To serve as co-justiciar with Longchamp, Richard named the Bishop of Durham, Hugh of Le Puiset; and three others, William Marshal, Hugh Bardolf, and William Briwerre, were named associate justiciars. Richard is not known as being a capable administrator and he failed to delineate the specific authority of these men, which led to major upheaval in 1190-91.
For the sum of £3000, Richard named Longchamp chancellor and asked the Pope to make him papal legate to England. To his contemporaries, William Longchamp became “a man with three titles and three heads,” exercising power as justiciar, chancellor, and papal legate. His critics claim he was greedy, ambitious, and unscrupulous and he eyed co-justiciar Le Puiset’s authority with envy. Longchamp did not know the language, did not adapt to English customs, and “openly professed his contempt for the English.” The author of a biography of the gentle Bishop Hugh of Lincoln writes that Richard “left behind a little lame, black foreigner, Longchamp…who had been adviser, schemer, general brain box and jackal to Lion-heart.” Perhaps Richard did not know Longchamp as well as he thought.
Contemporary sources note that Longchamp was short, had a limp, and “possessed the face of a dog.” It did not take the chancellor long to alienate his co-justiciars or the English barons after Richard left England behind. The chronicler Roger de Hoveden writes “the said bishop of Ely, legate of the Apostolic See, chancellor of our lord the king, and justiciary of England, oppressed the clergy and the people, confounding right and wrong; nor was there a person in the kingdom who dared to offer resistance to his authority, even in word.” The chancellor deposed Le Puiset, had him arrested and forcibly taken to London. He appointed numerous relatives to high positions, removed sheriffs and castellans, and suspended clergy.
For a very brief period it appeared that Longchamp and John might come to a peaceful coexistence after John secured word that the chancellor would support him as heir should Richard not return from the crusade. But Longchamp made a fatal error, taking action against Richard’s half-brother Geoffrey, the archbishop of York, when he landed at Dover.
Longchamp attempted to flee and, according to one of his enemies, Bishop Hugh of Nonant, he was caught trying to board a boat in Dover dressed as a woman. De Hoveden writes that “He chose to hasten on foot from the heights of the castle down to the sea-shore, clothed in in a woman’s green gown of enormous length instead of the priest’s gown of azure colour… a hood on his head instead of mitre… [he] became so effeminate in mind… Having seated himself on the shore upon a rock, a fisherman, who immediately took him for a common woman, came up to him; and having come nearly naked up from the sea, perhaps wishing to be made warm, he ran up to the wretch, and embracing his neck … began pulling him about, upon which he discovered that he was a man.”
Incarcerated for several days, Longchamp was released and sailed to Flanders at the end of October 1191. Armed with a message from the Pope, he landed at Dover the following year and attempted to be reinstated to his former position, but was ordered by Queen Eleanor and the justiciars to leave the country.
When word of Richard’s imprisonment became public knowledge in 1193, Longchamp ended up at the king’s side in Germany, negotiating for terms with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. He delivered information to the justiciars in England about the ransom agreed to by the king, bringing Richard’s instructions about collection and delivery of the money. Richard sent him to negotiate with King Philip and later with John. Longchamp was with the king when he released from captivity in Mainz in February 1194, and returned to England with him.
Longchamp continued to serve Richard on numerous diplomatic missions to Germany and France. His last task for the king was to go to Rome and ask the Pope to lift an interdict the Archbishop of Rouen had placed on Richard. Longchamp fell ill on the journey and died in January 1197.
Richard being anointed during his coronation. by Unknown. - A 13th-century chronicle. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15543148
Gate at Lincoln Castle. by Rodhullandemu - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5143923
Dover Castle. by Misterzee - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4999617
Appleby, J.T. (1965). England Without Richard. Ithaca : Cornell University Press.
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Marson, Charles L. (1901). Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln: a short story of one of the makers of Medieval England. London : Edward Arnold.
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Turner, R.V. (2009). King John: England’s Evil King? Stroud, Gloucestershire : The History Press.
Turner, R.V. “Longchamp, William de (d. 1197)”, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16980, accessed 24 April 2016]
About the Author
English Historical Fiction Authors. Charlene lives, works, and writes in Kansas. She is an academic librarian by trade, a former U.S. Navy veteran, and has three grown children.
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