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Wulfstan and the Seal of Approval : William the Conqueror’s purge of the English Church was halted by a humble bishop and a dead king.
Wulfstan and the Seal of Approval

Based on ‘Cameos from English History’, by Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901).

After the Conquest in 1066, William of Normandy appointed an Italian, Lanfranc, as Archbishop of Canterbury, and set about clearing out the English bishops. Wulfstan was the last, stubbornly protecting the English from their new masters, and it seemed God was on the side of the old religion, too.

THINKING all Saxon bishops rustic and unworthy of their sees, Archbishop Lanfranc summoned Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, to a synod in the Abbey at Westmister, and ordered him to give up his pastoral staff and ring to a better man.

Nearby stood the tomb of King Edward the Confessor, who had given Wulfstan his office.* The bishop went to the tomb and gently laid staff and ring upon it.

‘There is a new king’ he said aloud ‘who accuses you of poor judgment in pressing these upon me, and me of presumption in accepting them. Where you now dwell, you cannot err: take them back, and bestow them as you will.’

Wulfstan resumed his seat. By turns, Norman clerics stepped up at Lanfranc’s bidding, but not one of them could prise staff or ring from that tomb.

Presently, Wulfstan alone remained, and to his hand they yielded at once. Seeing it, Lanfranc fell at his feet, and humbly begged him to resume his duties.

* William traced his ‘right’ to the English throne to King Edward, so neither he nor Lanfranc could really complain at Wulfstan’s appeal to him.

Based on ‘Cameos from English History’, by Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901).

More like this

Charlotte Yonge (10) Lives of the Saints (95) History (405) Anglo-Saxon History (44) Mediaeval History (62) King Edward the Confessor (1) Bible and Saints (110)

Picture: From the Walters Art Museum, via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
An English-made episcopal ring in gold, with green malachite, decorated with eagles and floral patterns. It dates from the thirteenth century, two hundred years after the time of Wulfstan.

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