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 Peter of Blois

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Melisende
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PostSubject: Peter of Blois   Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:55 pm

Career of Peter and its context with the history of England.


Peter of Blois was a student of Law at Bologna and studied Theology in Paris. In the same year that Becket was appointed Papal Legate to England, Peter accompanied Stephen de Perche (relative of Archbishop Rotrou of Rouen) to Sicily (1166). Stephen became Archbishop of Palermo and Chancellor to the Dowager Queen, Margaret of Navarre. Peter became tutor to Margaret’s son, King William II of Sicily the following year (1167). In this year, Eleanor left England for Aquitaine.

When the Sicilians led a rebellion against Stephen, the French contingent left Sicily (1169) - Stephen went on to Jerusalem, whilst Peter of Blois returned to France. The following year (January 1170), the Pope demands that Henry II become reconciled with Becket, who returns to England (December 1st 1170) and is murdered (December 29th 1170).

Three years later (1173) we find Peter of Blois has entered the service of Henry II of England as a diplomat. Despite the rift between Henry and his sons (March 1173) there is an attempted reconciliation. Peter will advance in the service of Henry II, becoming Chancellor to the new Archbishop of Canterbury and Chief Counsellor to Henry II himself.

Henry II attacks Eleanor’s court at Poitiers (1174) and Eleanor finds herself exiled or “imprisoned” in England (June 1174). Henry Ii wants to divorce Eleanor - she refuses (October 1175) and even the Papal Curia refuse Henry’s request (1177). That same year, Henry and Eleanor’s daughter marries King William II of Sicily (1177) - Peter’s former pupil. Peter travels to Rome (1177) and Verona (1187) on diplomatic business for Henry II.

However, with the death of Henry II (1189), Peter finds himself in disgrace - he does not attain a position at the court of Richard I. Where does Peter find a position - a Latin Secretary to the widowed Dowager Queen Eleanor!

But what is equally ironic is that despite his letter written to Eleanor (1173) chastising her on her behaviour and exhorting her to return, upon pain of ecclesiastical action, to her husband and put a stop to her opposition, Peter wrote a number of letters which directly addressed the status of women in his day. In fact many of the letters openly encourage women to take authority over their own lives and promoted gender equality, based on Biblical teachings.

So, whilst promoting the modern-day feminist ideals of equality of the sexes on the one hand, on the other Peter is preaching the subservience of one sex to another. What is a medieval woman supposed to think???

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