Appeared in 1997-1998, Vol. XXIII, Nos. 3 & 4

At Gloucester on 6 March 1093,1 William II (1056-1100), King of England, thinking himself near death, turned his mind to the vacant archbishopric of Canterbury. When his years had seemed unnumbered, William Rufus (as the king was known) resisted the appointment of a new archbishop. Canterbury’s vacancy had proven lucrative, allowing diversion of the weight of its episcopal revenues to the crown. So profitable was the arrangement that by the time of this Gloucester court, the Canterbury interregnum had been allowed to perdure almost four years, since May of 1089.

The seeming approach of death and the imminence of divine judgement, however, had changed matters; they induced the king to remedy his course and rectify neglect. Urged by his prelates and nobles, Rufus determined upon Anselm (1033-1109),2 the Benedictine philosopher and abbot of Bec in Normandy, as successor to England’s primatial see. It was a popular, albeit untoward, selection. Anselm was regarded with great affection, but a politician as savvy as William II should have anticipated the Norman abbot’s disconsonance with the English court.

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