Online Encyclopedia

ROBERT FITZ STEPHEN (fl. 1150)

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Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 448 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROBERT FITZ STEPHEN (fl. 1150), son of Nesta, a Welsh princess and former mistress of Henry I., by Stephen, constable of Cardigan, whom Robert succeeded in that office, took service with Dermot of Leinster when that king visited England (1167). In 1169 Robert led the vanguard of Dermot's Anglo-Welsh auxiliaries to Ireland, and captured Wexford, which he was then allowed to hold jointly with Maurice Fitz Gerald. Taken prisoner by the Irish in 1171, he was by them surrendered to Henry II., who appointed him lieutenant of the justiciar of Ireland, Hugh de Lacy. Robert rendered good service in the troubles of 1173, and was rewarded by receiving, jointly with Miles Cogan, a grant of Cork (1177). He had difficulty in main-taining his position and was nearly overwhelmed by a rising of Desmond in 1182. The date of his death is uncertain. FITZ STEPHEN, WILLIAM (d. c. 1190), biographer of Thomas Becket and royal justice, was a Londoner by origin. He entered Becket's service at some date between 1154 and 1162. The chancellor employed Fitz Stephen in legal work, made him sub-deacon of his chapel and treated him as a confidant. Fitz Stephen appeared with Becket at the council of Northampton (1164) when the disgrace of the archbishop was published to the world; but he did not follow Becket into exile. He joined Becket's household again in 1170, and was a spectator of the tragedy in Canterbury cathedral. To his pen we owe the most valuable among the extant biographies of his patron. Though he writes as a partisan he gives a precise account of the differences between Becket and the king. This biography contains a description of London which is our chief authority for the social life of the city in the 12th century. Despite his connexion with Becket, William subsequently obtained substantial preferment from the king. He was sheriff of Gloucestershire from 117r to 1190, and a royal justice in the years 1176–1180 and 1189-1190. See his " Vita S. Thomae " in J. C. Robertson's Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, vol. iii. (Rolls series, 1877). Sir T. D. Hardy, in his Catalogue of Materials, ii. 330 (Rolls series, 1865), discusses the manuscripts of this biography and its value. W. H. Hutton, St Thomas of Canterbury, pp. 272-274 (1889), gives an account of the author. (H. W. C. D.)
End of Article: ROBERT FITZ STEPHEN (fl. 1150)
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