Peter des Roches

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Peter des Roches
Bishop of Winchester
Head of the effigy on Roches' tomb in Winchester Cathedral
Appointed 1205
Term ended 9 June 1238
Predecessor Richard Poore
Successor Ralph Neville
Other posts Precentor of Lincoln
Archdeacon of Poitiers
Consecration 24 March 1206
by Pope Innocent III
Personal details
Died 9 June 1238
Denomination Catholic
Chief Justiciar of England
In office
1213 – c.1215
Monarch John
Henry III
Preceded by Geoffrey Fitz Peter
Succeeded by Hubert de Burgh

Peter des Roches (died 9 June 1238) was bishop of Winchester in the reigns of King John of England and his son Henry III. He was not an Englishman, but rather a native of the Touraine, in north-central France.[1]


Towards the end of Richard I's reign, Roches became Lord Chamberlain and an influential counsellor. He held the ecclesiastical offices of Archdeacon of Poitiers, treasurer of Poitiers, and was a precentor of the diocese of Lincoln in 1204.[2]

In early 1205, through John's influence, he was elected to the see of Winchester.[3] His election was disputed but, on appeal, confirmed on 25 September 1205 by Pope Innocent III.[4] Roches was consecrated on 24 March 1206.[3] Nonetheless, the new bishop stood by John's side during the whole period of the papal interdict set upon him due to the death of his nephew Arthur I, Duke of Brittany.

In 1213 Roches was made Chief Justiciar in succession to Geoffrey Fitz Peter.[5] This promotion was justified by the fidelity with which Roches supported the king through the First Barons' War. However, by 1215, Hubert de Burgh was Chief Justiciar.[5] In 1216, Roches was named Sheriff of Hampshire.[6]

At the battle of Lincoln in 1217 Roches led a division of the royal army and earned some distinction by his valour; but he played a secondary part in the government so long as William Marshal held the regency. After Marshal's death in 1219 Roches led the baronial opposition to Hubert de Burgh, with varying success. At first the justiciar was successful.

Roches was responsible for founding several monasteries in England and France,[7] including Titchfield Abbey[8] and Netley Abbey,[7] both in Hampshire, England, and La Clarté-Dieu[7] in Poitou, France. He gave his protection to the first group of Dominican friars to come to England in 1221.[9]

In 1225 a plot to ship Eleanor of Brittany, who as cousin to Henry III always posed a potential threat to the crown and was thus viewed as a state prisoner and then confined at Bristol Castle, away to France, was reported. The plot might be false and was only fabricated to discredit Roches, and he eventually fell out of royal favor in spring 1234.[10]

Roches died on 9 June 1238.[3]


The Lanercost Chronicle relates that Roches, out hunting one day, encountered King Arthur, dined with him, and asked for a token of their meeting. Arthur told him to close his hand, then open it, whereupon a butterfly flew out. For the rest of his life Roches was able to repeat this miracle, so that he became known as the Butterfly Bishop.[11][12]


  1. ^ Vincent, Nicholas, Peter des Roches: An Alien in English Politics, 1205-1238 (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1996), 18.
  2. ^ British History Online Precentors of Lincoln accessed on 2 November 2007
  3. ^ a b c Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 276
  4. ^ British History Online Bishops of Winchester accessed on 2 November 2007
  5. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 72
  6. ^ Vincent "Roches, Peter des (d. 1238)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  7. ^ a b c Thompson, A. Hamilton (1953). Netley Abbey. Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 3. ISBN 0-11-670020-3. 
  8. ^ Burton, Janet (1984). Monastic and Religious Orders in Britain, 1000–1300. Cambridge University Press. p. 229. ISBN 0-521-37797-8. 
  9. ^ Burton, Janet (1984). Monastic and Religious Orders in Britain, 1000–1300. Cambridge University Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-521-37797-8. 
  10. ^ G. Seabourne. "Eleanor of Brittany and her Treatment by King John and Henry III", Nottingham Medieval Studies, Vol. LI (2007), pp. 73-110.
  11. ^ Vincent, Nicholas (2002). Peter Des Roches: An Alien in English Politics, 1205-1238. Cambridge University Press. p. 480. 
  12. ^ Stevenson, Joseph (ed.). Chronicon de Lanercost (in Latin). p. 23 (fol.176). 


Political offices
Preceded by
Geoffrey Fitz Peter
Chief Justiciar
1213 – c. 1215
Succeeded by
Hubert de Burgh
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Richard Poore
Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by
Ralph Neville