Medieval Bendings - William Bendings, William FitzStephen

William Bendings, judge, was according to Geraldus Cambrensis sent to Ireland by Henry II in 1176 as one of the four envoys of whom two were to remain with the Viceroy - two were to return, including Bendings, bringing with them Raimund FitzGerald whose military exploits had aroused the King's jealousy.

In 1179 on the resignation of the Chief Justice, Richard de Lucey, a re-distribution of the Circuits was carried out. In place of the six Circuits then existing the country was divided into four. To the Northern Circuit six judges were assigned, of whom Bendings was one, having for one of his colleagues Ranulf Glanvill, who was made Chief Justice the following year. In 1183-4 we find him acting as Sheriff of Dorset and Somerset, the two counties being united under his jurisdiction.

His date of death is uncertain. He was alive in 1189-90, his name being entered in the Pipe Roll of that year as rendering certain accounts to the Exchequer.

Giraldus Cambrensis - Expurg. Hibern. ii cc 11, 20.
Dugdales Chron. Ser. 3
Madox's Exch. i, 94, 138, 285.
Hoveden Ed. Stubbs. ii, 191.
Pipe Roll 1 Ric. I. Hunter, 147.
Foss's Judges of England.

Fitzstephen, William (d.1190?), the biographer of Becket, styles himself the archbishop's 'concivis'. He was in the closest connection with Becket for ten years or more, as his 'clericus et convictor'. When Becket became chancellor, he appointed Fitzstephen to be 'dictator in cancelloria ejus.'

Later William became subdeacon in his chapel, and was entrusted with the duty of perusing letters and petitions. Sometimes at Becket's bidding, he either decided these cases on his own authority, or was appointed advocate to one of the parties-'patronus causarum.' He was present at the great council of Northampton 13th. Oct. 1164), and was sitting at the archbishop's feet, when Herbert of Bosham gave his master the rash advice to excommunicate his enemies if they laid hands upon him. William induced the archbishop to refuse this counsel, as the archbishop

  afterwards confessed, when during his exile he met William at St. Benedict's on the Loire (Vit. s.Thomae, pp1,2,59).

Fitzstephen appears to have escaped most of the disadvantages of intimacy with Becket. He has himself preserved a rhyming Latin poem, some ninety lines long, which he composed and presented to Henry II in the chapel of 'Bruhull'. In return for this petition the king pardonned him. It would appear, however, that when Becket was reconciled to the king, his old clerk once more entered his service, for he was an eye-witness of his murder: 'passionem ejus Cantuarie inspexi.'

Of the rest of his life we have no certain knowledge. Mr. Foss is inclined to identify this author with William Fitzstephen, who along with his brother, Ralph Fitzstephen, was sheriff of Gloucester from 18 Henry II to 1 Richard I, i.e. 1171-90 (FOSS, i.370); FULLER, i.569).

This William Fitzstephen is probably the same William Fitzstephen whom Henry II in 1176 placed at the head of one of the six circuits into which he divided the country. The circuit in question included the county of Gloucester, and his pleas are recorded in that and the four following years, not only in fourteen counties, but 'ad scaccarium' also. His name appears as a justice itinerant in 1 Richard I (FOSS, ib.; cf. MADOX, i. 83, 127, etc; HOVEDEN, ii. 88), about which time he perhaps died.

William Fitzstephen's most important work is the 'Vita Sancti Thomae'. This is the main authority for the archbishop's early life. The curious preface, entitled 'Descriptio nobilissimae civitatis Londoniae', is by far the most graphic and elaborate account of London during the twelfth century yet remaining. It has been printed separately in STOW'S ''Survey of London' and Hearne's ed. of Leland's 'Itinerary'.

The 'Vita Thomae' was first printed in Sparke's 'Historiae Anglicanae Scriptores' (1723). The chief later editions are those of Dr. Giles (1845), and that by the Rev. J. C. Robertson (Roll Ser. 1877). To the same author are also attributed, though, as it seems, on doubtful grounds, 'Libri quinque de Miraculis B. Thomae' (cf. also HARDY, ii. 382).

Dictionary of National Biography

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