Basset, Fulk

, bishop of London in the reign of king Henry III, was brother of Gilbert Basset, one of the barons, who died by a fall from his horse, leaving behind him one only son, an infant, by whose death soon alter, the inheritance devolved to Fulk. In 1225, he was made provost of the collegiate church of St. John of Beverly, and in 1230, dean of York. In December 1241, he was elected by the chapter of London, bishop of that see, in the room of Roger Niger, both in regard of his family and his great virtues, and notwithstanding the king’s recommendation of Peter de Egueblanche, bishop of Hereford. The see of Canterbury being vacant at the time of this prelate’s election, he was not consecrated till the 9th of October, 1244, at which time the solemnity | was performed at London in the church of the Holy Trinity. In the year 1250, bishop Basset began to have a warm dispute with archbishop Boniface, concerning the right of metropolitical visitation. The see of Canterbury had from the beginning an undoubted authority over all the churches of that province, received appeals, censured offenders, and occasionally exercised a jurisdiction over the bishops and canons of the cathedral churches. But hitherto solemn metropolitical visitations at stated times were not in use. Boniface was the first who introduced them, and loaded the bishops and chapters with a prodigious expence, under the name of procurations. On the 12th of May, 1250, be visited the bishop of London, and, being intolerably insolent, as well as avaricious, treated the good prelate with the grossest indignities, and most opprobrious language. Designing to visit the chapter of St. Paul’s, and the priory of St. Bartholomew, he was opposed by the canons of both places, alleging that they had a learned and diligent bishop, who was their proper visitor, and that they neither ought, nor would submit to any other visitatorial power. The archbishop on hearing this, excommunicated the canons, and involved the bishop, as favouring their obstinacy, in the same sentence. Both sides appealed to Rome, where the archbishop, supported by money and the royal favour, pleaded his cause in person; and, notwithstanding the English clergy, by their proctors, offered the pope four thousand marks to be exempted from the archiepiscopal visitation, he obtained a confirmation of his visitatorial power, with this restriction only, that he should be moderate in his demand of procurations.

But Basset succeeded better in opposing Rustand, the pope’s legate. The king and the pope had agreed to extort a large sum of money from the English clergy, and to share the plunder. For this purpose Rustand summoned a council at London in October 1255, in which he produced a commission from the pope to demand a certain sum of them but the bishop of London rising up, said “Before I will submit to such great servitude, injury, and intolerable oppression of the church, I will lose my head.” The rest of the prelates, encouraged by his firmness, unanimously decreed, that the pope’s demand should not be complied with, nor any regard paid to Rustand’s authority or censures. The legate carried his complaints to the king, who, sending for the bishop of London, reviled him | and threatened him with the severest papal censures. To which Fulk replied, “The king and the pope, though they cannot justly, yet, as being stronger than me, may force my bishopric from me; they may take away the mitre, but the helmet will remain:” and this steadiness, and the decree of the council, totally disconcerted the scheme.

In 1256, this prelate began to build the church of St. Faith, near St. Paul’s, on the spot which king John had formerly given to the bishops and chapter of London for a market. In the latter part of his life he is said to have inclined to the side of the barons. But we have only the authority of Matthew Paris for this, while bishop Godwin informs us that our other historians, who acknowledge Basset to have been a good man, and a wise, pious, and vigilant pastor, censure him for not joining the barons, but remaining faithful to his prince. He died of the plague in 1259, having sat near fifteen years from the time of his consecration, and was buried May 25, in St. Paul’s church. Bishop Basset founded two chantries in his cathedral church, near the altar of the blessed virgin, for himself and his father and mother. He also bequeathed to his church a golden apple, two rich chests for relics, some ecclesiastical vestments, and several books relating to church matters. 1

1 Biog. Brit.