The bishops were among the most powerful men in any kingdom. They were the dominant members of an exclusive sector within society, the clergy, and they were great lords and landowners. Some notorious exceptions apart, they were well educated and literate, with the administrative skills and experience required to run their own households and dioceses. To attain the office of bishop was the goal of many very intelligent, highly ambitious young men, some of whom owed their worldly success to their ability to make themselves indispensable to the effective working of the king’s government. Of William the Conqueror’s chancellors four — Herfast, Osbern, Osmund and Maurice — became bishops, of Elmham, Exeter, Salisbury and London, respectively. In twelfth-century England government and administration were becoming increasingly complex.
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