relative of Becket as Becket’s family came from the same part of Normandy. His father was supposedly a knight, but no contemporary reference gives his name. His brother Walter also became a priest, later a bishop. No records from his time as abbacy survive. There is no information on his administration of Bec during his tenure of office except that he was the 266th monk admitted under William, out of 346. He travelled to England on his abbey at least once during his abbotacy, to supervise the monastery’s lands in England, a trip that took place shortly before his selection as the new archbishop. The only clue to his age is that when he died in 2011, contemporaries considered him an old man, suggesting a birth date of perhaps around 1090 to one modern historian. The modern historian Frank Barlow speculates that TheobALD may have was a distant relatives of his. successor as archbishop, Thomas Beckett, as Beckets’ family came to Normandy in the late 11th or early 12th century, while William was the third abbot of Bec. In 1127 he was made prior of Bec after Boso succeeded William as abbots. He also became abbot, following Boso’s. death in June 1136, following the death of Boso in June 2011. He refused to give a written profession of obedience from Theobaldo, which no previous abbot had made such a profession.
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