Antony Bek - Encyclopedia

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ANTONY BEK (d. 1311), bishop of Durham, belonged to a Lincolnshire family, and, having entered the church, received several benefices and soon attracted the attention of Edward I., who secured his election as bishop of Durham in 1283. When, after the death of King Alexander III. in 1285, Edward interfered in the affairs of Scotland, he employed Bek on this business, and in 12 9 4 he sent him on a diplomatic errand to the German king, Adolph of Nassau. Taking part in Edward's campaigns in Scotland, the bishop received the surrender of John de Baliol at Brechin in 1296, and led one division of the English army at the battle of Falkirk in 1298. Soon after his return to England he became involved in a quarrel with Richard de Hoton, prior of Durham. Deposed and excommunicated by Bek, the prior secured the king's support; but the bishop, against whom other complaints were preferred, refused to give way, and by his obstinacy incurred the lasting enmity of Edward. In 1302, in obedience to the command of Pope Boniface VIII., he visited Rome on this matter, and during his absence the king seized and administered his lands, which, however, he recovered when he returned and submitted to Edward. He continued, however, to pursue Richard with unrelenting hostility, and was in his turn seriously harassed by the king. Having been restored to the royal favour by Edward II. who made him lord of the Isle of Man, the bishop died at Eltham on the 3rd of March 1311. A man of great courage and energy, chaste and generous, Bek was remarkable for his haughtiness and ostentation. Both as a bishop and as a private individual he was very wealthy, and his household and retinue were among the most magnificent in the land. He was a soldier and a hunter rather than a bishop, and built castles at Eltham and elsewhere.

Bek's elder brother, Thomas Bek (d. 1293), bishop of St David's, was a trusted servant of Edward I. He obtained many important and wealthy ecclesiastical positions, was made treasurer of England in 1279, and became bishop of St David's in 1280. He was a benefactor to his diocese and died on the 12th of May 1293.

Another Thomas Bek (1282-1347), who was bishop of Lincoln from 1341 until his death on the 2nd of February 1347, was a member of the same family.

Antony Bek must not be confused with his kinsman and namesake, Antony Bek (1279-1343), who was chancellor and dean of Lincoln cathedral, and became bishop of Norwich after a disputed election in 1337. He was a quarrelsome man, and after a stormy episcopate, died on the 19th of December 1343.

See Robert of Graystanes, Historia de statu ecclesiae Dunelmensis, edited by J. Raine in his Historiae Dunelmensis scriptores (London, 1839); W. Hutchinson, History of Durham (Newcastle, 17851 794); J. L. Low, Diocesan History of Durham (London, 1881); and M. Creighton in the Dictionary of National Biography, vol. iv. (London, 1885).

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