Geoffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of Coutances

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Photo © Tomas Hellberg, Sep 2005

It has been said that Geoffrey de Mowbray was more skillful in arms than in divinity, knowing better how to train up soldiers than to instruct his clergy. Geoffrey rendered essential service and support at the Battle of Hastings, recieving confessions, giving benedictions and imposing penalties on the night before the battle.

Geoffrey was present at the coronation of William at Westminster and was witness to the calamities that took place. For when Aldred, the Archbishop asked the English if they consented to have William for their king and Geoffrey asked the Normans if they consented to have William for their king, the whole assembly in one voice - though not in one language - shouted assent. The guards outside the Abbey, not understanding the disturbance suspected some treachery and rashly set fire to neighbouring houses. The flames spreading to the Abbey sent the congregation into a panic, rushing to the doors to make their escape. The coronation ceremony was completed with great difficulty, leaving the Conqueror seriously concerned over the evil effects of this unfortunate event.

In 1071 Bishop Geoffrey was apppointed to represent the king at the trial of Bishop Odo and in 1074 we find Bishop Geoffrey marching alongside Odo against the rebelious Earls of Hereford and Norfolk. For his part in this rebellion Bishop geoffrey was rewarded by the Conqueror With 280 vills or manors.

geoffrey de Mowbray died in 1093 leaving his large domains to his nephew Robert, Earl of Northumberland, son of his brother Roger de mowbray, who was also present on the battlefield at Senlac. Robert in 1095, joined the conspiracy against William Rufus. He was taken prisoner and languished in a dungeon at Winsor for the next thirty years.

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Built on a basalt outcrop, the first written reference to it is in 547 as the seat of an Anglo-Saxon ruler called Ida. Prior to this it was known to the native Britons as Din Guardi and had been the capital of the British Kingdom of Bryneich from the realm's foundation in c.420 until the citadel was captured by Ida of Bernicia in 547. It was briefly retaken by the Britons from his son Hussa during the war of 590 before being relieved later that same year. His grandson Æðelfriþ passed it on to his wife Bebba, from which the early name Bebbanburgh was derived. The Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993.

The Normans built a new castle on the site, forming the core of the present castle. Henry II probably built the keep, and William II unsuccessfully besieged it in 1095 during a revolt supported by its owner, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland. After he had been captured, his wife continued the defence until coerced to surrender by the king's threat to blind her husband.

It became the property of the reigning monarch and an important English outpost—and the target of occasional raids from Scotland. In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, at the end of a nine-month long siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. The castle lay in ruins until it was restored by various owners during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, who completed the restoration.

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