Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066-1300: Volume 1, St. Paul's, London. Originally published by Institute of Historical Research, London, 1968.
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Was Ranulph Flambard Dean of St. Paul's?
Professor C. N. L. Brooke has argued that dean Wulman died before 1102, being succeeded by Ranulph Flambard, and has identified 'V.' with Humphrey Bigod. (fn. 1) This gives the first three post-Conquest deans as follows:
Wulman, occ. c. 1090
?Ranulph Flambard, before 1099- c. 1106
V. [?Humphrey Bigod], occ. c. 1107.
The argument runs thus. Between 1102 and 1106 five documents, all closely affecting the chapter of St. Paul's, are witnessed by three or four archdeacons, but never mention a dean. (fn. 2) Therefore Wulman was probably dead, and perhaps had been succeeded by an absentee dean. Now Wulman had held the prebend of Totenhall, and this prebend was to be held by all the successive deans of St. Paul's from William de Mareni (1111-38) to Alard de Burnham (c. 1201-1216). Between Wulman and William de Mareni in the prebendal catalogues for Totenhall there occur Ranulph Flambard, and Humphrey son of Roger Bigod. (fn. 3) Brooke suggests that Ranulph Flambard, bishop of Durham (1099-1128), who was in Normandy from 1100 to 1106, might have been the absentee dean who succeeded Wulman, possibly surrendering the dignity and prebend in 1106 on his return from Lisieux, (fn. 4) and being succeeded in the deanery by V., who occurs c. 1107 and is possibly to be identified with his successor in the prebend, Humphrey Bigod. In favour of this theory, Brooke cites stories from Symeon of Durham and the Historia Eliensis, which are discussed below.
There is, however, an objection to the theory, where it concerns Humphrey Bigod, who is described by Brooke as a 'shadowy figure'. Humphrey appears as a royal chaplain between 1101 and 1112 or 1113. (fn. 5) If he was dean of St. Paul's, it is difficult to see why he should have been succeeded by William de Mareni as early as July 1111, since he was still alive in 1112 or 1113. It seems more likely that Humphrey Bigod was prebendary of Totenhall but not dean, and was succeeded in his prebend after 1112 or 1113 by dean William de Mareni, who transferred from his earlier prebend of Chiswick. This would explain why William de Mareni is called 'Willelmus decanus' in the catalogues for Chiswick. (fn. 6)
Symeon of Durham or his continuator tells of a quarrel between Flambard and bishop Maurice of London over a certain decania from which Flambard was ejected, and how as a result Flambard left Maurice's service to enter the king's. (fn. 7) As Brooke admits, the story is impossible chronologically, because Flambard was already in the king's service when he first associated with Maurice in 1083-5. (fn. 8) If there is any truth in the tale about the decania, which deanery was involved ? Freeman understood it to be probably the deanery of Christchurch, Twynham (Hants), (fn. 9) and since Freeman wrote. a charter has been printed in which Flambard occurs as dean of Twynham in 1093 or 1094. (fn. 10) The Durham writer's story may refer to this deanery, although it is difficult to see what interest bishop Maurice could have had in Christ Church, Twynham. At any rate, without more evidence, the story probably cannot be used to suggest that Flambard was dean of St. Paul's.
The Historia Eliensis, attributed to Thomas of Ely, tells how Henry I restored to Ely the vill of Hadham (Herts.), which had been seized by Ranulph Flambard 'violenter per clericos Lundon. ecclesie sue'. (fn. 11) The London church apparently referred to was thought by Brooke to be St. Paul's, which had land in Hadham at the time of Domesday. But Dr. E. O. Blake, in his recent edition of the Liber Eliensis, has shown that the Historia is simply an abbreviated version of the Liber, and therefore of no independent authority. (fn. 12) In the matter of Hadham, the corresponding passage in the Liber does not suggest that a London church was involved: there Flambard is said to have seized Hadham 'violenter ecclesie per clericos Lundonie'. (fn. 13) The London clerks who acted as Flambard's agents in the alienation from the church of Ely might have been royal clerks. In Henry I's writ ordering the restoration of Hadham to Ely, in 1105, there is no clue that Flambard had acted as a representative of St. Paul's, or even that St. Paul's was concerned. (fn. 14) It is true that St. Paul's had land in Hadham at the time of Domesday, but it was episcopal and not chapter land, and was disputed between the bishop of London and the abbot of Ely. (fn. 15) Flambard's seizure of Hadham is perhaps better understood, as suggested by Professor R. W. Southern, (fn. 16) as one of the illegal gains he made during Rufus's reign, probably when he was custodian of the Ely lands during the abbatial vacancy of 1093-1100. (fn. 17)
There are, then, feasible alternative interpretations of the two stories thought by Professor Brooke to stand in favour of Flambard's tenure of the deanery of St. Paul's. But it is impossible to reach a firm conclusion. Clearly at some point Flambard held the prebend of Totenhall, and if this was before his election to Durham or his disgrace, in 1099-1100, dean Wulman must have died by 1100. Unless the deanery was vacant until William de Mareni's term of office, which began in or before July 1111, we have to find a dean for the intervening period. Flambard, a figure of national importance and a well-known pluralist, is an attractive candidate, although it is strange that in no source does he occur as dean. Shortly after his election to Durham he issued a charter in favour of St. Paul's which gives no indication that he was head of the chapter. (fn. 18) Without positive evidence, it is not possible to include Ranulph Flambard in the list of deans of St. Paul's.