Archbishop of Canterbury (1123-1136)
William of Corbeil was born probably at Corbeil on the Seine, and was educated at Laon. He was soon in the service of Ranulf Flambard, bishop of Durham; then, having entered the order of St Augustine, he became prior of the Augustinian foundation at St Osyth in Essex.
At the beginning of 1123 he was chosen from among several candidates to be archbishop of Canterbury, and as he refused to admit that Thurstan, archbishop of York, was independent of the see of Canterbury, this prelate refused to consecrate him, and the ceremony was performed by his own suffragan bishops. Proceeding to Rome the new archbishop found that Thurstan had anticipated his arrival in that city and had made out a strong case against him to Pope Calixtus II; however, the exertions of the English king Henry I and of the emperor Henry V prevailed, and the pope gave William the pallium.
The archbishop's next dispute was with the papal legate, Cardinal John of Crema, who had arrived in England and was acting in an autocratic manner. Again travelling to Rome, William gained another victory, and was himself appointed papal legate (legatus natus) in England and Scotland, a precedent of considerable importance in the history of the English Church. The archbishop had sworn to Henry I that he would support the claim of his daughter Matilda to the English crown, but nevertheless he crowned Stephen in December 1135.
He died at Canterbury on the 21st of November 1136. William built the keep of Rochester Castle, and finished the building of the cathedral at Canterbury, which was dedicated with great pomp in May 1130.
See W. F. Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury (1860-1884); and W. R. W. Stephens, History of the English Church (90).
Being the entry for CORBEIL, WILLIAM OF in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.