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Peter de Blois

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A statesman and theologian, born at Blois about 1130; died about 1203. He appears to have first studied at Tours, and was, perhaps, the disciple of Jean de Salisbury, who taught in Paris from 1140 to 1150; he studied law in Bologna, and theology in Paris, where he taught the liberal arts. In 1167 Count Stephen du Perche brought him to Sicily (1167). Here he became preceptor of the king, guardian of the royal seal, and one of the queen's principal counsellors. But the favouritism shown the foreigner excited the jealousy of the nobles and he was obliged to leave Sicily (1169). After several years in France, he went to England, where he became one of Henry II's diplomatic agents and was charged with negotiations with the pope and the King of France. In 1176 he became chancellor of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archdeacon of Bath. He became entangled in the disputes between the archbishop and the monks of his diocese and, in this connexion, was sent to Rome in 1177, and to Verona in 1187, on diplomatic missions to the popes. After the death of Henry II (1189), he fell into disgrace, and he speaks in his letters of Richard the Lion Hearted as the "new Pharaoh ". He entered the service of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, to whom he was secretary (1190-95), and was made Archdeacon of London. But his revenue from this benefice scarcely sufficed for his living and he wrote to Innocent III to this effect in one of the last letters (1198) he has left us. His material status was hardly in keeping with the great authority he exercised in England towards the end of the reign of Henry II, in affairs of the State, or of the Church. Not only was he the king's chief counsellor, but many bishops consulted him and obtained his advice on important matters regarding their dioceses.

He wrote numerous letters, models of his epoch, but full of the bad taste of the twelfth century. He wrote also numerous treatises. He continued the "History of the Monastery of Croyland of Ingulf" (901 to 1135). Unfortunately, the "History of Henry II" has been lost (De rebus gestis Henrici II). His other writings are sermons, commentaries on the Scripture, moral and ascetic treatises, in which he attacks with blunt frankness the morals of the English and Aquitainian bishops (treatise entitled, "Quales sunt"). In 1189, after the taking of Jerusalem by Saladin, he composed his "De hierosolymitana peregrinatione acceleranda" (P. L. CCVII, 1057), wherein he censures the indifferent faith of the princes who deferred the undertaking of the crusade and threatens them with seeing the mission which they have deserted accomplished by the people. He also composed an "Instruction on the Faith " which Alexander III sent to the Sultan of Iconium. In several of his letters he returns to the question of the crusade. His works were edited by Giles in "Patres Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ", 4 vols. (Oxford, 1846-47), and in P. L., CCVII (4 vols., Paris ).


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