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Boniface of Savoy

Bishop of Belley
Archbishop of Canterbury
Born: circa 1217
Died: 1270

Boniface was the son of Thomas I, Count of Savoy. He became Bishop of Belley in Burgundy and, in 1241, through the influence of his niece, Queen Eleanor wife of Henry Ill, was nominated to the See of Canterbury.

He did not, however, come to England till 1244 and was present, in the following year, at the Council of Lyons. There, he was consecrated by Innocent IV but it was only in 1249 that he retumed to England and was enthroned at Canterbury.

He showed little concern for the spiritual duties of his office. His exactions and his overbearing behaviour, combined with the fact that he was a foreigner, gave great offence to the English. To his credit is his attempt to free the Archiepiscopal See from debt and that, with all his faults, he is said to have been pauperum amator.

During the Barons' War, Boniface seems to have first made common cause with the English Bishops against the exactions of Pope and King, but he drifted more and more to the King's side. In 1262, he retired to France, where he joined with the Papal Legate in excommunicating the Barons. On the triumph of the Royalists in 1265, he returned to England.

Boniface was ordered by Pope Urban IV either to repair the buildings at Lambeth or to build new ones and the present Early English Chapel of the Palace is part of the work which he then undertook. He died in 1270, whilst on a visit to his native land.

Edited from G.M. Bevan's "Portraits of the Archbishops of Canterbury" (1908).      Copyright ©1999, LLC