William Fitzstephen (also William fitz Stephen), (died c. 1191) was a cleric and administrator in the service of Thomas Becket, becoming a Subdeacon in his chapel, with responsibility for perusing letters and petitions. He witnessed Becket's murder, and wrote his biography - the Vita Sancti Thomae (Life of St. Thomas).
Relations with Becket
Fitzstephen had been Becket's personal, household clerk for ten years and, when the prelate became Chancellor of England, he gave his clerk full authority to act in his name in diocesan matters. When Becket was forced into exile, after refusing to sign the Constitutions of Clarendon, King Henry accepted a petition, in verse, from Fitzstephen and pardoned him from the banishment meted upon his master. When Becket was reconciled with the king, Fitzstephen became his administrator once more. Fitzstephen was among those of Becket's advisors who cautioned against excommunicating Henry, as the archbishop later acknowledged.
Fitzstephen also wrote an interesting account of London in the 12th century, which was included in Becket's biography as a preface, "Descriptio Nobilissimi Civitatis Londoniae". The three editions of this work demonstrate a continuing familiarity with the life of the city, and for this reason he is not thought to be the same "Thomas Fitzstephen" whom Henry appointed to be Sheriff of Gloucester and itinerant justice in 1171.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fitz Stephen, William". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). "Fitzstephen, William". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
- Archer, Thomas Andrew (1889). "Fitzstephen, William". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 19. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 212–213.; Endnotes:
- Materials for the Hist. of Thomas Becket, ed. Robertson (Rolls Ser.), vol. iii. contains Fitzstephen's Vita Sti Thomæ
- Roger of Hoveden, ed. Stubbs (Rolls Ser.), vol. ii.
- Madox's Hist. of the Exchequer (ed. 1769), vols. i. and ii.
- Foss's Judges, vol. i; Wright's Biographia Literaria, vol. ii.
- Hardy's Cat. of Manuscript Materials for Hist. of Great Britain and Ireland, ii.
- Works by or about William Fitzstephen at Internet Archive
- Works by William Fitzstephen at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
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