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WALTER LANGTON (d. 1321)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 179 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WALTER LANGTON (d. 1321), bishop of Lichfield and hills along the Rhone on the east. Its unity was entirely a political creation, but none the less real, as it was the great state of the Midi, the representative of its culture and, to some degree, the defence of its peculiar civilization. Its climate, especially in Herault (Montpellier), is especially delightful in spring and early summer, and the scenery still holds enough ruined remains of Roman and feudal times to recall the romance and the tragedy of its history. Although the name is of comparatively late medieval origin, the history of Languedoc, which had little in common with that of northern France, begins with the Roman occupation. Toulouse was an important place as early as 119 B.C.; the next year Narbonne, the seaport, became a Roman colony. By the time of Julius Caesar the country was sufficiently Romanized to furnish him with men and money, and though at first involved in the civil wars which followed, it prospered under Roman rule as perhaps no other part of the empire did. While it corresponded exactly to no administrative division of the Roman empire, it was approximately the territory included in Gallia Narbonensis, one of the seventeen provinces into which the empire was divided at the death of Augustus. It was rich and flourishing, crowded with great and densely populated towns, Nimes, Narbonne, Beziers, Toulouse; with schools of rhetoric and poetry still vigorous in the 5th century; theatres, amphitheatres and splendid temples. In the 5th century this high culture was an open prize for the barbarians; and after the passing of the Vandals, Suebi and Visigoths into Spain, the Visigoths returned under Wallia, who made his capital at Toulouse in 419. This was the foundation of the Visigothic kingdom which Clovis dismembered in 507, leaving the Visigoths only Septimania—the country of seven cities, Narbonne, Carcassonne, Elne, Beziers, Maguelonne, Lodeve and Agde—that is, very nearly the area occupied later by the province of Languedoc. At the council of Narbonne in 589 five races are mentioned as living in the province, Visigoths, Romans, Jews—of whom there were a great many—Syrians and Greeks. The repulse of the Arabs by Charles Martel in 732 opened up the country for the Frankish conquest, which was completed by 768. Under the Carolingians Septimania became part of the kingdom of Aquitaine, but became a separate duchy in 817. Until the opening of the 13th century there is no unity in the history of Languedoc, the great houses of Toulouse and Carcassonne and the swarm of warlike counts and barons practically ignoring the distant king of France, and maintaining a chronic state of civil war. The feudal regime did not become at all universal in the district, as it tended to become in the north of France. Allodial tenures survived in sufficient numbers to constitute a considerable class of non-vassal subjects of the king, with whose authority they were little troubled. By the end of the 11th century the house of the counts of Toulouse began to play the predominant role; but their court had been famous almost a century before for its love of art and literature and its extravagance in dress and fashions, all of which denoted its wealth. Constance, wife of King Robert II. and daughter of the count of Toulouse, gave great offence to the monks by her following of gallant gentlemen. They owed their tastes, not only to their Roman blood, and the survival of their old love for rhetoric and poetry, but also to their intercourse with the Mahommedans, their neighbours and enemies, and their friends when they were not fighting. Under Raymond of Saint Gilles, at the end of the 11th century, the county of Toulouse began its great career, but Raymond's ambition to become an Oriental prince, which led him—and the hundred thousand men who, according to the chroniclers, followed him—away on the first crusade, left a troubled heritage to his sons Bertrand and Alphonse Jourdain. The latter successfully beat off William IX., duke of Aquitaine, and won from the count of Barcelona that part of Provence between the Dreme and the Durance. The reign of Alphonse lasted from 'log to 1148. By the opening of the 13th century the sovereignty of the counts of Toulouse was recognized through about half of Provence, and they held the rich cities of the most cultured and wealthiest portion of France, treasurer of England, was probably a native of Langton West in Leicestershire. Appointed a clerk in the royal chancery, he became a favourite servant of Edward I., taking part in the suit over the succession to the Scottish throne in 1292, and visiting France more than once on diplomatic business. He obtained several ecclesiastical preferments, became treasurer in 1295, and in 1296 bishop of Lichfield. Having become unpopular, the barons in 1301 vainly asked Edward to dismiss him; about the same time he was accused of murder, adultery and simony. Suspended from his office, he went to Rome to be tried before Pope Boniface VIII., who referred the case to Winchelsea, archbishop of Canterbury; the archbishop, although Langton's lifelong enemy, found him innocent, and this sentence was confirmed by Boniface in 1303. Throughout these difficulties, and also during a quarrel with the prince of Wales, afterwards Edward II., the treasurer was loyally supported by the king. Visiting Pope Clement V. on royal business in 1305, Langton appears to have persuaded Clement to suspend Winchelsea; after his return to England he was the chief adviser of Edward I., who had already appointed him the principal executor of his will. His position, however, was changed by the king's death in July 1307. The accession of Edward II. and the return of Langton's enemy, Piers Gaveston, were quickly followed by the arrest of the bishop and his removal from office. His lands, together with a great hoard of movable wealth, were seized, and he was accused of misappropriation and venality. In spite of the intercession of Clement V. and even of the restored arch-bishop, Winchelsea, who was anxious to uphold the privileges of his order, Langton, accused again by the barons in 1309, remained in prison after Edward's surrender to the " ordainers in 1310. He was released in January 1312 and again became treasurer; but he was disliked by the " ordainers," who forbade him to discharge the duties of his office. Excommunicated by Winchelsea, he appealed to the pope, visited him at Avignon, and returned to England after the archbishop's death in May 1313. He was a member of the royal council from this time until his dismissal at the request of parliament in 1315. He died in November 1321, and was buried in Lichfield cathedral, which was improved and enriched at his expense. Langton appears to have been no relation of his contemporary, John Langton, bishop of Chichester.
End of Article: WALTER LANGTON (d. 1321)
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