A feature of the history of the church in England in the half-century or so following Lanfranc’s becoming archbishop of Canterbury was the struggle between the archbishops of Canterbury and York to determine which of the two had ultimate authority over all the bishops in the country, that is, which bishop was to be regarded and respected as primate of all England. The struggle for power was prolonged and at times unedifying, and this chapter will discuss why archbishops of Canterbury were so determined to assert their primacy and why archbishops of York were equally determined to resist them. We shall examine how far this was a matter of concern to their kings and the extent to which the papacy was drawn into what was an essentially insular matter. For kings and popes the prolonged dispute was irksome and time-consuming, but it could not be ignored, for it had implications for the king’s authority over two of his greatest subjects and for the nature of his relationship with the papacy. It was a dispute during which tempers were lost in public and subterfuges of questionable honesty resorted to. Behind each archbishop was his respective cathedral chapter, the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury and the canons of York. The chapters expected their archbishops to fight their corner with all possible determination and vigour and were reluctant to concede defeat. Each chapter had its own publicist whose writing provides the principal sources for following the struggle (see Further Reading).
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