In one of C.R. Cheney’s aphorisms he stated: ‘The church’s government, as then constituted, required the service of sinners as well as saints.’1 The king’s government did, too, and Richard I was dependent on the work of the bishop of Ely and the archbishops of Rouen and Canterbury. This is not the place for a philosophical debate on the nature of sin, but loyalty, hard work and efficiency were virtues to offset such faults of character as shown by these three men. Hubert Walter was clearly the greatest of them, William Longchamp the least attractive, but if their actions at times invited criticism or even contempt, their concern was the king’s business and the maintenance of order in the kingdom from which he was absent. Twenty-six different men held sees in the reign of Richard I, of whom sixteen were elected in his reign. It would be too easy and wrong to claim that, as Richard I was absent from England for all but six months of his reign, he had no interest in English affairs or appointments. As John Gillingham makes clear, Richard was a far more complex and sophisticated person than the traditional image of the macho warrior suggests.2 That centralised government did not break down in his absence, as it had in the reign of Stephen, but positively flourished was due partly to the legacy that Richard had inherited from his father, and very much to the quality of the men who were entrusted with the responsibility of making it work. Richard was responsible for their appointment, which suggests that he had an understanding of the complexities of government and administration and had the interest and ability to appoint men of the calibre to make it work.
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