Æthelric II

For other uses, see Æthelric (disambiguation).
Æthelric II
Bishop of Selsey
See Diocese of Selsey
Term ended deposed 1070
Predecessor Heca
Successor Stigand
Consecration 1058
Personal details
Died circa 1076

Æthelric (called Æthelric II to distinguish him from an earlier Æthelric who was also bishop of Selsey and also spelled Ethelric; died c. 1076) was the second to last medieval Bishop of Selsey in England before the see was moved to Chichester. Consecrated a bishop in 1058, he was deposed in 1070 for unknown reasons and then imprisoned by King William I of England. He was considered one of the best legal experts of his time, and was even brought from his prison to attend the trial on Penenden Heath where he gave testimony about English law before the Norman Conquest of England.

Early life

Æthelric was a monk at Christ Church Priory at Canterbury prior to his becoming a bishop.[1] Several historians opine that he might have been the same as the Æthelric who was a monk of Canterbury and a relative of Godwin, Earl of Wessex. That Æthelric was elected by the monks of Canterbury to be Archbishop of Canterbury in 1050, but was not confirmed by King Edward the Confessor who insisted on Robert of Jumièges becoming archbishop instead.[2][3] The evidence is not merely that they shared the same name, because the name was a relatively common one in Anglo-Saxon England. Other evidence pointing to the possibility of them being the same person includes the fact that he was felt to have been unfairly deposed in 1070 as well as the bishop's great age in 1076.[4]

Æthelric was consecrated bishop in 1058 by Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury.[5] Æthelric was consecrated by Stigand, unlike most of the English bishops of the time period, because at that point, Stigand held a valid pallium, or symbol of an archbishop's authority and ability to consecrate bishops.[6]


Æthelric was deposed by the Council of Windsor on 24 May 1070[5] and imprisoned at Marlborough, being replaced by Stigand (not the same as the archbishop), who later moved the seat of the diocese to Chichester. It is possible, that his deposition was tied to the fact that about that time, King Harold of England's mother and sister took refuge with the count of Flanders. If Æthelric was related to the Godwin's, King William I of England may have feared that the bishop would use his diocese to launch a rebellion.[7] Other reasons put forward include the fact that Æthelric had been consecrated by Stigand, but the other bishop that Stigand had consecrated, Siward the Bishop of Rochester was not deposed.[4] Æthelric was a monk, and while not having a great reputation for sanctity, he was not held to be immoral either.[8] The pope did not feel that his deposition had been handled correctly,[9] so his deposition was confirmed at the Council of Winchester on 1 April 1076.[5] It continued to be considered uncanonical, but Æthelric was never restored to his bishopric.[10]

Penenden Heath

He was carted from imprisonment to the Trial of Penenden Heath of Odo of Bayeux, earl of Kent.[11] This took place sometime between 1072 and 1076.[12][lower-alpha 1] At that time, he was the most prominent legalist in England.[11][13] He helped clarify Anglo-Saxon land laws, as the trial was concerned with the attempts of Lanfranc to recover lands from Odo.[14] The medieval writer Eadmer also consulted Æthelric for information on Eadmer's Life of St Dunstan.[15]

Presumably Æthelric died soon after the trial, as he was already an old man when he attended the trial.[16]


  1. For a discussion of the dating issues of the trial as well as other concerns connected to Æthelric's attendance at the trial, see a 2001 article by Alan Cooper in The English Historical Review, that is listed in the further reading section.


  1. Barlow Edward the Confessor p. 198
  2. Barlow Godwins p. 56
  3. Mason House of Godwine p. 93
  4. 1 2 Walker Harold p. 203
  5. 1 2 3 Greenway Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: volume 5: Chichester: Bishops
  6. Walker Harold pp. 137-138
  7. Walker Harold p. 193
  8. Stafford Unification and Conquest p. 105
  9. Stenton Anglo-Saxon England p. 661
  10. Williams English and the Norman Conquest p. 46
  11. 1 2 Hindley Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons p. 347
  12. O'Brien "Forgery and the Literacy" Albion p. 10
  13. Stafford Unification and Conquest p. 107
  14. Lyon Constitutional and Legal History p. 182
  15. Walker Harold p. 95
  16. Bates William the Conqueror p. 153


  • Barlow, Frank (1970). Edward the Confessor. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-01671-8. 
  • Barlow, Frank (2003). The Godwins: The Rise and Fall of a Noble Dynasty. London: Pearson/Longman. ISBN 0-582-78440-9. 
  • Bates, David (2001). William the Conqueror. Stroud, UK: Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-1980-3. 
  • Greenway, Diana E. (1996). Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1066–1300: volume 5: Chichester: Bishops. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 20 October 2007. 
  • Hindley, Geoffrey (2006). A Brief History of the Anglo-Saxons: The Beginnings of the English Nation. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7867-1738-5. 
  • Lyon, Bryce Dale (1980). A Constitutional and Legal History of Medieval England (Second ed.). New York: Norton. ISBN 0-393-95132-4. 
  • Mason, Emma (2004). House of Godwine: The History of Dynasty. London: Hambledon & London. ISBN 1-85285-389-1. 
  • O'Brien, Bruce (Spring 1995). "Forgery and the Literacy of the Early Common Law". Albion. 27 (1): 1–18. doi:10.2307/4052668. JSTOR 4052668. 
  • Stafford, Pauline (1989). Unification and Conquest: A Political and Social History of England in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. London: Edward Arnold. ISBN 0-7131-6532-4. 
  • Stenton, F. M. (1971). Anglo-Saxon England (Third ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280139-5. 
  • Walker, Ian (2000). Harold the Last Anglo-Saxon King. Gloucestershire, UK: Wrens Park. ISBN 0-905778-46-4. 
  • Williams, Ann (2000). The English and the Norman Conquest. Ipswich, UK: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-708-4. 

Further reading

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Bishop of Selsey
Succeeded by

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