John De Gray - Encyclopedia




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JOHN DE GRAY (d. 1214), bishop of Norwich, entered Prince John's service, and at his accession (1199) was rapidly promoted in the church till he became bishop of Norwich in September 1200. King John's attempt to force him into the primacy in 1205 started the king's long and fatal quarrel with Pope Innocent III. De Gray was a hard-working royal official, in finance, in justice, in action, using his position to enrich himself and his family. In 1209 he went to Ireland to govern it as justiciar. He adopted a forward policy, attempting to extend the English frontier northward and westward, and fought a number of campaigns on the Shannon and in Fermanagh. But in 1212 he suffered a great defeat. He assimilated the coinage of Ireland to that of England, and tried to effect a similar reform in Irish law. De Gray was a good financier, and could always raise money: this probably explains the favour he enjoyed from King John. In 1213 he is found with 500 knights at the great muster at Barham Downs, when Philip Augustus was threatening to invade England. After John's reconciliation with Innocent he was one of those exempted from the general pardon, and was forced to go in person to Rome to obtain it. At Rome he so completely gained over Innocent that the pope sent him back with papal letters recommending his election to the bishopric of Durham (1213); but he died at St Jean d'Audely in Poitou on his homeward journey (October 1214).

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