Ranulf Flambard - Work Under Rufus

Work Under Rufus

Before the death of William the Conqueror, Ranulf held a prebend in the diocese of Salisbury. Early in the reign of Rufus he held the offices of dean of Christchurch in Twynham, Hampshire and was a prebendary of London and Lincoln. He was still keeper of the king's seal, and also may have been in charge of the royal scriptorium. He is usually described as the chaplain of Rufus, but he is also called treasurer and sometimes capitalis justicaiarius. Other times his role is given the title procurator. William of Malmesbury calls him the "manager of the whole kingdom".

At Christchurch, he reduced the number of canons serving the church from 25 to 13, through not replacing clerks who died. Ranulf kept the revenues that would have gone to the missing canons and used it to rebuild the church. Some medieval sources claim that in rebuilding the church at Twynham, he not only demolished the church he was replacing, but nine others that were nearby.

As chief financial administrator, he bore the brunt of the chronicler's condemnations for extortion and efforts to increase royal revenues. Besides attempts to increase the efficiency of collection and the rate of taxation, Ranulf created new methods of raising money. One of his new measures in revenue collection came in 1094, when the fyrd, or English militia, was assembled in order to fight in Normandy against the king's brother Robert Curthose. When all the men had assembled, instead of sending them to Normandy, Ranulf dismissed them, after collecting the 10 shillings that each man had been given by their district for maintenance. Ranulf then spent the money on mercenaries. Ranulf also actively pressed lawsuits, including bringing suit against Anselm on the day of Anselm's consecration as Archbishop of Canterbury. Another innovation was the attempt to collect a relief, much like the relief due from vassals at the death of an overlord, from the under-tenants of church lands when the church office changed hands. This attempt came at the death of Wulfstan, Bishop of Worcester in 1095, when the king sent writs to the free tenants of the bishop, setting the amount of relief owed to the king. This attempt was not repeated, however.

He administered for the king a large proportion of the vacant ecclesiastical offices. He personally managed sixteen abbeys or bishoprics. Eventually he obtained the wealthy see of Durham for himself in May 1099, being consecrated on 5 June 1099. He had been the custodian of the see since the death of the previous bishop in early 1096. At his consecration, he managed to avoid giving a profession of obedience to Thomas the Archbishop of York, just as his predecessor had done. William of Malmesbury, a medieval chronicler, accused Ranulf of paying 1,000 pounds for the bishopric. He was given ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Carlisle and Cumbria, because his predecessors had done so as bishops of Lindisfarne, but he only exercised this for a short time, as after the accession of Henry I jurisdiction over these areas was transferred to the diocese of York.

It has been suggested that Ranulf may have been the first Justiciar of all England (or chief justiciar), although he never held the title and it is not clear if his power was as extensive as Roger of Salisbury in the following reign. He ran the government of England while Rufus was fighting in Normandy, not only raising money, but issuing writs and judging court cases. William of Malmesbury in describing Ranulf's financial efforts said that he "skinned the rich, ground the down the poor, and swept other men's inheritances into his net." Another medieval chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, said that Ranulf planned to revise the survey of England, almost certainly Domesday Book, and that he planned to use that revised survey to confiscate all excess holdings over a certain amount. If this was really planned, it was never carried out.

Ranulf often worked in concert with Haimo the dapifer, or seneschal, and Urse d'Abetot in carrying out royal judgements. On one occasion, they, along with Robert Bloet the Bishop of Lincoln, reassessed the lands of Thorney Abbey for taxes. On another occasion, they were ordered along with Ralph de Luffa Bishop of Chichester to see that the abbey of Fecamp received custody of a church at Steyning. Others who often worked with Ranulf were Robert FitzHaimo, Roger Bigod, and Eudo the dapifer. These men are sometimes considered by historians to be the first Barons of the Exchequer. There are also signs during Ranulf's administration of resident justices in the counties who held courts for the king. Itinerant justices were probably also used to hear pleas that were reserved to the crown.

While administering England for Rufus, Ranulf also supervised construction projects. Under his management, the first stone bridge in London was constructed. Ranulf also built a wall around the White Tower in London, enclosing the inner ward. A new hall at Westminster was also built, of which the outside walls of Westminster Hall are still surviving. He started building the church at Christchurch at Twynham, which he had been granted by Rufus. After Rufus' death, the church was confiscated from Ranulf, and building work ceased. The crypts and transepts of the current church, however, date from Ranulf's construction work.

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